Even My Fingers Can’t Help Me Count

Who’s Counting?

 My name is Joe and I can’t count.

I cannot count. People laugh when I tell them this. They say, Don’t you have a degree in mathematics? I say, Yes, but mathematics is not counting. Mathematics is abstractions and theories. Counting is, well, counting.

Yes, I can recite the numbers in order. See, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. I remember reciting them as a child as fast as I could, as if I needed to hurry lest I forget one of the numbers on the way to ten. I can recite them as high as need be given enough time. You see, reciting just requires a little memorization and some basic understanding of the patterns. Reciting is the beginning of math.

Reciting is not counting. Counting is a different skill. I guess it’s the functional and practical application of reciting, perhaps like advanced reciting. Counting is keeping track of objects or repetitions.

I never acquired the counting skill. I am in fact in awe of people who have this counting skill. It’s true. The other day I was at the gym working out with some friends. One friend was doing some reps on the bench press. My other friend was in charge of counting the reps. I was talking to my counting friend. She was looking at me and talking back. Then the bench pressing friend was done.  You did seven, my counting friend says.

I was astounded. I said, What? How did you count those? You were talking to me. She said, I used my fingers. I thought, I don’t care if you used your toes. How did you pay attention, how did you focus, how did you do it? I couldn’t even fathom it. It was like magic.

You see, I get lost counting after about three. Doesn’t matter what it is. Counting reps on the bench press, counting tablespoons of sugar, counting beats in a song. Nope, can’t do it.

My counting skills are so messed up that I’ll be doing reps on the bench press and be counting 1, 2, 3 and then lose track as I keep going then at some point start counting again 13, 14, 15. What the hell is that? Can my subconscious actually count better than I can?

You might think this is frustrating. I am sure it was in the beginning and I’m sure it’s annoying to those around me. But if I hadn’t moved past frustration life would have become tedious. So by necessity and a need to survive I oddly moved past frustration into intuition. It wasn’t a conscious choice, more of an evolution.

Intuition, you say. Yes, intuition. If I wasn’t going to be able to count the reps or the tablespoons, I was going to have to develop a gut sense that something was enough or the right amount. Believe it or not you do get better at approximating. So while you may be sometimes accurate and sometimes precise, you are rarely both.

The con of intuition is that many things in life require accuracy and precision and I suck at these. I am a horrible baker.

The pro is that many things in life do not require high degrees of accuracy and precision and my intuition allows me to make quick decisions and move on. I make great meatloaf.

Though sometimes I wonder if my intuition came first and decided counting wasn’t necessary. I like to think that because it speaks to a strength begetting a weakness as opposed to a weakness begetting a strength, though I’m not sure why that matters and I suppose a weakness begetting a strength makes a better story for when I write my autobiography.

So when people say “Who’s counting anyway?” I can always say, Not me.

About joegergen

To evoke a smile. That's all. Author of "Methane Wars: A Fable" and "Lear's Fool" as well as various poems and some these painting things as well.
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