This is an excerpt from my book “The Wisdom of Childhood.”
In my book of Mother Goose nursery rhymes (Yes it’s true. I actually own a book of nursery rhymes.) there is a riddle entitled Going to St. Ives. I have always enjoyed riddles, and this one seems to teach a valuable lesson about our life’s journey from a child’s point of view. For those of you who are not familiar with this riddle, here it is:
As I was going to St. Ives,
I met a man with seven wives.
Every wife had seven sacks.
Every sack had seven cats.
Every cat had seven kits.
Kits, cats, sacks, and wives,
How many were going to St. Ives?
Did you know that there is actually a pub in St. Ives named The Seven Wives?
But I digress. Now, of course, we could get all caught up in the mathematics of calculating the total number of “How many were going to St. Ives.” All we need to do is multiply seven times seven times seven times seven, and add one more to account for the man. Don’t worry, I’ve done the math for you. The total number in that group, including sacks, is 2402.
More importantly, we could spend some time discussing the importance of the number seven. In Christianity and Hinduism, seven is considered a mystical number. There are seven days in a week, seven notes in a diatonic scale, and seven energy centers in the body known as chakras.
On earth there are seven seas, seven continents, seven colors in the light spectrum and in ancient times seven wonders of the world.
The number seven is also the sum of three plus four. Three being a number associated with spiritual things (trinity, etc.) and four a number associated with earthly things (four directions, etc.). Thus making seven a number that connects Heaven and Earth. And please don’t forget lucky seven, seventh heaven and the seven deadly sins!
But as significant as this number may be, the answer to the riddle actually has nothing to do with seven. The answer is to be found in the first sentence, “As I was going to St. Ives.” Only one. And so it is with our journey through life. On our path we will run into many obstacles and unanswered questions – riddles. Heaven forbid that we should ever run into this group! The important thing is to not allow ourselves to get caught up in trying to understand everything we encounter to the extent that we lose our momentum or our sense of direction.
Our path is ours to walk alone. There may be people that walk with you, but no one can walk your path for you. Maybe some day we can all meet at The Seven Wives pub in St. Ives and share a tale or two about our own journeys. Cheers!