2022 has begun the same way as 2021 ended, the evening news being full of statistics, Covid-19 statistics, infection rates, hospital numbers! On and on it goes! Statistics and data, though important do not tell the whole story. None of us wish to become a statistic! The Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, from whom I have quoted before, challenges statistics. Although data can have an air of easy certainty yet when used to measure some of the messiest and complex aspects of human nature the result is absurd. Statistics, such as The Ten Commandments, or Five Loaves and Two Fish from scripture, only tell part of a story. Figuring out the rest, or reading between the lines, demands of us both attention and commitment. Szymborska writes with wit and curiosity and never presumes to have figured things out! Take a moment to ponder her poem.

A Contribution to Statistics

Out of a hundred people
those who always know better
— fifty-two

doubting every step
— nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand
if it doesn’t take too long
— as high as forty-nine,

always good
because they can’t be otherwise
— four, well maybe five,

able to admire without envy
— eighteen,

suffering illusions
induced by fleeting youth
— sixty, give or take a few,

not to be taken lightly
— forty and four,

living in constant fear
of someone or something
— seventy-seven,

capable of happiness
— twenty-something tops,

harmless singly, savage in crowds
— half at least,

when forced by circumstances
— better not to know
even ballpark figures,

wise after the fact
— just a couple more
than wise before it,

taking only things from life
— thirty
(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
— eighty-three
sooner or later,

— thirty-five, which is a lot,

and understanding
— three,

worthy of compassion
— ninety-nine,

— a hundred out of a hundred.
Thus far this figure still remains unchanged

by Wislawa Szymborska

Lord God
I give thanks for this New Year.
I rejoice that it starts
as all previous years started
with the same promise
of Your presence and your calling.
As I step into this new year
may my steps lead me beyond my certainties
and in my doubts surprise me with grace and goodness.
Some have said I ought to count my blessings
but counting is all too serious, all too presumptuous.
Surprise me as I walk
and may my walk
even when unsteady or unsure
be a walk of humility and holiness.
Thanks be to You, O Lord of Creation. Amen.

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