## June 20, 2011

### The Citizens of Numerocity

I didn't like math in school.
I didn't struggle with it. In fact, I was quite okay at it.

I wasn't a genius but I was okay at it.

But even that didn't help me like it.

Every time I'd have to calculate 7 times 8, I'd feel someone gripping my stomach on the inside. It wasn't because I didn't know the answer. I knew the answer was 56. I had memorized it.

But I just didn't like multiplying the two. Why should the number 7 have anything to do with number 8?

Why can't they live their lives separately and not get into each other's way?

I'd hate to multiply 6 with 9.
My stomach would ache with this inexplicable fear for the number 6.
Like number 9 would harm her.

Why, God, WHY do I have to multiply 6 and 9?
Why can't I multiply 6 and 7 instead? Even 5, 4,2 or 1 would do.
Why 9?

What's that?
Ohhh… yea sorry.
You're lost aren't ya?
No idea what I'm talking about?

Okay.
Here's the deal.

Ever since I started this blog, I've been talking about life and lessons, and…well... life's lessons. Today, I'm talking about nonsense.

That isss different.
.
.
.
I'm going to ignore your little wisecrack there.
You're hanging by a thread, dude.
A thin, little piece of thread.

Anyway. Aristotle once said:

There was never a genius without a tincture of madness.

So here I am, embracing my inner genius and the madness that comes along with it.

A child's imagination is a wonderful place.
How many of us were afraid of the monsters under our bed?
A gianormous crocodile for me.
How many of us ran out of the bathroom screaming and shouting, right after flushing in the fear that we'd be flushed down with the water?
How many of us believed that toys would come to life at night and walk around our room?
And then I watched Childsplay, and that ended my love for all plastic dolls.
For Good.
I'm 27 now, and I still feel uncomfortable when I'm in the same room as a plastic doll.

If you say you never believed any of those things, you're lying.
Or you're weird.

Because every kid believed that at some point or the other.

Why else would they have made movies like Monsters Inc., Flushed Away or Toy Story? Why else would they have done as well as they did?

Anyway, before this post starts making any sense, I want to document a childhood belief of mine. A belief that has travelled with me to my adulthood and geniusness.

At some point in my life, after I had learnt how to write numbers and before I began learning calculus, something funny happened.
Okay, a LOT of funny things happened.
But this is one of them.

I began ascribing random personalities to numbers.
I can't really say what it was that led to it.
Though, I'm beginning to think it's my geniusness.
It happened almost automatically.

Ever since I have grown up, I've tried to find an explanation for why this happened. If there's a pattern in the shape of the numbers and the personalities I assigned them.

Either way. These personalities always flashed in my brain, every time, I handled numbers. So without further adieu, I introduce to you the characters of the city of numbers.
Or, as I call it:
Numer-o-city.

The number 1

Plain Jane.
Vanilla.
Existential.
Okay I don’t know what that word means. I mean to say, she just exists.

Picture a woman in the late 19th Century.
Preferably in black and white.
The long, calf length dress with the white apron. Thick white stockings to cover any skin that might be left uncovered. The puffed sleeves and those horrendous black shoes with the buckle. The bonnet on her head. She lives her life without enthusiasm but without depression. She exists to play her role in society.

She won't ask for jewelry but will thank you politely if you get her some. She will wear it like it's her duty to you. She will make meals for you, wash your clothes  and clean your room. She's a deft seamstress and cook. She does embroidery or crochet in her free time. The quintessential mother and wife.

She goes about her daily chores in a zombie like state. She gives love as it's her moral obligation to do so and she'll scold the children when she's supposed to. She will smile when you tell her a joke and frown when she hurts herself. But in neither case will she slip up and have an animated reaction- of any sort.

She will never be passionate or vivacious.
She will never be evil or conceited.
She will always just be.

She always exists, in her personality-less state for all eternity.

The number 2
Hee hee.
Sorry.
Just saying number 2 makes me giggle.

Anway.

The number 2
Hee hee.
Sorry.

He's the 'Bob the Builder' of Numerocity.
He was born in dungarees and with a yellow construction hat on his head.
He's the blood, sweat and toil of the 'number economy'.
The maintenance guy, the plumber, the electrician all in one.

He punches in at every factory and punches out at 6 everyday.
At the end of the work day, he's drenched in sweat and is grimy from all the manual labor he's done.

He goes home, takes a shower while his wife (probably number 1) lays the table.
He has a quiet dinner with his wife and kid.
He kisses his wife good night and heads down to the pub at the corner of the street.

