I was raised to believe that three plus four equals seven. And even six plus one, and two plus five. As I got older and studied more, it became clear to me that not only did twenty-eight divided by four equal seven, but I was amazed at the depth of my understanding when I learned that seventy divided by ten equals seven, and even more so that two hundred and eighty-one point four divided by forty point two equals, you guessed it, seven!
Then I met a man, an erudite man, an articulate man. He told me that seven was equal to one plus thirty. He told me that sometimes three plus three equals seven, and in some parts of the world, if you wear orange robes and hum, even negative ten times two equals seven. After all, all roads lead to seven.
He was very convincing, and I could see that my narrow view on life was rather arrogant. Did I think that my seven totals were superior to someone else’s? There are good, moral people who believe as I do, but certainly, there are some really good, moral people who have different ways of arriving at the same outcome.
I was very satisfied in my new belief system and spread the word whenever I could, particularly among the “old school,” who still clung to their archaic beliefs. I was very satisfied, that is, until the day I came to bake bread for the local universalist center. It was a necessary act, a compassionate act, a feed-the-hungry act. The recipe called for seven cups of flour. Since all roads lead to seven, I felt free indeed to place in my mixer twenty plus six cups of organic whole wheat flour. Because I was so liberated with sevens, I felt free indeed to be liberal with my threes and my fours, and even my fives. So with all my ingredients accounted for, I mixed up my bread and set it in a warm, cozy place to rise while I read my book about how all prophets of seven are equally valid, equally holy, and entitled to my worship. How elated I felt that I had found this new light. But my bread did not rise. I waited and waited, and still it did not rise. I left it in the warm oven overnight, and in the morning it still had not risen a smidgen. It even began to smell a bit funny.
When I asked the erudite man, the articulate man, he assured me that I was still on the right path, but I was not called to make bread. Oh, well, that made sense. Maybe I was supposed to feed the hungry with jam. So I bought two plus one pounds of fruit and added eleven times forty-four cups of thickener; after all, all roads lead to seven. When I checked my simmering jam on the stove, I couldn’t even lift the lid off the pot. The mixture had solidified into one unyielding mass and had begun to burn on the bottom. I couldn’t imagine what was wrong.
Just then, an old friend knocked on the door. She had come by to share with me some of her bread and homemade preserves. “How is it yours turned out so well when I used the same recipes,” I asked, pouring our tea.
“Oh, but you didn’t use the same recipe,” she said. “A recipe is a true statement of the proportions necessary to get the proper outcome. A “seven” is a particular truth, not open to revision. You can’t just change what a seven means and hope to end well.”
“But the erudite man . . .”
“There is a wisdom of this world, which is foolishness to the Lord of the Sevens. It may seem narrow to restrict your options, but the way is indeed narrow that leads to truth,” she said.
“May I have seconds,” I said.
Well, I learned an important lesson that day: All roads do not lead to seven, and that’s the gospel truth!