Saturday, August 11, 2012

Threes and Sevens

For all my math deficiencies, I love numbers. Not adding them, or multiplying them, or measuring them, but looking at them, thinking of them, wondering about them. They're pretty fascinating, after all. And culturally, numbers figure in our daily lives very deeply.

Since middle school, I've been curious about how easily people subscribe to the adage that things happen in threes. Interestingly, while probably almost everything could be counted this way, we tend to focus on the "bad" things in terms of the threes; we begin the count after the second bad thing and wait for the third to show itself.  Then we can say (to ourselves, mostly), "See, three bad things," thus reinforcing the belief system. Three injuries, three funerals, three losses, three failures. Logically, we know these things happen independently of each other and are not connected to each other in any way: there is one bad thing, and there are way more than three bad things. But by ceasing the count at three, we attempt to limit our sadness, our grief, our frustration. And that's not a bad thing.

And then there's the number seven. If Gene Rayburn asked you to match Richard Dawson's answer to this puzzle, "________ Seven," you'd probably guess "Lucky," and probably correctly. Sure, there are those pesky Seven Deadly Sins, but more often than not, we think of seven as a lucky number. In terms of "good" things happening to us or around us, we don't count, though. And if we did add up the positives, it's likely we'd stop long before seven. It'd be hard to remember them all, despite George Miller's assertion that we could. But that's exactly what I propose we do.

I'm going to do an experiment. Over the course of a day, or days perhaps, and ultimately, throughout the school year and beyond, I'm going to count both the threes and the sevens. When I'm confronted with any combination of three bad things (my own complaints, others' problems, union conflicts, personal or professional issues), I will more-than-double that number with seven good things. I'll count out solutions, blessings, answers... the good things. Whether I'm struggling internally, or grappling with something (or someone) at work, or just generally saddened by the state of affairs nationally or globally, I will try to balance (over-balance, really) the bad stuff with some good stuff.

In the end, of course, the only number that really matters is one. And it's that one that I'm looking to preserve, treat well, and keep in balance. By counting my threes and sevens, I hope to remind myself of what's important, to focus on the positives, and to be always moving forward. Join me on the journey.

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