This is a series of posts from a book I’m in the process of writing. I’ll be posting more as various chapters are developing, not in any particular order.

Please. Let me be clear right from the start. I don’t dislike or distrust numbers. I find them elegant and useful and eminently important. I’m even “good” at math (or was back in high school) and I’m proficient in Excel so my issues are not that I can’t comprehend or work with numbers.

Like many people, I find numbers reassuring — and therein lies the problem. When you see a numerical “fact” doesn’t it impart a little satisfaction? “Gasoline is now $3.67 a gallon (I live in San Francisco). Well. OK. That’s that. No wonder if things seem more expensive — they are.” I know the price of gas now — no more wondering. “Unemployment is at 3.7%? I thought things were worse. I’ve heard news about how jobs are scarce. Wow, I guess things aren’t as bad as I thought.” The relief that comes isn’t just from thinking the country is doing better than expected, it’s partly that I now know the answer and it’s discrete and convenient. I know something and that feels satisfying. If I can remember the figure, I can share it with others and feel knowledgeable.