God counts women’s tears.
It’s a concept in the Talmud from a 2,500-year-old commentary on torts and property under Jewish law.
It means that every tear shed by every woman is so important that God actually counts them. What a beautifully elegant way to express it! Counting demonstrates the enormous value more than a lengthy explanation.
On a recent flight, I read a sidebar to an article in Delta Sky magazine:
- “$1.9 billion Delta investment to modernize, upgrade and connect Terminals 2 and 3 at LAX over the next seven years.”
- “1961: Year Delta inaugurated its first nonstop service from Atlanta to Los Angeles.”
- “25,000 daily seats on Delta flights out of LAX. Passengers can fly to 70 cities on 175 per-day departure flights.”
- “25 Nonprofits Delta works with in the greater LA area, including the Bob Hope USO, Junior Achievement and American Red Cross.”
- “3,800 Delta employees based in LA who benefited from the more than $58 million in profit sharing in 2015.”
Merely by counting, the importance is shown. That’s why we have so many phrases like, “Make it count,” “You can count on me,” “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” “Down for the count” and “Count on it.”
Counting, or citing to a count, is an effective shorthand way to explain why something is important and just how important it is.
On the other hand, while we know the exact number of Americans killed on 9/11, we have absolutely no clue as to the number of Iraqis killed during the Shock and Awe bombings. We don’t know how many hours we spent watching television last week. We don’t know how much we spend on Diet Coke. Some of us don’t even know the exact ages of our spouse or children!
We count what is important to us. Therefore, one way to make something more important is to count it.
The unit of measurement also matters. Changing the unit of measurement — essentially, switching the label — also changes our perception. It’s the number of tears that are counted, not how many women cry, or how many times, or how frequently.
The count may be more meaningful in tenths of seconds, seconds, hours, days, months or years. You might count in centimeters, inches, feet, yards or miles. In kilograms, grams or milligrams. Is it dollars or millions of dollars? That which can be counted includes money, frequency of occurrence, spatial dimensions like height, weight, length, width, speed, time, distance, force and quantity.
I recently received a mediation memo that said, “She has required four surgeries, 11 MRIs, 200 physical therapy visits, 13 injections and 45 X-rays.”
It might have gone on to say she has taken 2.8 pounds of medication including half a pound of Vicodin. She was cared for by 112 nurses, therapists and techs. She has been driven 1,383 miles to her doctors. Her medical records weigh 4.6 pounds. Her 32 students missed her for 187 school days. She gained 39 pounds from inactivity. She spent an average of 14.4 hours more each week lying around watching television. In 23.8 years of teaching, she had never missed a day due to injury.
How many or how few seconds did the nurse have to notify the doctor? How many feet did the defendant travel before seeing the plaintiff? How many feet per second was the defendant traveling in the school zone? How many cases have gotten verdicts in that range? How many jurors has this expert tried to convince before these jurors here?
2005 Dilbert comic strip showed a pitch to advertise in Gullible World magazine.
“We have between one and two billion readers!” Dogbert says.
“Wow!” pointy-haired Boss replies.
“I figured out how to make three readers sound like a lot,” Dogbert quips.
There is endless creative opportunity to count new things and to count in different ways to show meaning. I’d like to collect examples, so please e-mail things that you count, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
My wife Holly is really sentimental. Lots of tears to count. (Keeps God busy.)