Saturday, April 5, 2008

By the numbers

I've been reading a novel this morning about a math prodigy who gets into Oxford. On her first day, she's asked what the purpose of math is, and she answers, "To try to quantify the world."
Now, I keep numbers in my head very easily--telephone numbers, birthdays, dates. They're filed in some kind of archaic cabinet in a shadowy part of my brain to be called up whenever I need them--the birthday of a childhood friend I haven't seen since 7th grade, the date my college boyfriend broke our engagement, my dead grandmother's telephone number--but these are just facts, tools at my disposal, party tricks even. To measure life is to limit life, I think, and that's a whole different matter.

Numbers would say, for instance, that I belong to the demographic that supports a particular democratic candidate. This really annoys me. I do look--outwardly, at least--like that subset of people. I am a woman of a particular age and educational background. However, I am far more than the sum of my parts. I have my own brain, my own heart, my own will. And I have used them to listen, think and respond--by myself. I do not want to be measured by the numbers.

Never have, never will.

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