15th June 2005 – It’s 26 years ago today that I finished my A levels; 26 years ago today that I left my Sixth Form College to embark upon a very roller-coaster life.
What’s the significance of 26 years? None really. But then, why should 25 years or 50 years be more significant than 26 years or 49 years? Why do certain numbers seem to have a hold over us?
100 seems to be a powerful number. I know that it’s because it requires a third digit, but in the overall scheme of things how important is it? Does a cricket player who is out for 100 contribute substantially more to his team’s score than one who is out for 99? The media and the record books will note that he reached a century; out for 99 and he will be deemed to have in some way failed.
When someone reaches their 100th birthday a great fuss is made, but how often does anyone ask whether there has been life in the person’s years as well as years in the person’s life? I once knew a woman who eventually died in her 109th year. During the whole time I knew her she was bitter and nasty towards both the staff and the other residents of the home in which she lived, I was told by a local doctor who had known her since she was 80 that she had always been bad tempered and aggressive. Yet because she had reached three figures there was a kind of awe surrounding her.
100 holds us in thrall – and because it’s so important, fractions of 100 and multiples of 100 are regarded with great importance – tens, twenty-fives, fifties, seventy-fives, centuries, thousands. Certain numbers are invested with far greater importance than others, nearly all of them connected with the decimal system.
Decimals didn’t always have the same hold on us. The old money system didn’t follow decimals – twelve pennies in shilling, twenty shillings in a pound, 21 shillings in a guinea. The old weight system didn’t follow decimals – sixteen ounces in a pound, fourteen pounds in a stone, eight stones in a hundredweight.
In the Bible other numbers are important – twelve is the number of the tribes of Israel, the number of the apostles; seven is the number of days of the week and the number of perfection.
There is no need for us to for us to ‘decimalised’. Each day, month, year should surely be as important as the one before and the one following. Psalm 90 asks that we be taught to number our times rightly, so we can live wisely at all times, not just those that end in ‘0′.