Coincidence. That’s what it was. It wasn’t a sign, a divine guidepost. It was no marker signaling the completion of the first third of a journey. It was just a coincidence. Happenstance. An artificial contrivance born of the juxtaposition of wishes and measures, weights and wants. That having been said, as I measured the distance between post and passion, the correlation struck me. Oh the synchronicity, the symbolism! Or, at least, I was struck by my ability to so swiftly shed skepticism (amid the ever-present allure of alliteration).

The reality is this: mathematics controls us. Mathematics and the purity with which it demonstrates relationships is astonishing. How could it be, I asked myself, that on this first day I assessed my progress toward an artificial goal, the relationship between the goal and the progress made toward reaching it could be so precise? An ounce either way and the relationship would have been complex, messy, littered with imprecision. But there was no imprecision to cloud the relationship; it was as clear as a flawless crystal goblet in pure water unsullied with bubbles or debris or the distraction of refracted light.

One third of the way toward a meaningless, yet magically important, goal. I measured seventeen against fifty-one and there is was: one third of fifty-one is seventeen. Seventeen is one third of fifty-one. If I multiply seventeen by two, the product is thirty-four; fifty-one minus thirty-four leaves seventeen. Magical! So, as of this morning (and yesterday morning, too, to be honest), I have shed one third of my somewhat arbitrary weight loss goal. Now, amid this numerological mysticism and math-worship, I must come to acknowledge that the objective, especially its arbitrary nature, speaks volumes of the point I made when I began this tirade: it’s coincidence, pure and simple. But what if the objective were off by one-third from what it should have been? What if, instead of fifty-one, the objective should have been sixty-eight (that is, one third more than the original number)? Look at the relationship with THAT number! Seventeen is one-fourth of sixty-eight! The magic and majesty of mathematics survives even massive errors in goal-setting! In either case, though, I’ve shed a sizeable fraction (one-fourth to one-third) of a frivously-fashioned aim.

The next analysis, I think, ought to include a reasoned judgement of whether fifty-one or sixty-eight is the proper target or whether the correct figure is somewhere above or below those lofty goals. I’m leaning toward recognizing my progress as just the first quarter of a quartet. It pays to hold oneself accountable to stretch goals; in the battle between one seventy-five versus one fifty-eight, the light is at the far end of the tunnel.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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