Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Zero gravity

TIME OUT from the presidential campaign for a simple question to you:   Are you having as much trouble understanding numbers today as I am?  I mean, numbers with zeros that run into the margins and down the page.   Deficits extending  from the bottom of one page to the top of the next.  Trillions, billions and pocket-change millions flowing to us daily as though they are nothing more than digits on a grocery bill.   Are we talking about the nation's bailout costs or the distances from the earth to the outer limits of the universe measured in light-years?  When the cost of the Iraq war is projected into the trillions do we numb souls really know what anybody is talking about?  

Have we come full circle in understanding our counting systems?  The ancients had no zeros in their calculations, so they figured things out as best as they could, regarding multiple objects as "heaps", which is how Aristotle referred to them, too.  Heaps.  It wasn't until they created zeroes to fill in the empty spaces in their primitive math systems that everyone started to take the liberties that have now reached bailout proportions.  Another zero here and another zero there, to paraphrase the late Everett Dirksen, and pretty soon we are talking about a heap of money.  Only on paper, they say.  Right.  

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