Sunday, January 15, 2023

By the Numbers

Since the beginning of the month I have been surrounded by numbers. Everything from fitness, to tax forms, to gas prices, to lottery jackpots dot the landscape of my days. What is out culture's obsession with numbers? Are they meant for guidance or for definition? Do numbers imprison us, free us or both? Or am I experiencing the creeping senility of aging? Maybe I am becoming more like Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) in the movie Gran Torino, muttering and scowling, "Get off my lawn!"

There is no consistency in the interpretation of numbers. Gas prices are to be low. Income is to be high. Interest rates are to be both low and high depending if a person is purchasing or investing. Clothing sizes are never consistent, yet we are told that smaller is better. Additional the numbers attributed to sizes vary from country to country. My European Union shoe size ranges from 47 to 48.5.If I was buying the same shoes in Japan it is 31.5 to 32.5. Who comes up with all of these numbers? We are labeled "successful" if numbers reflecting are income are high. Low income numbers come with labels of "uneducated" or "lazy". We want high numbers in the scores of sporting events or they become "boring". What is our obsession with numbers? Do they objectively measure aspects of our lives? My sense is numbers are manipulated to benefit our facade of self. They are used as a reflection of our status. They are equally used as a reflection of our superiority over others. 

The author and poet, Donna Ashworth wrote, "Friendship Is Not A Numbers Game"                                                                                                           You can have one friend-one single friend-whose support is so fierce, that you feel like there is an army behind you. And yet you can have umpteen other friends whose allegiance you are not entirely sure of. You can meet a friend tomorrow who rocks into your life, rolls up and says, "I am here for you." And they actually , truly are. Yet you can have friends you've known and loved for years and years, who can't show up even for the best of times, never mind the worst. If you're really lucky, you can have a few of each, but one is all you really need. Friendship is not a numbers game, it's a game of instinct-trust yours.

I need to trust my instinct more often. Yes, I need to deal with W2s and 1099s and submit my taxes. I believe it is important to pay for the many great services and benefits which I receive daily. I believe it is important to support others by contributing to the general well-being of society, also. But the numbers which serve to measure my foot size, my waist, my retirement funds; the numbers generated by my fitness tracker to achieve a check mark next to step count or the numbers indicating the street I traveled most often in 2022 are of no substance or value unless I choose to provide it. My instinct tells me I have value beyond numbers. I have value in being me, however that is displayed each day. 

The New Testament book of Luke, chapter 12 sums what I am trying to express well, "Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing...which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to life...if God clothes the grass which is alive one day and dead the next, how much more will God clothe you"

Trust your gut. Trust that it is not numbers which define, but our choices to engage in life every day!

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