Marlene Hauser

numbers game

A Numbers Game?

Hi Everyone,

Yes. Happy New Year! 2021. No point saying that the trajectory assumed in 2020 (the Roaring ’20s) never saw the light of day, at least for now. Some pundits, though, tell me that it is still coming, “just wait!”—maybe even in 2021, for example, right now, as I write.

The coronavirus has taken us all on a totally different and unexpected course, pushing us to reinvent and renew, to basically do as the British do: “Keep calm and carry on.” It’s hard to believe that only a year ago, I was lauding a new decade, the concept of work as play and the many assignments I had on my plate. To some degree, more or less, they have lurched forward, as I explored other notions at a slower pace: lockdown, isolation, hygiene and, of course, enumeration.


Ah yes!

Numbers: the finite and the infinite.

As I wrote 1.1.21, I felt as if I were writing code, not just a date. I cannot write code, but I do recall from school that a code is a simple and elegant way to write data that is used every day, in computer processing, for example, a system—like binary code, using just a 0 and a 1. Maybe it wasn’t a code so much, although I suppose numbers are codes for counting things, like ages, dates and deaths.

I think I have involuntarily become more aware of numbers because daily, via radio, television and the Internet, I am reminded of the Covid-19 toll. I cannot get away from it, as it is calculated in real-time, rolling over like a national debt clock.

As the global, domestic and Oxfordshire County Council death rates from the pandemic have risen, along with cases reported, I have felt as if I were watching, once again, something surreal, otherworldly, uncertain and unexpected. A lottery?

The magnitude of deaths and cases reported at whatever level seems incomprehensible. I recall the early images from Italy of coffins lining church halls and other buildings. I cannot imagine so many deaths, so many caskets, so much open earth or broken hearts, and yet it must be true. Someone is totaling. How many cases of those reported actually roll over to the deaths column? I cannot tabulate. I am not a mathematician or a scientist, not by inclination or training.

The point is numbers. Days for lockdown, tiers 1, 2, 3, 4 and now 5—which tier am I currently in? For how long? What are the rules and regulations—how many days? Weeks? Months? My son, who travelled to the USA recently, had to have his Covid-19 test results exactly 72 hours before he landed Stateside, not more and not less. On his return, he had to self-isolate for 10 days. We take temperatures, which can fluctuate during the course of a day. With 38°C being considered a fever, only then should I go to a testing center, perhaps the one at the Park & Ride or the train station, certainly not my GP’s surgery or A&E, to see if the invisible net of the pandemic has touched me, my home, my designated bubble of loved ones.

Okay. This much is true. I do turn off the news, the radio, the TV and click away from digits that in real-time tell me again the high cost, the rising sum, of the Covid-19 plague. It is not that I do not want to know. I do know, but it has fallen on me to make another decision: how much do I want to process? How much can I handle? I want to make another sort of calculation. A choice. How many living? How many endured? How many not dead? I want to throw my weight on the side of good, the alive, the persistent, the tallying of all things bright and beautiful. I want to express a simple and elegant code: a mystery, the illimitable—a world without end.

No counting.

Wishing you a steady 2021, in the rolling, rollicking, reckoning of Eternity.



Image by Alexander Fradellafra from Pixabay

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