“I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people.” 

—Isaac Newton

It is my job to peruse the news every day to find stories that spark my interest. If a story alarms, excites, inspires, informs or gives me pause, it will most likely have the same effect on some portion of my talk show’s audience.  

Yet, I have noticed one aspect of American political news to which I have become numb — numbers.  

Americans fancy themselves to be practical people, swift to grasp the objective facts and figures — from the price tag for the latest war to the percentage changes of the most recent inflation headlines, crime reports and public opinion polls. Indeed, you’ll need more than good luck running a household or a business without being numerate, let alone running for political office or braving the stock market.  

Practicality demands numeracy, especially on the modern American scene. 

Beyond the demands of the practical, numbers may be the highest and purest form of knowledge, a way for man to extend his sight beyond what his eyes alone could ever see. If you wish to witness the mysteries of the world beyond those wispy shadows dancing upon the wall of the cave, numbers can show you the way out to the sunlight. From the very small to the very large, from the movement of unseen particles to the motion of the planets adorning the starry sky, a mastery of numbers has given man the ability to harness the power of the sun while exploring the unknown frontiers of the heavens. 

Yet despite the power of numbers, I find myself numb to them when daily perusing the news, finding it difficult to fully comprehend the madness of our civilization despite the deluge of facts and figures we produce to understand ourselves.  

One trillion dollars to service a national debt of roughly 35 trillion. One hundred seventy-five billion dollars to bolster Ukraine. How many millions of people have crossed the southern border? Were there really over a million abortions after the overturning of Roe v. Wade? Over a hundred thousand dead from drug overdoses and tens of thousands put down by a gun. Nearly a third of Gen Z is gay, while 35% is the mental illness rate for the young.  

I can pretend to comprehend these facts and figures, yet I still feel numb. I suspect part of the problem is their size and proportion. Compassion collapses when man is presented with large problems he knows he is too small to solve. Man was not created to easily intuit certain magnitudes. He may happily save a single child, but when called to save thousands of children, he turns cold to a problem now beyond his control.  

Man was not meant to feel in millions, billions and trillions. His mind may be able to dream up abstractions of infinity; his soul may longingly sing of eternity; but his heart beats in mere seconds. Calculate the times a man’s heart beats in a year, and you will know how many seconds a year holds: approximately 35 million.  

Indeed, measured in seconds, man can begin to feel the magnitude of difference between a trillion, a billion and a million. How long is a million seconds? Twelve days. How long is a billion seconds? Thirty-one years. How long is a trillion seconds? Thirty-one thousand, six hundred eighty-eight years. Now we can begin to feel the difference between trillions of dollars spent on debt and war versus 6 million dollars spent on crime intervention in a given American city. 

Yet, the magnitude of something does not necessarily speak of its significance. The big numbers grab the headlines, the largest numbers feign the greatest pains, but sometimes the smallest of numbers sound the most significant of alarms – when 12 is snuffed out by 15 and 19, for instance.  

WAKA Action 8 News out of Montgomery reported last week: 

A second suspect has been charged with capital murder in the shooting death of a 12-year-old girl in Montgomery. 

Montgomery police say they have charged 19-year-old Jo’terrion Tucker of Prattville with three counts of capital murder. 

As Action 8 News has reported, a 15-year-old boy was arrested earlier this week on the same charges. 

Police say the reason they are charged with three counts of capital murder is because the gunfire happened from a vehicle into a home and because the girl was younger than 14. 

She was shot on May 3 in the 4100 block of Keating Drive. That’s off Lower Wetumpka Road, not far from the Montgomery Zoo. 

The girl died a week later at a Birmingham hospital. 

None involved in the crime, neither the victim nor the alleged perpetrators, had even come close to living a billion seconds. How many trillions, billions and millions will purportedly be spent on their behalf? How will their lives and others like them move the statistics in the years to come? Can you truly plot man’s brutality and depravity to man on a graph? 

Maybe I am numb to numbers, practical facts and figures big and small, or maybe I’m just numb to the madness that our numbers try but always fail to calculate.

Joey Clark is a native Alabamian and is currently the host of the radio program News and Views on News Talk 93.1 FM WACV out of Montgomery, AL M-F 12 p.m. - 3 p.m. His column appears every Tuesday in 1819 News. To contact Joey for media or speaking appearances as well as any feedback, please email joeyclarklive@gmail.com. Follow him on X @TheJoeyClark or watch the radio show livestream.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819news.com

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