He has a couple of beers with his neighbors, colleagues and friends. He discusses the government and reforms. He doesn't really care, but it serves as good conversation. He's happy as long he gets to live the peaceful life he's leading and can put food on the table.

He comes back into the house kisses his kid goodnight and sleeps, to wake up the next day and do it all over again.

The number 3

With the birth of number 3, the first traces of evil and vice were born into the number world.

He isn't evil for evil's sake. You have to hand him that.
He wouldn't willingly hurt someone else, for no reason.
But once he has a reason, he won't notice the people he's stepping on to get ahead in life.

Principles and ethics are words that are hollow to him. They serve no other purpose than to mask his real intentions. He actually thinks of them as obstacles to his success.

When capitalism made it's forays into the world of numbers, number 3 was the first guy to adopt the 'profit at any cost' principle. He reminds me of the directors and big-wigs at Enron. Or in the current context, the guys at Goldman Sachs who ate up all the money but then went begging to the American government for more.

Number 3 is a glutton for riches and has cravings that will never be satisfied. He dreams of a big mansion and his own yatch. A private jet with pretty air-hostesses. He will go to any lengths to get it. And he won't stop once he does.

He's a sycophant if he needs to be. He's a parasite. A minion of the devil.

The number 4
When Number 2's kid grew up, he was number 4.
He's at university now.

He's an earnest guy.
Really hard working and sincere.

Like any regular kid, he works and he plays.
He has a crush on a pretty girl in his class but he doesn't have the nerve to tell her.

He's not a nerd though. Just a regular kid.
He tries not to miss any classes and likes hanging out with his friends.
He wants to do well at college and get a job that will make his dad proud.

It's a pity though.
With all the hard work he's put in and all the dreams in his head, he'll never make it to that job.
In the hierarchy of numbers, he's always going to be number 4. The kid at college, studying, and hanging out with his friends. A number four can never turn into anything else, but a number four.
Trapped in that role. Forever.
Being a number isn't all it's made out to be.

Whoa.
Got a little philosophical there.
Moving on.

The number 5

If there's one person in the human world that describes the personality of the number 5, it's Santa Claus.

He's a short, old, adorable man.
He has a long white beard and a big belly. And guess what?
When he laughs, it does shake like a bowlful of jelly!

He doesn't wear the red suit though.
He's got a golden retriever and he plays the ukulele.

He lives in a nice little wooden cottage just outside of the city.
It has floors made of wooden planks that creak under your feet.
There's a calm, familiar warmth when you enter. And there's always a plate of cookies and a glass of milk kept on the table, waiting for you.

Mister 5 is like a sponge that soaks away all the negativity in the world. When you go to him in a foul mood, at some point when you're having the cookies and milk, listening to him, you realize that you feel so much better. You can't even remember what you were mad about in the first place.

Mrs. 5 went to heaven sometime ago. Mr 5 giggles and says that God really wanted to try her apple pies. So he called her to make them for him up in heaven.

Everyone likes to visit Mr 5 and Mr 5 loves having everyone over.

I wuv Mr 5.
I do.
I weally weally wuv him.

The number 6
Wow.
Number 6 is like a breath of fresh air.
The pretty girl next door.

She has long brown hair and lovely skin.
She's polite and courteous.
She's the personification of innocence.
She's like Snow White.
Or Cinderella or Rapunzel.
Whichever fairytale princess floats your boat.

She's a die hard romantic.
She has just graduated from high school.

And she loves number 7.

Her heart skips a beat whenever she sees him.
When she goes shopping at the mall, she only buys the colors she thinks number 7 would like. Whenever she bakes cookies, she always bakes an extra special batch for him.

She has imagined her wedding a million times. Her white dress. And number 7, dashing and handsome at the altar. The wedding reception. The first dance as   Mrs 7 on ' you look wonderful tonight'.

She is willing to wait for eternity for number 7.

Enter number 7.

The number 7

'With great power comes great responsibility. This is my gift. My curse.'

He's the Jean Claude Van Damme of the number world.
He's their spiderman and superman all in one.
Chiseled jaw, broad shoulders and strong build.

He is the savior of the helpless, the fighter for the meek, the hope of the poor.
His heart aches when he sees suffering. His blood boils when he sees injustice.

He has the discipline of an army general and the strength of the Incredible hulk.
He stays awake at night so that everyone else can sleep peacefully. He stands for everything that's right.

This, however, doesn't mean he's a muscle-head.
He has dreams too.
He would like nothing more than to settle down with number 6 and have a little house in the suburbs, where he would teach his children to ride their bikes and play catch.

