by Monte Sahlin

by Harry Banks, January 23, 2014
Exactness is sometimes a characteristic which is assigned to computerized information.  On October 17, 2011, through the collaboration of Alexander J. Yee and Shigeru Kondo Pi a world record was calculated of 5 Trillion digits in 90 days. They started at 6:19 p.m. (JST) May 4, 2010, and finished at 1:12 a.m. (JST) August 3, 2010.
Since I come from the age of slide rules where you usually only had two, three or maybe four digits of accuracy, imagining the detail of 5 Trillion digits of accuracy is … well … astounding. But in this world of diversity, change, variety and uniqueness, sometimes we just want to know if something is big or small. As a programmer, there are times I have been asked to define vague values for relative comparisons when the size of the sample and the range of values are unknown. So how do you program unknown relative values? Well in 1965 Lofti A. Zadeh introduced "Fuzzy Sets" into our computational language. Without going into his technical explanation, I will give you a simple description of my view of fuzzy logic.
Suppose I want to define tall and short people. When I start collecting my information, I measure six people. The shortest one is five feet six inches and the tallest of the six people is five feet ten inches. Based on those six people "tall" would be five-ten and "short" would be five-six. Not very different, but they would be the extreme values that we had sampled.
As the years go by and we collect more data, we might come to a time when we have collected data from one million people. Now we might find that the shortest person is two feet and eight inches and the tallest person is seven feet two inches. So now the value of both "tall" and "short" have changed because we have more information on which to evaluate our idea of "tall" and "short." But at all times while we were collecting our data we could always say that based on our current sample we knew what "tall" and "short" meant in absolute measurements.
Today in our "In His Steps Community Fellowship" which meets Sabbath mornings at the phone company office, we noted that the disciples initial forgiveness data set was rather small (7). Jesus tried to raise the maximum number with his "70 times 7" (7 squared times a power of ten). Someone noted that it was "more forgiveness than you can imagine."
How do you do your forgiveness math? What kind of forgiveness data set do you have? Is it a fixed, finite data set? Or is it a divine, near infinite data set?
As a college instructor I have an opportunity to observe failure and success. When faculty discuss the issue of cheating one surprising observation is that when the instructor uses failures to focus efforts to work toward mastery of the knowledge or skill, the issue of cheating become a non-issue. Students soon realize that the only way to fail is to stop filling in their knowledge deficit with changes in what they know or to stop improving their skill.
Some of my friends in recovery tell me their formula for forgiveness and starting over is the number of failures plus one. So all they have to remember is one. Start over one more time than they have failed.  Their forgiveness data set is always expanding. Not only does their data set expand from their personal story but as they watch their friends and families grow they see each one has an opportunity to start over one more time.
So the trick question is …  (I call questions that make me thinking of things from a different point of view "trick questions.")
So the trick questions are: How do you do your forgiveness math? How big is your data set? What is your formula?
Expanding the forgiveness framework:  Programmers develop algorithms to solve complex problems. One of the definitions of an algorithm is "a step-by-step problem-solving procedure, especially an established, recursive computational procedure for solving a problem in a finite number of steps." So, I would push the forgiveness math idea one step further:  How does your forgiveness math algorithm include God's grace? How do you implement Forgiveness Math in your life?