Numbering (#1)

Interesting. Having spent years as a journalist thinking about the importance of the audience before setting whorls to keys (who am I speaking to, how much do they already know, how interested are they, should they be, in the information to be conveyed, context-context-context etc) there’s now a touch of self-reflexive performance anxiety. A chosen audience, a newly-designed stage and then a lacuna with the curtain failing to rise. It’s the whole predictable “why and for whom” blogging rumination reframed in a miniature mostly self-circumscribed space. Broadcast and narrowcast.

But that’s all I’m going to say on the subject. (At the moment. There can be no guarantee that it won’t enter, stage right, at some future date. Performance again, you see. Thank goodness I don’t have a dick.)

I’m counting a lot, again. This is usually a bad sign. Stairs. Walking anywhere – paces. Turning on the tap – onethousand-twothousand-threethousand – while the water jug goes from empty to full. Or indeed whilst pouring out, from full to empty. Any activity is susceptible to this notation. Cycling. Typing. Breath-holding. Eating. You name it, I can count (to) it.

This was in the past a self-soothing (anti-anxiety) strategy. Occupying the mind with the metronomic beat of passing numerals, instants of safety, moments when the badness is kept at bay. I shall count! Incant! (Surely there must be a verb to incant. But how disturbing its homophony with “in cant”. Perhaps it is better described as incounting I shall, I will, incount. Apparently whether I like it or not.)

So there they are. The numbers, the grains of sand slipping through the constriction from the fear of now to the – could it be? – safety of then.

The particularly perplexing paradox of this present presentation is that, on examination, that which is being held at bay is entirely opaque. Or, to attempt to be slightly more transparent, I can’t see the shit for the numbers. I don’t feel anxious. Nor depressed. Let alone desperate. What is it against which soothing is required?

Perhaps awareness is enough, explication unnecessary.

7 Replies to “Numbering (#1)”

  1. Awareness is a lot, anyway.

    I gather ordinary Tibetans go around doing this kind of thing all the time, and they’re not perceived as anxious, rather the reverse, so I guess it works.

  2. Jean, you’re a genius. That’s made me feel a lot better about it. Why pathologise, I ask myself! And also suggests alternative syllables as a conscious option when the numbers obtrude.

    Erzsebel – have you always done it? or does it go in phases? I sometimes wonder whether part of the joy of knitting is counting to some purpose. It’s also the case that I’m deeply involved in something on the needles which requires almost constant counting and I wondered whether it had sort of spilled over into the rest of life.

  3. Hmm, maybe not exactly the same process, but I tend to do Sudoku for hours at time. It’s both the numbers and their falling into a pattern that does the soothing and abeyance for me.

  4. I’ve got kind of used to just reading and looking and having to ignore the desire to reply on your Loopy blog, and beginning to wonder if there might not be something to recommend blogging into silence like that, that now it’s odd to be able to comment again! It’s also rather fun to have a new name.

    When I saw the Philip Glass video there I assumed it must be a knitting reference. Looking at the comments to that on Youtube (don’t know how I ended up doing that but anyway), for some people it seemed as if the repetitive counting was a crazy and tormenting thing, for others it was a revelation, one said it had caused him to decide to stop being an engineer and thinking in terms of what was practical and useful and go back to pure maths and physics.

    I can’t imagine ever having a relationship with numbers like this; it sounds rather fascinating and perhaps enviable…

  5. Sometimes I do it more than others. It’s a mindless thing, almost a meditation. I should get some prayer beads, ‘cept I don’t have anyone to pray to. Perhaps you’re right, knitting is a substitute for that – you know how you often find yourself counting stitches quite unnecessarily, like along the sole of a sock. I count steps and breaths, mostly. I could see how, if you’re counting something on the needles, you might just keep counting other things as you go along.

  6. It’s actually eased off a bit at the moment. I do love numbers and did maths to A level. Recently I was required (as part of a scientific experiement) to count backwards from 157. Such a joy. I’ve never counted backwards as part of the counting thingy, and was surprised at how easil and fast it was. (Although sometimes in order to stave off boredom I count in, say, 13s, just for a change.) And at the end I noted that 157 was an excellent number to choose, being prime. I like prime numbers. I am not alone in this. I rather wish I knew a great deal more about maths.

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