I think Spiderman really hit the nail on the head, when he said:

'Who am I? You sure you want to know? The story of my life is not for the faint of heart. If somebody said it was a happy little tale... if somebody told you I was just your average ordinary guy, not a care in the world... somebody lied.'

He realizes that the duty he has to perform means that he cannot give number 6 the happiness she deserves. She deserves a caring man who would love her and care for her. But he, just isn't capable of that. The weight of the duty on his shoulders is too heavy.

Again, Spiderman elucidates:
'Peter Parker: I want you to know, that I will always be there for you; I will always be there to take care of you. I promise you that. I will always be your friend.
Mary Jane: Only a friend, Peter Parker?
Peter Parker: That's all I have to give... '

* Sniff *
* Sniff *

The number 8

The devil's sidekick.
By the way, number 9 is  the devil.
More on that below.

Number 8 does the devil's bidding.
He's the right hand man.

Want a severed horse head to be arranged on someone's bed?
Want a Godfather style toll booth shootout?
Want anyone shot, stabbed or otherwise slaughtered?

Dial 8-8-8 for assistance.

Number 8 has no conscience. He has no heart. He, obviously, has no morals.

He has ambition though.
When number 9 dies and goes 'downstairs' to run hell, he's going to take over his evil empire here in Numerocity.

He's using his present to prepare for the future.

He's number 7's nemesis.
He's the reason Number 7 and 6 can never be together.
He's the mafia don of the Numerocity underworld.

So what if he does it on behalf of number 9?
He enjoys doing it.
He'd probably do it anyway.

If number 7 is Sean Archer (from Faceoff) then number 8 is Castor Troy.

I hate number 8.

Number 8 is twisted.
Quite literally.

The number 9

Imagine that you've been kidnapped.
No seriously.
You've been shoved into a shiny black car, where your hands are tied behind your back and you are blindfolded.

After a couple of hours, you feel the car come to a stop. You're led into another place, where you feel the air whizzing past. Then, another place, when the light filtering through the blindfold is obliterated. You've reached some place that feels like a basement.

You hear the beeping of a few buttons being pressed and a few sliding doors, and computerized voices confirming access.

Your blindfold is removed. When your eyes adjust to the new environment, you realize you're in a big, big hall. The floor is glossy red. There are 81 (9 times 9) armed guards, standing in attention, all dressed in black, holding huge machine guns and wearing Ray-Bans.
Yes. Even though they're in an underground lair.
I said number 9 was evil. I didn't say his bodyguards were smart.

On the left, there's a glass panel on a wall. It's a shark tank. You see a shark swim by. Then a couple of sting rays. Then a giant squid.

Your eyes finally focus on the centre of the room. There, you see a raised platform. It has a trench built around it, and from that trench you see tongues of fire threatening to engulf the entire platform, but falling just short. And on that raised platform, you see him.

In a black suit and with a red velvet cloak, atop a golden throne, sits he.

(Da da da dummmmmm )

The Number 9.

He has a perilous smile on his face. If he could, he would shoot laser beams from his eyes and turn you to dust, right then and there.

Number 9 is the villain of villains.

He uses number 8 as his pawn. He doesn't care for him. He has no plans of handing over his empire to him.
Ever.

He wants world domination.
Number world domination.
He wants to enslave the other numbers, exploit them and then have them for dinner.

If Jason Voorhees, Hannibal Lecter, the Green Goblin and The Joker merged into one big mass of evil, even they wouldn't be able to defeat number 9.

That completes the list.
Phew.

Does it all make sense now?
Why I would feel a sense of security when I multiplied 7 and 5?
Imagine Mr 7 sitting with number 5, having milk and cookies.

And disgust when I had to multiply 3 and 6?
Or 4 and 9?
Poor innocent number 4. What did he ever do to deserve being multiplied with 9?

Why every time I would add 6 and 7, I'd feel this warm glow of romance inside.
I'd be like , awwwww, 6 and 7.

I guess these mathematical operations like addition and multiplication, stand for life in general in the number world. Like humans, numbers too have different personalities. They have good people and bad people. They have virtues and vices. They, too, are forced to deal with different kinds of people at different times in their lives. Sometimes, you're lucky and you come across nice numbers. And sometimes, you come across bad ones. And you have no choice but to deal with them. If you don't, your life will always be like an unsolved problem. An incomplete equation.

Ahhh.
Who am I kidding.
I couldn't give meaning to this post if someone paid me to do it.

It's just mindless banter.
And hey, mindless banter is fun, once in awhile.

I know you feel the same way.

If you didn't, you wouldn't have read this till the end.

***