The meaning of life is math
M = 13th Letter
A = 1st Letter
T = 20th Letter
H = 8th Letter
13 + 1 + 20 + 8 = 42
I love math. I hate math. It’s concepts are logical, which makes me happy! But until you master the concepts, it’s confusing, which irritates me. It forms the basis of quantifiable and absolute knowledge, which makes me happy! But it’s fairly limited when applied to the qualitative world, which makes me sad. Classes on math force students to challenge their brains, which is good! But the quantitative nature of math means that every single test must hurt like an icepick to the head, which sucks.
- #1: Given the history of mankind as we know it, define x
- #2: Graph your relationship with your parents in respect to time and how often you call them to check if they're okay.
- #3: Given your experiences with the most beautiful person you've ever met, create a function where x = how much time you've spent with that person and f(x) = how much you want to hold that person and never let go.
- #4: It's noon. Jimmy has 5 apples; John has none. Jimmy has been taught by his society that John and people like John are subhuman and undeserving of kindness. Because of this, John's family is poor, and John is starving. Jimmy has formed a friendship with John, but his father found out and threatened to kill him if he continued his friendship. At the end of the day, how many apples does Jimmy have? How many does John have?
- #5: Given what humanity knows, calculate how much we don't know.
First of all, or the sake of this piece, forget the cliché that you’re already hearing in your head. This has nothing to do with consumption or cannibalism. 9, for the purposes of this exploration, is unharmed and living out its existence as a numeric symbol, as it should be.
Consider the title to be, not a riddle, but a prompt for a philosophical exercise. We, as a collection of cultures, accept many idiosyncrasies in life because our cultures grew up with them. In the West, men wear nooses around their necks when they go to formal events. Women put their feet in oubliettes for the same. In the East, people wear wooden clogs known as geta that can be as tall as 20 cm (7 inches). The tallest are reserved for geisha trainees. And no one questions how men were convinced to put on nooses or why young girls must balance on two thin blocks of wood if they want to be a geisha.
Going back to the title, why should 6 be afraid of 7? Why is that the most popular form of this joke? Mind you, there are other jokes like these. For example, 1’s afraid of 2 because 2 threw 4. 3’s afraid of 4 because 4 fried 6. Such is the cycle of number abuse. Still, the relationship between 6 and 7 is the codifier, the one that all other number abuse jokes deviate from. Why that one? Why not 1 and 2, or 3 and 4? Bear with me for a bit.
In order to understand this, we must first start with 6. 6 is generally not a noticeable number (unless written in triplicate, but we’ll get to that later). Its major claim to fame is its relationship to the numbers 1, 2 and 3. 1, 2, and 3 are some of the most ubiquitous numbers in the single-digit category. 3 is famous for the ever-popular triangle and its reciprocal is often used when proving that 0.999… is, in fact, equal to 1. 2 has connections with every even number in existence; you can’t find the half of anything without it. 1, of course, is the identity number, the root of unity, the number that all other numbers trace their ancestry back from. 6 is intricately bound to these three legends. When they are added, they become 6. When they are multiplied, they become 6. You would think that 6, by virtue of bloodline, would better mimic the utility of its predecessors. However, by being born of three extraordinary numbers, 6 is a completely ordinary number. It is overshadowed by the three that regularly produce it, just as bread is less interesting than the rainstorms and photosynthesis that provided for its existence. And this isn’t necessarily bad. The universe relies on ordinary people to fulfill the task of existence so the extraordinary people can be extraordinary as they need to be. This is rarely a problem unless the two types of people have to live in the same apartment, which is where 7 comes in.
In the interconnected world of numbers, where giants like 525 and 392 can trace their lineage back to the miniscule 3 and 2, 7 is a prime number. Like a lone wolf, it only traces its ancestry to 1, claiming no relation to any other preceding number. What makes 7 notable is that, despite being a single-digit prime, it’s as unapproachable as, to pick a random number, 653. There are 3 single-digit primes besides 7: 2,3 and 5. 2 and 3, as I’ve mentioned before, have long succession lines, with thousands of numbers that will claim them as ancestors. 5 is somewhat less prolific, but its spawn, 10, is so popular that common logarithms are based on it. 7’s descendants are nowhere near as popular. 49 is known for being its square, and 91 is known for being the spawn of 7 and 13, a number that’s known in the West to be unlucky. Besides them, 7 has no notable relations. In the world of numbers, it stands alone. And yet, it has become incredibly powerful in the eyes of mankind.
Mankind, in general, does not care about numbers. We see them as tools, to be applied to the material world as we see fit. There is only one area in which numbers have significance: symbolism. There, numbers thrive as symbols of the Almighty and infinite, of the sacred and holy, of death and life and all in between. 3, for example, gained great acclaim for the Holy Trinity in Christianity and the Trimurti in Hinduism (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva). While 6 has gained some approbation from its place in Judaism (the 6-pointed Star of David, the 6 foods of the Passover Sedar Plate) and Islam (the 6 articles of faith, the 6 days of Shawwal), 7 has wormed its way into the very heart of humanity. From the 7 hills of Rome to 007, 7 has made itself a source of mysticism throughout our history. Most notably, it’s entrenched itself in Judaism and Christianity. The 7 deadly sins and the 7 virtues that combat them. The 7 churches of the Book of Revelations. The 7-day fall of Jericho. The 7-branched Menorah. 7 even rules over the creation of the Earth, an achievement so great that humanity, religious or not, follows the week that was born from it. And by virtue of being the symbol of completeness and holiness, 7 makes 6 the number of incompleteness. 666, specifically, is made the number of the beast, the sign of the unholy. While 7 has ascended to immeasurable heights, the infamy of 666 drags 6 down in the eyes of man.
So, why is 6 afraid of 7? Simply, 7, by virtue of its mere existence, has become all-powerful, dwarfing 6 in its splendor. It rises above all numbers, regardless of magnitude, by becoming special to humans. 6 is bound to stay near this paragon of perfection, its common nature cast in the light of 7. If you were trapped in such an existence, wouldn’t you fear 7?