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Is our number up?

We tie ourselves up in knots over which digit is apt for which day. Try not to be stressed as 2011 ends.

india Updated: Nov 10, 2011 21:10 IST

Does human life on this planet just boil down to numbers? So it would seem, if one considers the fascination, the rush of expectations, laced with that hint of the unforeseen surrounding Friday, November 11. Or 11.11.11, to be exact, a day apparently unlike the other 364 in the year. Numerology, the study that establishes supposed relationships between a number/count and an aspect of human life may be trashed as pseudo-science, but that is not a barrier to people in India, and across the world, who are queuing up to get married, making special arrangements to get babies delivered or launching projects that are important to them. A website, dedicated to the date, is asking people to smile at each other, if they haven’t managed to achieve anything of more lasting significance.

Numbers have fascinated humans across ages and cultures, if only to establish their superiority over other creatures that cannot count. The ancient Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks and, of course, Indians assigned meaning and significance to digits. One signified unity for most cultures, while the importance of three can be gauged by the divine triad intrinsic to both Christianity (Father-Son-Holy Spirit) and Hinduism (creator-preserver-destroyer). From the portent of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, the five Ks of Sikhism to the nine muses of Hellenic thought, the ten commandments in the Bible or the 12 apostles of Christ, numbers have always left a deep imprint on human action and thought.

It perhaps explains why many among us simultaneously panicked when the turn of the millennium sprang a 1.1.00 on us, or why the collective unconscious anticipates a rush of good when chancing upon a date like 11.11.11. We celebrate numbers, from our birthdays and anniversaries, the vintage of our wine to the arrival of the nth baby on the planet. Thirteen frightens us, as does 666 (the number of the Beast according to the Book of Revelation). Caught in this vast web of numbers, the cold, somewhat dull, light of reason, ends up becoming a casualty.

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