Friday, October 21, 2005

Paging All Numerologists

So I suppose if this experiment is going to be worthwhile on any level, it’s got to be honest. Meaning, you can get funny AP headlines and solemn baseball predictions any ol’ place – don’t get me wrong, I won’t stop providing those – but the inner workings of my noggin are more or less alien to most of you, making them more valuable. (Stretching the meaning of valuable to its utter limit here, I fully understand.)

Most of you know I’ve long been preoccupied with the number 117, which represents – among other things, but most pertinently – the date of my birth (Jan. 17, not Nov. 7, though come to think of it I have two good friends born on that day – remember to find that creepy later). I see this number everywhere. And yes, everywhere means places as banal as fast-food restaurant cash registers (the change due to the customer in front of me, say). And I know that it’s common for people to notice the digits of their birthday with uncommon frequency. I know this partly because it just makes sense, but mostly because several people with whom I’ve shared this preoccupation say things along the lines of, "Well, I think my birthday comes up often, too. It’s an egotistical illusion. So what?"

But I don’t overplay it, and I don’t seek it out. When I see the number listed multiple times in a racing form, for instance (117 being the number of pounds often carried by horses during a race), you don’t find me huddled in the grandstand trying to shape aluminum foil into an interstellar communication tool. I understand that it’s no big deal.

Still, though I don’t ordinarily go in for much magic with my realism, this one issue continues to capture my attention and hold my imagination for whatever reason. Really, the only time I feel like I’m living in some universe created by either Umberto Eco or Deepak Chopra is when I ponder the significance of this for too long. And in fact, I don’t generally ponder it for more than a minute or two at a time, and increasingly less often over the years, but I was reminded of it today while reading a customer review of Cormac McCarthy’s latest novel on Amazon. I’m a loyal fan of McCarthy’s (All the Pretty Horses is one of the few books I’ve read more than once and enjoyed equally – or even more – with each successive reading), but I haven’t read this new one. The customer writes, in part:

Even in the darkest parts, there are subtle literary clues (the times in the book sometimes correspond to Bible verses, (look for the King James BOOK OF REVELATIONS and JOHN 1:17 vs. JAMES 1:17, and Yeats' THE VISION; Moss is killed in room #117).
I assume Moss is a character in the book. And for the record, I’ve never associated my 117 fixation with anything Biblical, but just for kicks here are the two verses the reader mentions (taken from the King James version):

John 1:17
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

James 1:17
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
I realize millions of people share my birthday, and that 117 can refer to any number of other personal signifiers – one’s weight, the street address of the house in which one grew up, the number of times one has viewed the original Star Wars trilogy – so I’ll reiterate my lack of interest in making this about me. I’m curious, though, does anyone know other instances where the number is of considerable import? Because it seems to come up an awful lot, and there are one or two people who have been willing to agree with me.

The creepiest instance of many was two years ago, when I read a wire report about a Sudanese plane crash. Eleven crew members and 105 passengers died, for a total of 116 fatalities. The 117th person was a two-year-old boy, who was the only survivor of the crash.


Anonymous Dread Pirate said...

In the movie Starsky and Hutch, Vince Vaughn (the bad guy) is holding an raffle to give away cars with trunks full of cocaine (its complicated.) Juliette Lewis (Vaughn's concubine) hands a rigged ticket to one coke dealer - the number on that ticket - yep, you guessed it - 117.

6:36 AM  
Blogger Dezmond said...

There are 37 paper clips in my desk drawer, 7 pens scattered on the desk, 6 file folders full of paperwork on the floor near my desk, 27 books on the bookshelf across from my desk, 5 photos in the photo collage on my wall, 21 tiles on the ceiling in my office, and 4 CDs on the table near my desk. That's right - 117.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Dezmond said...

Oops. That's actually only 107. Never mind, no connection. But wait, I see 10 business cards in my business card holder. OK, woh. Now we're at 117.

10:20 AM  

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