As a trainee, I wore a helmet liner with three numbers on the front. It was then that the number 444 began to appear in my life. I was in fourth platoon. There were forty-four men in my platoon, eleven men per squad. I was in fourth squad because we were assigned alphabetically. When I was promoted to squad leader, my new spot was the 444 spot. It meant nothing to me at the time. As the years passed, 444 regularly showed up on digital clocks, exercise machines, license plates, confirmation numbers, security codes, running records, and so on. It showed up more frequently than three fours should statistically show up together. At least that was my perception. Was I only adding meaning to random events, like hearing a poltergeist when it was really the house settling?
Still, a part of me wondered if 444 was my lucky number. Was it a good omen? Was Mom watching me, as if I were still sitting on a curb and scraping my initials into the hot tar? Mom made 444 appear, and I was supposed to know that I wasn’t alone? Again, I turned around, and she wasn’t there.
Was it a sign? An evil omen, a residue from my poltergeist years? I wanted to believe that it was an angel, number 444, which meant, “All is well.” Was it merely coincidence that that was a Christian Science motto and one of my family of origin’s mottos? Remember, I’m not making up any of this. There’s a part of me that’s superstitious. I don’t like that part. It seems ignorant. But there’s so much that we, as a species, don’t know.
I do know that other people are superstitious, too. Some have their lucky pair of racing socks. Others think hard and believe that they are communicating with an omniscient being. Some people believe that 444 represents the ancient mystery schools, and my noticing it is a sign of my budding awareness of spirituality; I’ve been admitted to the mystery school and will explore it via books (they say). I sometimes fantasize that my life has been in synchronicity; somehow, things always work out for me as they should. I imagine that something larger than myself is signaling to me that although material existence degenerates into chaos and nothingness, there is human energy—maybe even spirit—and an intelligence greater than I can even imagine that created and runs things, even to the point of watching over me to make sure that I’m fine. Still, I fear that these are only the last vestiges of the magical thinking of a child or the pre-Enlightenment superstition that still lingers in every culture, which we call “religion.”
In The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck cites the second law of thermodynamics, which is the law of entropy. Everything moves toward disorder; everything degrades. But evolution is also true, and humans have a natural growth toward godhead, love, or spirituality via serendipity and synchronicity. It’s hard for me to make that leap, but I’m trying—or, at least, it has my attention.
In the meantime, my psychological training suggests that I merely became aware of 444 and now notice it more often. It’s like becoming aware of yellow Volkswagens and then suddenly seeing them all over town. Try it: yellow Volkswagen Beetles.