Death By Numbers

525,600 minutes.. how do you measure a year? This is the opening line from the opening song  of the Broadway musical Rent. It is an interesting way to think about the passage of time. For me however, it speaks to the numbers that rule our lives.

In my grandparent’s day, it was more about base level survival.. Things have since changed from survival to being able to “hit the numbers.”

We have become experts at measuring things. With every advance in technology, there is another opportunity for numbers to define us.

So what comes first? The chicken or the weight and size of the egg?

We speak about satisfaction and actualization but can we really measure it? We can now quantify, qualify and create quotas for everything. The current reality is that life is not so much about choices, but  rather it is about a duty to hit the numbers. It’s not about what you do but an assessment of what you did. Did our childhood pave this way towards measurement?  Learning wasn’t about enjoying classes, but the grades you earned. Athletics weren’t about playing the sport as much as it was about the statistics for the game. In the workplace passion has lost out to knowing how to read a funding opportunity guideline.

We are measured by what the world needs from us, not by how we feel doing it. Your success is not defined how committed your heart is, but how the outside world can measure it. God forbid there’s a missed announcement from the NIH or the like. They float around the inbox like bobbers in a tidal wave of “high importance emails” to which you need to respond.  In most cases, perfection (or lack of problems) is measured by a zero. Doing a good job is just expected and we go unnoticed until the number of problems is not zero.

When presented with an opportunity to think, we in administration realize the processing has already been done. We just have to find out where in the regulation book or manual, the opinion lives and extra credit is given if you remember the number associated with it.

Do the numbers bring you happiness or is happiness when the numbers do not matter? Some cultures believe cameras steal souls. Is being counted removing our life’s essence? Does it separate us from what matters?

A vacation is the place where the numbers do not matter. When you die, you are measured up and then you start the last long vacation you will ever take. Is Heaven the place that has no numbers and is Hell where the statistics were  born?

In my eyes Jonathan Larson, writer and creator of Rent, did get it right in the end. How do you measure a year?

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