Playing with Big Numbers

by Ajmer Rode

The human mind
is essentially qualitative.
As you know,
we are easily excited by
pinks and purples,
triangles and circles
and we endlessly argue
over true and false,
right and wrong.

But quantitative analyses
rarely touch our souls.

Numbers were invented mainly
by men to trick each other.
I am almost certain women had
nothing to do with them. They
had more vital tasks, survival for example,
at hand.

But playing with big numbers
could be interesting.
In fact it could be really fun. Say
if I were to sit on a gravel pit and
count one billion pebbles non-stop
it will take me some 14 years;
or if I were to count what Africa
owes to rich
foreigners – some 200 billion
it is impossible. I will have to
be born 40 times and do nothing
but keep counting 24 hours.

Although things could be simpler on a
smaller scale. Suppose as a result
of the debt, five million children die
every year , as in fact they do,
and each dying child cries
a minimum of 100 times a day
there would be a trillion cries
floating around
in the atmosphere just over a
period of five years.
Remember a sound wave once
generated never ceases to exist
in one form or the other,
and never escapes the atmosphere.

Now one fine morning, even if
one of these cries suddenly hits
you, it will shatter your soul into
a billion pieces. It will take
14 years to gather
the pieces and put them back
into one piece.

On the other hand, may be all the
trillion cries could hit your soul
and nothing would happen.

Poems At My Doorstep

Ajmer Rode's picture

Ajmer Rode has published books of poetry, drama, and translation in Punjabi and English. His works have been included in several anthologies in Canada and India. His 1000-page book Leela, co-authored with N Bharati, is included in outstanding works of the twentieth century Punjabi poetry. Ajmer is considered a founder of Canadian Punjabi drama. His poem “Stroll in a Particle” is among 8 international poems permanently inscribed on a public wall outside the new building of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, 2011

Last updated December 12, 2013