Why do the cretinous like numbered lists? And why do they annoy me so much?
I was asked to write a chapter for a book on investment a while ago along with people who, unlike myself, knew what they were talking about.
The publisher asked me to write about my 10 investing rules. Piqued by the absurdity of the idea I wrote 8 rules instead but I could just as easily have chosen 1 or 15.
For some reason I have a bee in my bonnet at the moment about Jordan Peterson who opines that there are 12 Rules For Life. Perhaps it is just that I am jealous of his success? There again probably not – it must be exhausting to be in demand.
This particular clinical psychologist offers books, “podcasts” (whatever they are) and general existentialist thoughts on every aspect of life and the universe. Or do I mean 13 aspects? Or 5 1/2?
As a shrink perhaps Jordan could tell me why there are 12 Rules for Life? Or did his publisher just think the title was catchy and there were 12 apostles? Or was it 11 because that rotter Judas doesn’t count?
Why 40 days in the wilderness? Surely 10 would have done the job?
A cursory look at Google produces the following equally banal lists:
- 30 Ways to Die
- 12 Ways to Get to 11
- 7 Ways to Maximize Misery
- 7 Ways to Maximise a Fart
- 130 Ways to Fill a Notebook
- 16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds
Note that I have used a list! This is my “6 ways to point out the absurdity of numbered lists”.
Is there a point to all this? Am I going anywhere or just driveling?
Well I think there must be a point somewhere, if only I can find it. I’ll have a shot.
We humans need certainty. We need codification. We like to explain the universe in terms of mathematics, and indeed that is the only way so to do.
By writing a chapter containing 8 investment Rules I am giving people the certainty they crave. I am telling them that if they employ exactly 8 Rules in their investment strategy (my rules) they will achieve success. What nonsense; how misleading.
And so back to Dr Peterson. His theory is that just as there were 12 (or 11) apostles, there are 12 (or is it 13?) “Rules for Life”. It makes people think there really are 12 Rules and that following them will lead to everlasting Joy And Happiness.
Take the Kabbalah. It’s all about numbers. The mysticism of numbers. In numbers we will find our answers. 42 is the Answer to the Meaning of Life the Universe and Everything!
Or take Buddhism: it has a Noble 8-Fold Path. Not 7 fold or 6. Or 5 1/2 but 8. Get a decimal point wrong and you will fall from the path and fail to reach Nibbana. Oh – and there are 4 Noble Truths!
There is a place for the certitude of numbers and it is in the scientific endeavor. The number of atoms in helium or strontium. The age of the universe. The rotations of the earth around our sun.
There is no place for numbers in the messy and chaotic world of human behavior.
So the next time some clever clogs tells you there are “12 Ways to Wipe Your Butt” the correct response is: