In mathematics, a Motzkin number for a given number n is the number of different ways of drawing non-intersecting lines between n points on a circle. This may not seem very interesting to you but Motzkin numbers cross mathematical genres and have a variety of purposes in determining and defining our lives. I find these numbers interesting because they appear as illustrations – lines drawn between two points or more on a circle.
We live on a planet that is often represented by a globe, which is as you know a circle. Whenever people connect, they often form the illustration of a Motzkin number. You know how much I like connections; no surprise that I like Motzkin numbers. Reality is that we all intersect with others every day in a multitude of ways. Those connections give meaning to our lives.
Four is a Motzkin number. It is also a number, a numeral, and a glyph. Let’s work backwards in defining the number “4”. First though, we have to talk about typography. You all are typography experts, especially if you read my blog posts. I can be a good proofreader but often miss things in my own posts. This is usually because I am caught in a time-crunch but also because my mind knows what I wanted to put on the page and so it sees what it thought I wrote and not what is on the page itself. Typography is arranging things in such a way that they can be read and understood. Typography is important in numbers because it gives them meaning. The dashes between a phone number take it from being an identification number to being a phone number, from representing an account number to a website address.
A person writing wants their writing to be understood and sometimes a glyph is employed to do this. A glyph is a symbol within an agreed-upon set of symbols that is intended to represent a character, a character that exists only in writing. Glyphs are those marks that collectively result in the spelling of a word or contribute to the meaning. I should note that such meaning is entirely dependent upon culture and the usage within a certain social construct. Think about the lower case “I”. Written properly, there is a dot above the small vertical line. The dot is not a glyph because it doesn’t really mean anything and the “I” is recognizable without it. In the Turkish language, though, that dot is a glyph because the Turkish language has two distinct versions of the letter “I” – one with a dot and one without a dot.
Four follows the number three and comes just before the number five. It is the only number that has the same number of letters in the English language as the value it represents. A number is a theoretical concept that represents a certain value and a numeral is the physical representation of that value. Thus the number “4” is a number, a numeral, and a glyph.
Although the number four is found within the Torah, the Quran, and the Bible (Luke 13:29), Biblical numerology does not usually contain the number four. It is a different story in numerology, that concept that assigns meaning and distinction to numbers. In that discipline, the number “4” is a number of stability, order, and completion of justice. Succinctly put, number “4” is the number of earth and mankind.
Four appears quite often in our lives. There are four points on a compass, four winds, four moon phases, four seasons, and in Western living, four basic elements – earth, wind, fire, and water. The ancient Greeks considered four to be a perfect number. In Pythagorean philosophy (Who remembers that from blogs past?) there are four parts of the human soul: mind, opinion, science, and sense. The luckiest symbol on earth is the four-leaf clover, with each leaf symbolic of mankind’s living – hope, faith, love, luck.
This series is about turning the ordinary into something extraordinary. In gardening there are four basic steps: preparation, planting, cultivation, harvest. An ordinary plot of dirt becomes something extraordinary and provides sustenance in the form of food.
Every day we live those four steps…or we should. Every day we are subjected to the four parts of the human souls of others – their thoughts or mind’s doing, their opinions, their interpretation of science, and their logic or sense. We respond in kind with our own four parts of our own individual souls. We go through each day with hope, faith, seeking love, and counting a receiving a little bit of luck along the way.
We ourselves were once the theoretical concept of whomever we believe it the Creator or Supreme Spirit. We are also the living representation of said concept and we each are characters within a greater set of characters – that set known as mankind. We connect like lines on a circle in everything we do and all of our actions affect not only the rest of mankind but the earth on which we live. In the Western world the fourth anniversary is one of fruits and flowers – things that bloom within a garden.
One of our purposes on this earth is to go out each day and bloom, living as one of many, knowing that your actions and being counts to us all. Just like the fruits and flowers, we blossom and then rest, and then again find purpose in our being. Even for those who have passed, there is still purpose. Their contributions to our living are not forgotten, just as those plants that have lived out their life cycle become part of the mulch that feeds the future garden. You are important; you have value. You are the fruits of life and the future of tomorrow.
To achieve that purpose, however, we must imagine it, have a vision for it. We must believe it to be possible. The number 4 has no meaning unless we see it. Life is not a flat piece of paper. Life needs to be at least three dimensional, if not four. For me the fourth dimension is one of potential, of hope, of vision. Be a Motzkin number today and connect with the world and those living in it. Imagine wonderful possibilities and then make them happen. Believe in a better vision of and for us all. Make tomorrow better than the ordinary of today. Believe that it can be extraordinary and it will be.