Thursday, November 15, 2012
Reflections of Numbers
Numbers. I never cared for them unless (rarely) they represented an unexpected, and substantial, addition to my bank account.
In terms of numbers, I am poor.
In terms of numbers, I am old.
In terms of numbers, the world's population has exceeded the carrying capacity of the planet.
Numbers in history mark the times when conquerors celebrated and the defeated suffered: 1066, 1492...
Numbers, I am told, have given us our technology without which we would still be naked nomads struggling for survival in a numberless world. This makes me a hypocrite, I suppose, because I'm fond of warm houses and automobiles. Not to mention that here I am blogging away, taking access to the Internet for granted.
In truth, I am not good at numbers. Without the slightest twinge of conscience I cheated in math all through school -- except college. I wrote essays for people who did my math homework. They got As and I passed -- a fair trade, all in all.
Numbers define us and there's no sense in fretting about it. Our age, our height, our weight, our IQ, our GPA, the year our car was purchased, the number of friends we have on Facebook, the number of page views our blog pieces receive...
Call me Ebeneezer, but I feel as if Christmas is more about numbers these days than it is about the winter solstice or or the birth of Christ. Even when I was a child, back in the fifties, my friends used to count the number of presents they received. I remember one friend telling me, "You didn't get very much." These days it's all about what is affordable and what is not, who will pay for it and how. There is an unpleasant, monetary-infused air of tension that hovers about the holiday. Adults must sacrifice; children must get what they want. I admit, I can't think of any way to rectify this situation other than robbing a bank.
The best Christmases I ever celebrated weren't even on Christmas Day. They took place some days afterward when my friend, Sherryl, and I would gather with Zoe and Erik (our two charges) to open a few presents and cook up Bird's custard which we poured lavishly over apple strudel. Because of the custard, we called this "our English Christmas." Erik, being autistic, enjoyed shaking strings of bells and twirling ribbons. Zoe, who had different challenges, loved Christmas for its magic: the lighted tree, the carols, the scented candles. Especially the candles. After dinner and present opening, Sherryl and I played Scrabble and Zoe drilled Erik on identifying letters of the alphabet using flash cards. At some point Erik's tolerance for this game would end and he'd stand up abruptly, scattering cards in all directions. This (highly predictable) event signaled time to enjoy a second helping of dessert.
So, what is the point of my saying all this? That numbers get in the way of having a good time? Or is it expectations of the unrealistic variety that do that?
Most of the time, numbers have had a negative influence on my life: too many pounds, not enough money, etc.
As for Christmas...well, love drowned in numbers is still love, I suppose.