Statistical constructs indicate group shifts and movements; numbers, based upon controlled samplings, provide the substantive fodder for analysis of trends and patterns of population deviancies. There is, however, the question of the incommensurate nature between mathematical paradigms and linguistic application; stated more simply, Do numbers hide more than reveal, and can anything be extrapolated from them and interpreted in terms we can understand and comprehend?
To a winner of the lottery, the numerical phantasm “one in a billion” remains meaningless; and to the dismissive statistical irrelevancy stated in language more readily comprehended, that there is a greater chance of dying in an automobile accident than from a shark attack, becomes inconsequential and of little comfort if you are laying in a hospital bed with a good part of your flesh missing from such a traumatic event. That’s the problem with numbers, of course, and the use, misuse and abuse of statistical analysis; in the end, it depends upon how it is used, the methodology of discourse, and the manner of application.
To be hit by lightening may well be more uncommon than death by drowning, but if your job is to be a caddy for an eccentric billionaire who enjoys golfing on days of severe weather patterns, the generalizations ascribed by comparative mathematical analysis may be somewhat skewed. And, of course, for romance of young couples who scoff at divorce rates and patterns affirmed by celebrity lives and the cultural meltdown pervasive throughout, the lack of life experiences, the want of provocation through trials and turmoils yet to be encountered and not yet encumbering, allows for hope, charity and a sense of optimism despite the universe which surrounds of cynical diatribes.
We take comfort in the veil of numbers, precisely because we can manipulate them in the ways we want. Facing a bleak outlook, we can justify resistance with a dismissive wave of the hand (or that invisible wand of magic and sorcery) and declare, “Well, the chances are…” Numbers never tell of the human emotions and toil of reality; they remain as cold mathematical calculations, jiggered and manipulated by the picture of emotionless bureaucrats who wear spectacles to magnify the inconsequential harm imparted upon the lives left behind.
And for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management? Such individuals, whether under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, become part and parcel of the statistical conundrum who once had names, faces and identities, but somehow became relegated into the numerical aggregate of “those” people who departed by filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application through OPM, all because they could no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of the positional duties assigned.
Does such fear of becoming a mere irrelevancy of statistical obscurity make the Federal or Postal employee pause, despite the chronic pain or the psychiatric despondency which tells of the urgency to file for the benefit? Probably. Yet, beyond the numerical veil which hides, each Federal or Postal employee who departed and left behind such a statistical imprint, go on to live productive lives thereafter, with ongoing emotional ups and downs, as real people, living authentic lives untold by the hidden abyss echoing from the chambers of silent digits.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire