Repeating Numbers

“A B C. It’s easy as 1 2 3, as simple as do re mi, A B C, 1 2 3 … “ ~ ABC, Jackson Five

I was at yoga the other night for an eight o’clock class, and, for the first time in years, the instructor was running late. But that was okay with us, as we ourselves had lost track of time. We were all happily seated in the practice room, visiting each other’s mats, chatting and catching up from the week.

The door finally opened. It was the instructor. 

“I’m so sorry I’m late,” she said. “It’s already 8:08!”

808 is a significant number for me. When I was a little girl, my parents encouraged my siblings and I to learn our home address by heart. That way, if we were ever to get lost, we would be able to tell someone where we lived. Our street number was 808, an easy enough number to remember. I remember practicing my address earnestly, reciting it over and over, like the words of a favorite song. As a result, the lyrics embedded themselves so deeply in my consciousness that, to this day, 808 is a number that’s as fresh in my mind as it was when I was a child.     

I was never much for numbers. Growing up, I progressed through my math classes in much the same way as I had memorized my address as a child. I had to practice a lot. The only math that ever came naturally to me seemed to be my tenth-grade geometry. In geometry, the problems were like pictures, and that visual aspect appealed to me.      

When I arrived at college, I was relieved that my studies would only require one year of math. I pursued a journalism degree, diving feet first into a sea of words. I swam easily among my classes, surprised at how calm the waters were. As with geometry, writing was a visual exercise for me. I found it easy to put into words everything that I pictured. From that time on, aside from my most basic arithmetic needs, I successfully left most math problems behind me.

But, as with so many things that I’ve left behind, somehow, they’ve made their way back again! Over the past several months, I’ve been haunted by more numbers than I can count! With increasing frequency, numbers have been appearing regularly, multiple times a day, and always in a repetitious sort of way. Only this time I’m not fighting with them, and now I might even like them! They make me feel as if the universe is talking to me, telling me that I’m part of some equation that’s too big for me to see.

I awaken in the night at 2:22 or 3:33 or 4:44. During the day, I check the time, and, invariably, it’s the same. Other times, more often than not, my old address, 8:08, is on the clock. A sign outside a parking lot tells me that there are 555 spaces available. I get lost in an office building on the 11th floor and find myself at Suite #1111. I buy a new mattress, and my credit card bill arrives. I owe 5,555 dollars.

I think I was mistaken to ever believe that I could be done with numbers. In fact, science says that none of us ever can. According to science, numbers are everywhere and always have been. In the words of Galileo Galilei, the Father of Modern Science, the universe is a “grand book” that’s “written in the language of mathematics.” He even embraced the mystical side of numbers, calling mathematics the “alphabet in which G-d [had] written the universe.”

I make a playlist for a yoga class and double-check the length of the last song, the one for Savasana, the final resting pose. It clocks in at 4:44. I get to the studio, set up my music and check the time. It’s 5:55. I share an article on social media, and it receives 111 likes and 1,111 link clicks. I check the word count on this very article and find that I still have room to write. I’m only at 999 words. I check the thermostat at night. Its digital clock reads 8:08. The next morning, I check the digital clock on the coffee maker. It’s 8:08, again.   

There’s no question that numbers are woven into the fabric of our universe. Their relationships are evident in the placement of the pyramids, in the double-helix of our DNA and in the elliptical orbits of the planets. There’s even something in mathematics called the Fibonacci sequence, or the Golden Ratio, wherein each number in a pattern equates to the sum of the two before it. This relationship, or ratio, is literally everywhere. It can be found in the number of petals on a flower, in the cochlea of our inner ears, and even in the spirals of the Milky Way!

I’ve started snapping pictures of all the numbers, as they appear to me. It’s as if I’ve needed some kind of proof that I’m actually seeing them as often as I am. I scroll through my phone, sifting through all the evidence that I’ve collected, and when I see all the 8:08’s, 1:11’s, 2:22’s, 3:33’s, 4:44’s, 5:55’s, 10:10’s, 11:11’s, and 12:12's, I wonder again about the message they might have for me. Part of the answer, I think, might lie in numerology.

According to numerologists, numbers speak to us in the ways in which they appear and in how they coincide with the events in our lives. It’s not a scientific field, but numerology does use scientific terms to describe numbers. According to numerologists, numbers have mystical properties and contain energies, vibrations and frequencies. Like Galileo, they, too, believe that numbers are the language of the universe, for they also see something Divine in all the numerical patterns that science finds.

I don’t think it’s any accident that in numbers science and mysticism seem to collide. As far back as ancient times, Pythagoras, the first mathematician in history, used both science and mysticism to explain the basis of reality. Not only did he believe that mathematics explained the physical world, but Pythagoras also believed that numbers held various qualities and characteristics. He also believed in reincarnation and considered the brain to be the home of our soul.

Over time and to this day, mathematicians have continued to ponder the basis of reality. M.I.T. professor and cosmologist Max Tegmark puts a modern spin on the brain as the home of our soul. Known for his “Mathematical Universe Hypothesis,” which identifies our external reality as a mathematical structure, he claims that our consciousness is simply another form of matter, like a solid or a liquid or a gas. Like these other forms of matter, he says that consciousness is created from mathematical patterns that result from specific sets of mathematical conditions. According to Tegmark, everything in the universe is math, including us!

I look at my phone. It’s 3:33. I text my daughter on the way to meet my son. It’s 5:55. It’s nighttime, and I’m tired. It’s 10:10. I’m ready for sleep. It’s 11:11. In the morning, I watch the news in bed and decide to get up, if it’s after eight o’clock. The time on the screen flashes. It’s 8:08! I receive a text message from one of my instructors, asking me to lead the mentorship group for her teacher training program. It’s 4:44, so I say yes.

I’m at the market, and the cashier totals my groceries. My bill is $52.52.

“That’s a very nice number!” he says.

I look at him for a moment, and then I can’t help myself. I find myself explaining all about the matching patterns in nature, the ones that are found in the stars and even in ourselves. He’s nodding his head. He understands!

“That’s the Golden Ratio!” he exclaims. He hands me my groceries. “Numbers are crazy,” he says. They’re everywhere!”

I’ll never know why these numbers have suddenly been appearing, multiple times a day, and always in a repetitious sort of way. All I know is that there doesn’t seem to be an end to them. They are filling my universe (and now my phone!) to the very brim, and I think it’s up to me to figure out the message they’re trying to send.  

The only thing that I can figure is, if numbers are truly the basis of our reality, then what I must be getting is a Divine glimpse into mine! And that would make these numbers messengers of faith. Perhaps they’re here as evidence of a universal pattern that I can’t see, but of which I’m no less a part. And if that’s the case, then their message is clear. I am in the care of the universe. And it’s okay to let things be, because what’s in nature, and in the stars, is also in me.