Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Numbers Numbers Everywhere

To my son Tommy,

The harsh reality of this world is every where you look there are quantification and qualifications based on numbers.  They exist in every walk of our lives, education, health, economics, employment, everywhere.  Are you in the top one percent of taxpayers or you in some arbitrary forty seven percent?  How tall are you? How much do you weigh? How much do you make? What is your BMI? Do you know how fast you were going? (Couldn't have been much over 55 officer!) How old are you?  How long have you lived here? What is your credit score?  How many calories are in that?  All these numbers exist for a reason.

People want to compare.  They want to know how you are doing compared to Joe Schmoe and themselves.  Even I want to know how I am doing so I look at the numbers.  I find it funny, in a sad ironic way, that we as a society tend to not know how we are doing unless we see the numbers.  The sliding scales and numbers of the world are part of reality, even though they are all relative.  So though we would like to, we can't just ignore these numbers.  But we can take them in and accept them for what they are worth.  From time to time we can even embrace them.

When someone asks me how I am doing, I think I will just give out a list of numbers.  "How am I doing?  Well let me tell you.  My weight is 275.5 which is down 16.5 lbs in a little over a month.  Here also is my cholesterol and my BMI and my bank balance and my tax bracket and the amount of times I rent a movie and the amount of times I eat dinner out and my pain level on a scale of one to ten.  You tell me how I am doing."  Sounds nuts doesn't it?  But often these number determine how we feel about ourselves and each other and how others see us, so why not just get them out there?  I can think of no good reason, well except of course identity theft, and TMI, and the fact that would be just creepy, and that it would skyrocket the number of people who avoid you.  Okay maybe I will just say, "Doing great! And you?"

By the way, the weight number in that example is true.  Down another couple pounds and still logging my daily journal of numbers so I can compare this food day verse that food day and this calorie count against that calorie count.  More and more numbers, I just can't get away from numbers and scales.

Your mom is dealing with lots of numbers as this is the only system they have found to grade students.  She had one of those "I just forgot everything I studied for the past week" moments at her last exam.  As she walked out the door after finishing the test, all of it came flooding back to her and she immediately felt sick about her answers and possible grade.  But here is a good example of how a number means very little.

In her travels today she came across a car sitting in the middle of the road and not moving and blocking traffic.  Of course her test experience was still on her mind so she laid on the horn with no results.  She finally got out and went to check on the driver.  She was probably going over there to give the driver a good piece of her mind but when she approached, the driver was slumped over the steering wheel.  She got 911 called, she got the driver alert again, she got the vehicle moved to the side, she broke out her stethoscope (though she wished she had her BP cuff too), she got information and medical history to give the paramedics.  It turns out this driver had been recently treated for stuff that relates to what your mom just learned.  Your mother handled it like a champ and yet again proved to me how much she deserves a cape and a mask and a super hero title.

Now later, she got that number she was dreading.  Worked out to be an 81 on the exam.  This little old number has your mother in a little funk, though most people in nursing would be happy with that grade.  She is focusing on a grade rather than what she has learned and can do and did accomplish.  It is only natural. Just like if I happen to jump on a scale and that number goes up, I don't think that it is just a number and focus in how healthy my eating habits and lifestyle has been.  It really stops you from seeing the forest for the trees.

So we have to accept that numbers and scales and comparison exists.  We can utilize these as tools but we must not let them dictate what we feel about life and ourselves.  We are so much more than a conglomeration of numbers.  No matter how hard pollsters and scientist of all kinds try and think they know how to quantify it, no one can ever put a number on happiness.  I know because on a scale of one to ten with you and your mommy in my life, as they would say in Spinal Tap, I am an eleven.

Sincerely with love from your dad,

No comments:

Post a Comment