Saved by Zero

This blog may be more mystical and outré than usual, and that’s saying a lot. Worse, it’s got math in it! (Those of you who know me well – or even a little, come to that – will recall how much I love that subject. I’m sure you can hear my sarcasm, no matter where you’re living.) A mind like mine, blown away by inconsequentials on a daily basis, has “gone to plaid” with the super-Natural, amazing events of this week. My dreams have been richer; my thankful thoughts turn again and again to the miracle of being cancer-free. Cancer-free. Freedom. The opening up of the world – again. Enigma solved. Endless possibilities. Ground Zero.

To borrow a phrase from a song by The Fixx, I maintain I have been saved by zero. Please allow me to elaborate.

We tend, as lay persons, to think of zero as nothing, a lack of, but any pure mathematician (like Doug Bowman at NIU; cheers for getting me to think of zero in a whole new way) will tell you that, as well as being a sort of cosmic placeholder, zero represents all possibilities. Just because it isn’t a number doesn’t mean it is not. It is a concept, and that happens to be a noun in the English language. Surely that makes it ‘real’?

Nothing, in fact, can exist without the zero being there first. And let me remind you that written numbers are merely shorthand notations for what are really very abstract notions. That we in Western society take the representations for reality is a symptom of our no-miracles-mentality malady. To paraphrase Deepak Chopra, we settle for the map, and not the territory.

I realize I sound like rather a crackpot to those of you worshiping at the altars of Rationalism and Reason. Let me put it another way.

A negative number is just that, a “no,” a “less-than.” Let’s say it’s -1. A positive number is a “yes,” it’s definable, it will have its own name; for now, I will say it’s +1. It can only be that; it can’t be anything else. It is what it is.

Now, let’s hypothesize that -1 is a health condition. It has put the body and/or mind in a ‘less-than’ situation. Health practitioners try to determine the cause of that condition. “It must be 1,” some say. Others disagree: “It can only be 2! The body of evidence is on our side! We’ve got the numbers to prove it!” As long as no one admits to the possibilities inherent in 0, possible solutions are at worst discounted (oh! I love the irony of that word!), and at best, under-explored.

Put another way, 0 is “I don’t know.” There is great comfort in I don’t know. (Indeed, it may be the very foundation of faith.) There are all sorts of possibilities. “Is my mother dying?” “We don’t know. Your mom is such a fighter!” Isn’t that great? Wonder-full things can still occur. “We don’t know” becomes, “We have more avenues to explore. We’re hopeful! Meanwhile, your mom’s awesome attitude can do nothing but help her!”

But once those White Coats have chosen a number and presented it – and let’s face it, most people Want An Answer, because it’s the American Way, and insurance companies won’t pay until they have it – medical professionals, with the best of intentions, close the door to other options. Unfortunately, those hearing that ‘final answer’ often succumb to its finality. Not to do so invites censure. It takes a great deal of courage to dwell in Zero; to see the hope in I don’t know. I find it a comforting place to be. I like being in the Zero Zone. It is not a flat 0, it is a sphere. Like the Earth. Like the Universe. Like the first card in the Tarot, the Fool (who is anything but foolish; think Shakespeare’s Fools, and you’ll understand).

It seems that few patients, and even fewer doctors, believe in miracles these days, yet it is the most cost-effective option. Prayer is free, and I’m grateful for those who used their stash for me. Good thoughts cost nothing, and I felt them coming my way. Hope is abundant, but it is rarely found in hospital corridors. One finds it growing wild in places where numbers have retained their abstract quality, where rational thinking and reason have not yet poisoned the soil. Hope has never been spotted in insurance or pharmaceutical companies, unless it is Hope-for-Profit, which should never be confused with real Hope.

Frankly, I couldn’t afford to be rational. Hope was my only option. Had I had insurance when I was diagnosed, would I have had the incredible experience I did this week?

Would I have been “Saved by Zero”?

I think nought.

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