A Tisket, A Tasket, A Triskaidekaphobia

A Tisket; a Tasket; a Triskaidekaphobia!
Lent 24

Today is Friday, March 13th. For some, today will be a time to celebrate the end of the work week. For some, it will be a day to plan for tomorrow since Saturday will be 3-14-15 or Pi Day. In case you are not interested in mathematics, pi is a number used to signify the ration of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. This relationship has been represented by the Greek letter “π” since the mid-18th century, though it is more commonly spelled “pi” in modern times rather than being represented by the Greek letter. Pi or 3.14159265359 …, is considered to be an irrational number because it is a never-ending number and has no discernible pattern. [It is also the birthday of Albert Einstein who would have been 136 years old today.] The fact that today’s date matches the first six digits of Pi occurs only once every century. For me, it is a great day to eat pie – any delicious kind, savory or sweet.

Today, though, is the 13th of March and, just as it did in February, the date has fallen on a Friday. For a dear friend, it is a day to celebrate a birthday which, oddly enough, I also did in February… on the 13th. Both friends were best friends, making it nice that, unlike Pi, there was a pattern in our Friday the 13th delight. For many, though, today will be a day to fear, a day in which sacred cannot possibly be found. The fear of Friday the 13th is called triskaidekaphobia.

It is said that the Code of Hammurabi, which dates somewhere around the year 1780 BCE, considered thirteen to be an evil number and omitted a thirteenth law. Actually, the original code did not number any of the laws. Others believe that the man known as Jesus Christ was betrayed by the thirteenth attendee at the Last Supper. However, such a negative connotation for the number thirteen is not consistent since the attributes of God are called the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy in the Torah which is often referenced by Christian ministers.

The Vikings were said to have believed that their god Loki was the thirteenth deity in the Norse pantheon and was also the thirteenth guest to arrive at the funeral of the god Balder whose death he supposedly orchestrated. The Norse myth Lokasenna lists many more guests, however so little credibility is given to this tale.

Mankind does not fear only the number thirteen. Triskaidekaphobia, which is a combination of words meaning ten and three, has a lot of company. Homophobia, xenophobia, acrophobia, agoraphobia, hydrophobia, arachnophobia, claustrophobia are just a few. While some like a fear of spiders (arachnophobia) might be understandable and even considered wise, others like fearing certain races or types of mankind (homophobia) illustrate a lack of both knowledge and faith. In fact, homophobia could be said to be the result of xenophobia, an irrational fear of the unknown. Some fears are understandable such as a fear of heights (acrophobia) or claustrophobia, a fear of tight spaces. Some are really more a side effect like hydrophobia which often manifests as a result of a victim having rabies and difficulty swallowing resulting in a fear of water.

Faith is sometimes defines as the absence of fear and certainly for some, that may very well be true. Fear often is the result of a lack of faith, not only in a higher spirit but in one’s self and/or one’s fellow man. Having celebrated with friends their birthdays on the thirteenth day of their respective months, I can tell you that there is virtually no difference when their birthdays fall on a Friday and when they are on other days of the week. Just as the relationship of the circumference of a circle is constant to the diameter, so is the relationship of their birthdays. Friends and family are as happy on a Sunday to celebrate these two fine individuals as they are on a Tuesday or Friday.

The interesting thing about Pi is that, in spite of it being considered irrational, is has many uses. In spite of us not knowing all the digits in the numerical expression which is Pi, we can still utilize it. In its unknowing infiniteness, it remains constant. Marc Rayman is the mission director for the Dawn Spacecraft. NASA put the spacecraft into orbit around a dwarf planet known as Ceres seven days ago. Rayman will use pi to help determine the length of time Dawn will take to orbit Ceres. Pi day, Saturday, March 14th will be celebrated by Rayman. “On Pi Day, I will think about the nature of a day, as Earth’s rotation on its axis carries me on a circle 21,000 miles (34,000 kilometers) in circumference, which I calculated using pi and my latitude,” Rayman said.

Pi Day is important in considering the fear of the day before because our living is a circle and fears serves little function. We all have fears. We find the sacred in them when we plug them into the equation of our living in a proactive manner. Luisa Rebull, a research scientist at NASA’s Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, uses Pi in spherical trigonometry to calculate the distance between stars. The fact that she doesn’t know the entire numerical equation does not inhibit her use of it. Our fears should not inhibit our living.

Celebrate today as a day of living. Tomorrow, 3/14/15 at 9:26:53 AM, celebrate the sacred in the uniqueness of the date and its relationships to life. Thirteen should not be feared regardless of what day it happens to be. After all, for Colgate University, it was a very lucky number. Thirteen men with thirteen dollars started this religious institute of higher learning in Hamilton, New York, with, it is reported, thirteen prayers. Faith can move mountains and it can take one from Friday the 13th to Pi Day, as we all march forward in living the holy and celebrating the sacred. Life will be both savory and sweet and there is sacred to be found in both.


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