Tuesday, August 16, 2016

108 steps and 3 days.

108 and 3. A  meditation on these two important numbers led to consideration of how frequently one might assess one's progress toward goals. That progress can be discouragingly small when measured at the end of each day.   There've been so many interruptions and delays and hurdles.  Too, there are problems with waiting until the end of the week to make that evaluation.  First of all, it  puts one more thing on the to-do list for what is supposed to be a day of rest and refreshment. Seven days is also a bit long to wait to make a course correction in aiming for short-term goals. 

So, what about checking at the end of every three day period, on Wednesday, and then again on Saturday? Then rest for a day, and then the week begins anew.

So if you aren't interested in the ramble, you can quit reading right here!

The number 108 reflects the harmony of the sizes and distances of the three celestial bodies we earthlings know best:  the distance between the Earth and its moon averages just about108 times the diameter of the moon; the distance between the Earth and the sun averages just about 108 times the diameter of the sun; the diameter of the sun is just about 108 times the diameter of the Earth. (I talked about this earlier, showing the calculations here.)

108 shows up frequently in ancient systems of religion (108 repetitions of a brief mantra quiets the mind and prepares it for meditation) and medicine (108 pressure points in Ayurveda.)  So what?  Numbers and relationships between numbers can speak. Often, they say, "the Universe is a beautiful place." (*1)

What might 108 "say?" The ratio of the diameters of and distances between the sun, moon and earth, and the number of beads counted when going around a Zen juzu or Hindu mala once or a Catholic rosary twice--these hint that 108 might be symbolic of the number of steps in a journey.

There is a pleasing pattern in the prime factorization of 108.  It's 3 to the third power times 2 to the second power-- times 1 to the first power, if you want to throw that last bit  in to finish the thing off with a flourish. What if you continued that pattern, by multiplying 108 by 5 to the fifth power?  That's 337,500 -- a lot of prayer beads or repetitions of a mantra. 

Compared to that, 108 seems quite doable! I can take the time needed for contemplation -- thinking ahead, giving God  a chance to get a word in edge-wise, basically -- every day. 

There's so much one could say about the number three!  All the Trinitarians agree.

As Ian Fleming says, once is accident, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action. If you have means, motive and opportunity,  you're looking guilty. Three times is a charm. Strike one, strike two, strike three, you're OUT.  Beginning, middle, end. Mother, Father, Child. The three legged stool as a metaphor for balance. The balance of power in the U.S. is maintained (in the best of times) when the Judicial, Executive and Legislative Branches function within their appointed bounds.

Thinking of a step as a measurement of time rather than distance, three days come to mind.  And why shouldn't it? Hebrews spent three days in the Desert of Shur before they found  water. Jonas was three days in the belly of the whale. Destroy this temple, said Jesus, and in three days I will rebuild it. Then, he himself got destroyed, spent three days in the tomb, and came out rebuilt on Easter.   

Give the struggles three days.  Sleep on it. Then sleep on it two more times.  Then, go to plan B.
(*1)For one of many examples of the elegance of the relationship of the numbers found in nature,   there is Euler's Identity:  e^(pi x i) + 1 = 0   
e is the constant found in equations describing biological processes and compound interest
pi is the ratio of a circle's circumference to its radius.
(*2)For fun, I took the average of two of the constants in Euler's Identity.(*1)  It's 2.93.  Almost three!

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