why I hate numbers
Ever since I was in grade school, I have hated numbers. It seems that my official dislike for math started around the age of eight or nine. My first vivid memory of what seems to be my formal introduction to mathematics involves tears, long division, and my father’s patient repetitive explanation for hours upon end. Although I grew up in a math oriented family, I seem to have missed out on the number genes. My dad was a businessman who measured the world in dollars and seconds, and my mom was an accountant when she met my father working at his family’s company. Ironically, it seems that my parents relationship and the foundation of our family began due to my parents’ shared talent and adoration for understanding the world through equations and tidy sets of numbers. This genetic tendency to count and calculate was passed along to both of my wiz kid brothers. The eldest of our clan went along to win math competitions starting in grade school and joined the math team in high school, while my younger bother was always testing into the same math class as me and could be found patiently explaining geometry and precalculus to me on the eve of finals through streams of my hot math-disdain filled tears. Math…not my jam.
This disapproval for numbers has always been a part of my life -my academic Achilles’ heel- but I never fully understood why until I got to college. It was in that first year away from home that I realized how ineffective it is to measure the world in numbers. For those who are married to mathematics or savvy with statistics- don't worry, this is not a hit at you- but in the past year I have come to the conclusion that the world shouldn't be measured in dollars, grams, inches, or pounds on a scale.
It seems that in today’s world, we measure our worth in numbers. Take a second and think of some of the indicators of success that you measure up to in today's society. We all have numbers that mean so much to us and build a piece of our identity. Without these number we would have trouble defining who we are. Admit it, there is probably some number that means the world to you whether its your GPA, the number on a scale, your net worth, act score, or number of likes on Instagram. How many of these things do you seek validation in? If I sat you down right now and asked you to tell me about your life and all the amazing things you have done with it, you would likely share with me some of these shiny and pretty numbers all lined up and polished like trophies on display. You might tell me about the number of boyfriends you've had or how many comments your latest Instagram got. You might share your excellent ACT score, or the fact that you made good enough grades to get into the college you wanted to go to, perhaps your weekly salary. Although these numbers have the power to give you worth and status in the eyes of popular culture, they say nothing about your soul and what it means to be fully human in the way we were created to live.
There's a little known secret, that not many have fully realized. Its a little crazy to wrap your head around, but God -the creator and sustainer of the universe- couldn't care less about these numbers. The numbers on the scale, in your bank account, or on your semester report card mean nothing to him. No number defines your worth in God’s eyes and nothing we do here on Earth can make God love us anymore or less. There is no number limit on who gets into heaven and there is no simple step by step equation on how to get there. You are so deeply and widely loved, and there is no calculation that could possibly come close to measuring the depth or breadth of the love of God. Numbers are merely human constructs, but you were created for greater things than this world. God didn't use any measurements when he created you. There was no dress fitting or height requirements, you were just made. Perfect and without the need to be measured. Humans are the ones who started sizing each other up, not God.
Its with this mindset that I have found that the sweetest things in life cannot be captured in calculations, and that numbers only scratch the surface of who we are and the snapshot of our souls. There is no limit on the number of sunsets I can watch in a row before they stop taking my breath away. Each time I see the sun slip behind the cover of the Earth I am just as equally awestruck by God’s creativity and beauty as I was the day before. There is no price you can put on a best friend. I can't possible fathom a way to measure the love I have for my sister, or the feeling you get when you begin to understand God’s love for you. Even the things we attempt to assign measurements and limits to can in no way be bound by the human construct of numbers.
No nutrition label or calorie count has ever been able to put into words the flavor and texture of a delicious meal. There is no amount of calories from fat, or grams of sugar that can explain the joy I get from eating homemade cookie dough straight out of the bowl. The flavors of your mom’s family pasta recipe, or the warm feeling you get from tasting your grandma’s thanksgiving dinner could never be captured by a nutrition label slapped on the side of a prepackaged snack. There is just no way that numbers could do justice to the richness and flavor of a family gathering around the table to share stories, laughter, and good food.
In a similar way there is no number on a scale that can tell me anything about your beauty. No perfect weight can explain to me the delicate composition of muscle mass and fat that makes up your frame. Your weight could never document your bodies journey or how you lost those twenty pounds in a month, and why you felt you needed to. The number on the scale, no matter how high or low, can't tell me about your eating habits, your self confidence, or your genetic predisposition to high or low metabolism. As much as it may concern or comfort you, your weight does not have the power to deem you lovable or beautiful.
Your GPA and ACT might help you get into a good school, but what are they really measures of? Maybe its a portrait of the number of hours you spent studying and preparing for a test instead of spending time with those you love. Perhaps it speaks to your natural capacity, or lack there of, for standardized test taking. I am not saying that there is no value in intelligence, but no number has the power to capture the immense capacity of your mind. There is no test in the world that could possibly measure each human being’s unique talents, perspectives on life, and the individual intelligence that they bring to the table. If we could all get that perfect 36 on the ACT, but we had no artists or musicians in the world, what a boring life that would be.
You see, what I truly prefer to numbers is words. To me, words capture feelings more authentically than numbers could ever begin to. By using the right combination of letters, punctuation and style I can try to wrap your head around the love, fear, or anxiety I am experiencing in the softest parts of my soul. Words are the fuel that flames the fire of long night talks under the summer stars, and come closest to verbalizing the jumping feeling in your heart when you see someone you really love. Words have the power to communicate to me your wildest dreams, your biggest fears, and the creepy crawly parts of your soul that keep you up at night. Words are so my jam. I believe that God intended us to communicate in words to better cultivate each others souls and to understand the beautiful world he gave us in a more fuller way. There is no purpose in measuring the world if one does not understand how to live in it. What's the meaning behind all the calculations and equations if their solutions aren't going to provide us with a truer way to live? Why is it necessary to weigh in or send our test scores to schools if it doesn't add richness to our human existence? In my experience, numbers always mean benchmarks, deadlines, judgments and cutoffs. What if instead of measuring each other and sizing each other up based on our man-made measurements, we looked at each other and saw the immeasurable worth of every person in the eyes of God. Besides, behind all the numbers we are all on the same team, and it’s everyone’s individual responsibility to begin to look behind the numbers to better love and appreciate this world, and the people in it, in a fuller and deeper way.