Different Kinds of Counting

Greetings and welcome to another post about trying to make your time during this pandemic matter, written at the last minute because I can’t manage to make my time during this pandemic matter. No one’s perfect. Anyway. I guess I have some thoughts to share with you, make of them what you will.

There are a few different meanings to the word “count” and I’d like to take a sec to have a few moments with a selection of them. First, a look at probably the default meaning for most people. Count as in numbers as in, I can count to ten.


So that old song Minnie the Moocher, you may know it from The Blues Brothers, has a great line. Like, my favorite from the song, it’s kind of haunting.

She had a million dollars worth of nickels and dimes, she sat around and counted them all a million times.

Makes me feel a whole lot less positive toward the idea of counting, I don’t know about you. I have this maddening image of a woman slouching lower and lower, scowling deeper and deeper, body dwindling away while the piles of coins slosh and shift, building up piles that inevitably collapse only to be counted again.

Please don’t think it’s an exaggeration when I tell you that that is low-key what I envision whenever I think about millionaires and billionaires. My mind doesn’t generally linger on the image (thank goodness) because I’m aware that people actually aren’t caricatures but even so. It’s  still kind of gross to me to think about a person, one person, having that much money.

It reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Oscar Wilde, for those of us without piles of coins to count (as much as we might still be obsessed with counting what little we have). He said, “Who, being loved, is poor?”


Number two way to think about counting (hahaha yessss number twooooo, it’s like I’m counting!): people counting, like, people mattering.

I think I’ve talked about this on here before and with good reason. Probably most people have gotten to the point that they at least pay lip service to the idea that all humans matter. That we should all count. There’s an easy and lazy way to say this in democracies because you can simply say, “Look, we vote and all votes count the same.”

I think that’s ridiculous for a lot of reasons but even taking it at face value, you’re saying that you must vote to count. This question is very relevant with the US Census occurring recently (and ongoing??) and it makes me recall the debates about what questions they would ask, specifically about citizenship. It was a super clear signal that they weren’t interested in the first kind of counting that I talked about, the plain old numbers kind, but instead were pursuing an agenda meant to limit the people who count in this second way.

Makes me think of equality and equity. The former being where you treat everyone the same and the latter where you treat everyone the way they need to be treated. Example: wheelchair ramps because some people have different mobility needs, treating everyone as though they could climb stairs isn’t actually good for society.

That’s what I think whenever people try to come up with conditions for ‘counting’ in any way. First, that they make a big show about equality as a way of actually ensuring a lack of equity. Second, that whatever they may say to the contrary, putting conditions on counting means that you don’t think all people count.

Also v relevant with regard to queer people and the church, but that’s a topic for another day.


Finally, thirdly, lastly, I submit this meaning of count to you: that which we mean when we say ‘make your time count.’

This is very related to the second point but with this difference: we can say whatever we want about who counts and who doesn’t (not that it makes one jot of difference) but we cannot say, corporately, whether our time mattered or not. That is one only for the history books.

As I discussed last week, for many of us, this time has been ripe with opportunities for personal growth. And not more pressingly but perhaps more lastingly, opportunities to change the world in powerful ways. That is how I encourage you to move forward: thinking about how to make all of this count in the grand scheme of things, however you might be able.


How do I love thee? Let me count the ways that you count. And may all our counting make a difference for people we will never meet.

Who Shall Command the Skylark

In times like these, my first and foremost offering to the great void of the internet that may or may not ever consume my blog must always be: cat. And as always, if you feel so led, please do feel free to share your own cat pictures with me because we must truly be here for one another when we possess such a commodity. In this case, as is not the case for basically everything else right now, sharing is caring.

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Over the past several months, I have kept going back to Kahlil Gibran’s Prophet and its soaringly beautiful way of describing the world. Recently, a line from the section referred to as On Laws has been on my mind.

You can muffle the drum, and you can loosen the strings of the lyre, but who shall command the skylark not to sing?

This week has been rough on a lot of people in a lot of ways. I’m not sure the best way to address any of those people or those ways. One approach is to provide relief in the form of humor; another is to give encouragement and solace; another is to take the opportunity to look out for the least of us and try to argue for deep change. All good, all appropriate in times and places, I’m just not sure that I’m quite up to any of those tasks this week.

I feel like I spend too much time in self-pity and it’s something that I’m deliberately trying to change but, like, not trying too hard. When I say that I didn’t get the job that I had been hoping for, I really do feel like I have gotten over it and I didn’t spend an undue amount of time torn up about it. But at the same time, while I’m not overly sad and I did try to manage hopes beforehand, I do have numerous expectations that I have to–once again–revise.

So I’m not sure what I have to say because honestly, my current bleh is only kind of tangentially related to the current global situation. I’m just thinking again and again about the skylark. And the singing, as Emily Dickinson knew, that goes on and on. That thing with feathers that sings whether the world at large or merely your personal universe is in the midst of storm. That indomitable bird.

If you yourself aren’t up to singing, take solace in this: no one can command the skylark to be silent.

This section of The Prophet is immediately (and very appropriately, given the whole of the treatment of the topic of laws) followed by a section called On Freedom. Would that we staying at home were more free in this time, would that all people were more free in all other times. If we are not free, do we begrudge others their freedom–rightfully expressed without harm to others–or do we celebrate with them?

That’s kind of what I’m thinking about now, having pondered that single line the past couple days. How can I be the skylark to another–how can I bring hope or freedom or joy? And in the circumstances where my drum is muffled and my strings are loosed, am I listening for the skylark’s song–am I able to rejoice with those who rejoice when I am down?

Maybe this is all beating a metaphor or three way past their limits. I can’t help it, I’m a poetic romantic and I have a lot of time on my hands. Regardless, that’s what I want to say to you and to myself in this time. Plenty of people are reminding us to wash our hands (as they well should) so I guess I’ll be here to remind us to sing or hope or be free or whatever it is that I’m trying to say.

Anyway. As we cross into April, and continue into an uncertain future, let’s all resolve to be cleaner, kinder, and more hopeful. And, of course, let us luxuriate in the time spent with one another–virtually or in person–and with our cats.