An Interesting Number

Many Math. majors (like me in a former life) will have heard the “proof” that all numbers are interesting.

  1. Assume there is a non-empty set of natural numbers (i.e. 1,2,3,…) which are uninteresting.
  2. This set must have a smallest member.
  3. Being the smallest uninteresting number is itself interesting.
  4. Since a number cannot be both interesting and uninteresting, the assumption in 1. must be false.
  5. Therefore, all numbers are interesting.

But then, to riff on George Orwell (cf. Animal Farm), all numbers may be interesting, but some are more interesting than others.

70Today I encountered a number which for me is very interesting, the number 70. What’s interesting about it? Only that age 70 sounds to me a lot older than age 69. Maybe it’s the change in the first digit, something that’s only happened to me 6 times before. Age is a physical reality, but it’s also a mental and emotional reality.

A friend once said of a mutual acquaintance that he had been “born 80 years old.” Even in middle age, he presented as tired and crotchety, often harking back to earlier days. I hope no-one ever says that of me, although I recall that someone once described me as “stuffy.” My rather warped sense of humor tends to hide when I’m in a public role. People who know me better know that my wit sometimes gets the better of me.

passing-days-3292952 greyI’ve now been retired for about 5 years (Since June 23 or July 31, 2013, depending on how you reckon it.) I’ve enjoyed most of those years, especially the last two or three. It’s good to be free to make your own decisions about what to do with your time, without too many occupational restrictions. I had some plans when I retired. Some have borne fruit, others have been deferred, still others have been put away permanently, and some new things have arisen. I’m not making many new plans at the moment, except for our 50th wedding anniversary celebrations in just over a year.

When I was in school and looking forward to the great challenges of University and adult life, anyone older than my parents seemed absolutely ancient. I’m much older now than they were then, and I don’t feel old at all … at least not most of the time!

The interest of this particular birthday is that it the first one in a long time that has turned me to thinking about the future. Not the past — there’s still plenty of time for that — but what is to come. If my parents’ and grandparents’ lives are any indication, I should have 15 years or so to look forward to. I don’t look forward today in the same way I looked forward at age 16, which was filled with both eagerness and anxiety. Rather, I welcome each day as it comes, with new light in the window, and both new and old things to do.

Life continues to be good.
Thanks be to God.