All the focus on the fact that our calendar hit the recent date, 11.11.11 got me thinking about my own relationship to numbers. Unlike my sister and father, I wasn’t good with numbers. In fact, I developed a fear of them as my engineer father would quiz me nightly on my multiplication tables, and lose patience quickly while helping me with my homework. He had his own shortcuts to solving the problems but when I tried to use them, my teacher got mad at me for not doing it the way she was teaching. And all the while, numbers seemed to me, a set of symbols in a foreign language.
I got through elementary and high schools by drilling and memorizing formulas with little comprehension of meaning. Entering college I selected my major on the basis of which one required the least amount of math. In spite of that precaution, as a science teacher began writing a formula on the blackboard; the palms of my hands began sweating. Since I was seated in the back of the room I tried to tell myself it wasn’t likely I’d be called on but this didn’t interrupt my body’s automatic response. It turned out there were other girls and women who felt the same way I did about numbers and that many, like me experienced what came to be called “math anxiety.”
Now I know that numbers are another language, another way to describe reality. Musicians calculate and count the tempo of drums, the voice, and other instruments. Numerologists use a person’s date of birth to enhance their understanding of the phases of their life. Fractal calculations generated by a computer measure and describe natures’ unending creativity; leaves, seeds, and swirling clouds. http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Fractal.html
The Kabbalah, the Jewish system of mysticism, uses numbers to reveal a hidden level of meaning in the Torah. http://www.kabbalah.com/
And as my daughter was facing her own death, she reminded her three children, “it matters what is written in the book of life because, remember, our days are numbered.” Job 14 : 5 Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.