NUMBERS, NUMBERS, NUMBERS

Milan, 9 May 2017

In Los Angeles, with some prodding from our daughter, my wife and I started our exercise regimen again, quietly put aside when we left Bangkok. Once a week, we went to a shop on Wilshire Boulevard to check progress. We would get on a machine which would do some sort of body scan and give us our body weight, our percentage of fat, our water retention ratio, and other fascinating pieces of data about ourselves. Bottom line: we were losing weight and our body fat percentages were dropping, but only very gradually. There was nothing for it, we were also going to have to go on a diet.

Once back in Italy, I took over the kitchen. This was going to be done scientifically! Every morsel of food we wanted to eat or drink would have its caloric make-up clocked into my computer and would be rigorously measured before it passed our lips. So I burrowed into vast online data banks of nutritional values, dusted off the kitchen scales, and got to work. And now my life has been taken over by numbers: 200, 250, 300 calories, 60, 80, 100 grams, 5, 10, 15 ml …

Meanwhile, we have ramped up our exercise regimen, where numbers also invade our minds: 10, 9, 8 seconds to go, 15, 16, 17 lifts, …

At the same time, we have been anxiously watching the results of the French elections: 21.5%, 32.8%, 46.6%. On Sunday night, we got the final numbers: 66%, 34%. But soon we will be anxiously scouting the news for the numbers in the French legislative elections. And then the U.K. elections …

And then there are all the timetables we seem to be scanning all the time: 10:47, 12:52, 14:35, 16:50, …

And we mustn’t forget the bank account and the investment portfolio and the euro-dollar exchange rate: 1.110, 1.060, 1.035, 1.091, …

Numbers, numbers, numbers …


As Charlie Brown might have said:

But wait, I mustn’t shoot the messenger. Numbers aren’t the problem. Numbers are beauty. The Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdos once said, “I know numbers are beautiful. If they aren’t beautiful, nothing is”, while several thousand years earlier Pythagoras had put it more poetically: “There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres” and “The stars in the heavens sing a music if only we had ears to hear”.

No, it’s just that life is now horribly complex – I turn once more to Charlie Brown.

Long gone are the days when human beings could get by counting “one, two, many”, although it seems there are still a few remote tribes who can get through life with just this as their counting systems.

I suppose we have to thank the damned Mesopotamians for pushing us beyond the one-two-many phase of our history.

They wanted cities, temples, palaces, armies.

For this they needed to count: how many bushels of wheat did you give this month, how many skins of beer, how many goats, how many days of work, how many, how many … They invented tokens like these to keep count.

And gradually, gradually, those tokens led us to this: roomfuls of accountants, keeping count of everything.

And now we have computers keeping count.

Well, I may mutter curses at the Mesopotamians, but do I want to live like this?

I don’t think so. So I’d better just get back to the kitchen and start counting the numbers for supper.

________________
Numbers: http://www.gettyimages.it/detail/illustrazione/lots-of-numbers-on-huge-diminishing-perspective-digital-grafica-stock/667585619
Aaugh!: https://www.pinterest.ph/pin/242631498644327447/
Pythagoras: https://www.google.co.uk/amp/lifenlesson.com/pythagoras/amp/
Sigh!: https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-babble/201304/why-do-we-sigh%3Famp
Mesopotamians: http://www.ancienthistorylists.com/ancient-civilization/ancient-mesopotamia/
Mesopotamian city: https://app.emaze.com/mobile/@AWCFWOLL
Mesopotamian tokens: http://www.maa.org/press/periodicals/convergence/mathematical-treasure-mesopotamian-accounting-tokens
Roomful of accountants: http://www.scoutingny.com/love-sex-on-the-upper-west-side-the-filming-locations-of-the-apartment/
Roomful of servers: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3rfici
Kalahari bushmen: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2016/03/17/how-britain-connived-in-the-end-of-the-kalahari-bushmen/

Published by

Abellio

I like writing, but I’ve spent most of my life writing about things that don’t particularly interest me. Finally, as I neared the age of 60, I decided to change that. I wanted to write about things that interested me. What really interests me is beauty. So I’ve focused this blog on beautiful things. I could be writing about a formally beautiful object in a museum. But it could also be something sitting quietly on a shelf. Or it could be just a fleeting view that's caught my eye, or a momentary splash of colour-on-colour at the turn of the road. Or it could be a piece of music I've just heard. Or a piece of poetry. Or food. And I’m sure I’ve missed things. But I’ll also write about interesting things that I hear or read about. Isn't there a beauty about things pleasing to the mind? I started just writing, but my wife quickly persuaded me to include photos. I tried it and I liked it. So my posts are now a mix of words and pictures, most of which I find on the internet. What else about me? When I first started this blog, my wife and I lived in Beijing where I was head of the regional office of the UN Agency I worked for. So at the beginning I wrote a lot about things Chinese. Then we moved to Bangkok, where again I headed up my Agency's regional office. So for a period I wrote about Thailand and South-East Asia more generally. But we had lived in Austria for many years before moving to China, and anyway we both come from Europe my wife is Italian while I'm half English, half French - so I often write about things European. Now I'm retired and we've moved back to Europe, so I suppose I will be writing a lot more about the Old Continent, interspersed with posts we have gone to visit. What else? We have two grown children, who had already left the nest when we moved to China, but they still figure from time to time in my posts. I’ll let my readers figure out more about me from reading what I've written. As these readers will discover, I really like trees. So I chose a tree - an apple tree, painted by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt - as my gravatar. And I chose Abellio as my name because he is the Celtic God of the apple tree. I hope you enjoy my posts. http://ipaintingsforsale.com/UploadPic/Gustav Klimt/big/Apple Tree I.jpg

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.