Numbers like 11-11-11 demand attention. It’s a visual alignment that seems to signify without us really knowing what. Advertisers play on it, movies are released, armistices have been signed (though without that final 11). Sure, it’s easy to remember if you’re scheduling an event, but myself, I’ve always found beauty in numerical arrangements, with particular appreciation for symmetry. A palindrome on my odometer is a small moment of grace, a glimpse of order happening by itself, reminding me of the many changes unfolding all around me, most hidden from perception. Repeated numbers convey a unison, all in accord, and though this is personal symbolism on my part, it has the concrete effect of Zen’s bell of mindfulness in meditation or daily life. It brings me back to the present and for the time the number is present with me, until 3:33 turns to 3:34, I stay right there.
At the grocery store the other day the woman exclaimed “Four Forty-four” as she handed me the receipt. The correspondence gets our attention whether we ascribe meaning to it or not. And she was smiling. As visual form there’s a beauty that’s enhanced by its unlikeliness. If the receipt said, “forty-four, forty-four” it would be even more noteworthy. That underlying sense of the probability factor is the only real connection with mathematics itself, which often finds the right solution by its elegance. We experience our awareness of probabilities when we notice the rare coordinance of numbers or planets. And with both numbers and planets we know it will happen again, the numbers on the clock will do the same thing tomorrow and for the most part we don’t notice, but when we do it’s like we’re in alignment too and in that moment of awareness our perpetual motion, mind and body, slows down. Manmade patterns are built on the cyclic patterns of nature and like the pleasure of all beauty; it’s a pleasure of connection.
In the case of accidental alignments there’s also a sense of personal discovery.
As hard as it may be to believe, I just walked into the kitchen and the clock over the stove said 11:11. So it was 11:11, 11-11-11. So cool. I experience these moments as little blessings, am always surprised, so maybe my pleasure is not just the endorphins from beauty but also the dopamine of the unexpected. In any case the delight is a temporary release from the things that wear us down.