Perhaps you have seen the various “COEXIST” bumper stickers that employ diverse icons for systems of thought to spell out a plea for tolerance and compassion? Perhaps you are also a person who at some point, even if only for a fleeting moment, has said to yourself, “All these systems of thought basically teach the same underlying lesson” (that Love and Good are constructive and redeeming). The ways by which those values are expressed and practiced create the distinctions across faith systems; their minutiae are what create a breakdown in recognizing Love and Good in the “other.”
It’s a bitter irony that Love and Good inspire so much hate and evil. In these embattled times when the world shrinks in on itself and dissimilar cultures are forced to interact with each other more often and at deeper levels, it is important to recognize that which brings us together. Let’s go back to the beginning and look for anything that almost anyone almost anywhere and at nearly any time will recognize as significant, shall we?
I propose a meditation on 7. Throughout the world and across history it is common to find significance associated with 7. Some will say this is because there are seven of these or seven of those mentioned here or there in whichever tome they prefer. Those consecrated quantities are based on the pre-existing sanctity of 7, not vice versa. Others will look numerologically at the fact that 1+6, 2+5 and 3+4 yield 7 and these smaller numbers mean this or that and so together they imply even more when they create 7. Again, 7’s importance is independent of the incidental sums created by other numbers.
Have you ever wondered why a circle has 360 degrees? It seems random. Why not a more logical 100 degrees? Or 248? Or 9,437? Why 360? It isn’t random at all. Three hundred and sixty is the least common denominator of all the numbers 1-10, except for… you guessed it: 7. Any number 1-10, except 7, can divide 360 evenly. Circles are important anthropologically because of the perceived paths drawn by astronomical bodies in the sky, the primary method for measuring time and deciding when to begin the various activities throughout the year necessary for securing the quantities of food required for survival in settled communal societies (e.g. clearing, plowing, damming, planting, harvesting, slaughtering and preserving). From divisions of 360 we get the seconds (60), minutes (60), hours (24) months (12) and days (360, give or take a few days to party hardy) as measured by the sun (all numbers which are not evenly divisible by 7). It also lends mystery to 7 that it was connected to lunar phases, rather than solar cycles. This means 7 exists beyond the bounds of time as the ancients measured it.
The heptagon, the “obtuse heptagram” and the “acute heptagram” (Faerie Star) are symbols of the intangible spirituality pervading all the physical world.
Another issue connected to the mathematical complication of 7 is essential in terms of the physical world. When we look at the incredible monuments created by our ancestors it is impossible to believe they were simple or ignorant. Stonehenge and Giza, to mention only two incredible feats of engineering accomplished by our “simple” predecessors, attest to the skill and the precision of ancient peoples. It also underlies the fact that they were obsessed with perfection in their sacred geometry and architecture. As was noted before, 7 does not fit into 360 as a whole number. This means it was impossible for the ancients to create true and perfect physical monuments in the shape of regular heptagons — one or more sides would have to be fudged, and then what’s the point? A perfect 7 cannot be built with basic tools. Therefore 7 is not of this world. 7 not only fits nowhere in time, it fits nowhere in space. 7 is thus connected to the dimensions beyond the space-time continuum which we can experience here and now. It is this fundamental uniqueness that inspired cultures around the world to connect 7 with the holy, the spiritual, the mysterious… Depending on how a culture views this exceptional quality of 7, the number can become associated with either the embodiment of Good or the very spirit of Evil.
Now, if we can have something as “simple” as 7 in common, how many more ways are we all related? If one of the very foundations of most of our ideas about good and bad is the same, then how does it become easier to recognize the beauty in variety rather than the threat in diversity? In the immortal words of Kermit the Frog: “This episode was sponsored by the letter ‘L,’ the letter ‘G’ and the number ‘7.’
Jack Kirven holds an MFA in Dance from UCLA and a national certification in personal fitness training through NASM.
— Q-Notes’ “Health and Wellness” column rotates between physical fitness, spirituality, medical wellness and green living.