Seven isn't your average little, one-digit number. This mighty, enigmatic integer has been mystifying and romancing the world for millions of years with its storied symbolism, intrigue, power and energy. Signs of the number seven are everywhere in the natural world, and they're just as noticeable in the supernatural world. Seven is dubious and virtuous, lucky and unlucky, mischievous and peaceful, simple and complex -- a lot like life itself. No number symbolizes the complexities of human nature quite like seven.
Seven had a dark, dubious reputation long before the famous Brad Pitt movie hit theatres. The seven deadly sins -- lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, pride and wrath -- saddle the number seven with the worst of human nature. Seven can make us spiral into sin, but it can also inspire our best traits. The seven virtues -- chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness and humility -- have the miraculous ability to absolve us of those harmful sins. Seven can bring joy and goodwill, as is the case with Japan's Seven Lucky Gods, or it can lead us to enlightenment as it did as Buddha took his seven steps at birth. Or, the number seven can signify the wise, all-knowing quality embodied in Hindu's sage-like goddesses, the Seven Mothers. Seven represents love, luck, peace, sin, virtue and challenge. That's starting to sound a lot like life itself, isn't it?
If you've spent any time engaging with the world, you've experienced the splendor of the number seven. Each phase of the moon we gaze into lasts about seven days. There are seven wonders in our world, seven continents on which we live, seven colors in the rainbow we see on that lucky afternoon, and seven notes in the scales used in our favorite music. Our school system, through which we learn many of our formative skills, is based upon the seven classic liberal arts: grammar, rhetoric, logic, music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy.
And then there's the human body. Our skin has seven layers. The human brain can remember, on average, seven items in a sequence at any given time. And mystics, healers and those practicing non-Western medicine for centuries have discussed the seven chakras -- the seven energy centers in the human body where our energy and emotions are transformed into our state of health. The number seven exists in each of us, emotionally, physically and cognitively.
To explore the number seven is to explore our existence as humans. We're complex, complicated creatures with contrasting qualities and inner wars that can keep us from living the life we desire. Like the number seven, we have the ability to give into our worst traits (the deadly sins) or strive for our personal best (the virtues). But what if instead of seeing these as dueling facets of our nature, we bring them together to inspire positive growth?
Like onions, we each have protective layers that shield our true selves and real intentions from the world. These layers often take the form of our vices, which allow us to avoid our trauma rather than confront it. By addressing our seven sins using the seven virtues, we can slowly peel away the protective, artificial layers we've built up. What's left when we shed the wrath, the envy and the other negativity-breeding habits? Our true selves.
The complexity and mystery of the number seven has inspired me to explore its connections to human nature in a series of upcoming blog posts, each geared toward the unique experiences of post-war Veterans. Each post will discuss how Veterans can use one of the seven virtues to overcome one of the seven deadly sins. Of course, we can all learn from the strategies in these posts, whether we are Warriors or not. Through this process, we'll learn together how to slowly peel away our layers and expose our true nature -- all the beautiful complexity, contradictions and complications included.