I love to browse used book stores. As I sorted through the junky volumes at a Salvation Army thrift store. The title of this book caught my eye. “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.” I found that it was written by neurologist from New York, the same man whose book “Awakenings” inspired the Robin Williams/Robert Deniro movie of the same name. It is a series of clinical stories of patients he has known through the years.
One of the many fascinating stories he tells is of autistic twins who had unusual abilities with numbers. Their IQ was estimated as about 60. Once a box of matches was dropped on a table, and immediately they both said 111. They they muttered 37, 37, 37. The doctor, who observed this, asked them, “How did you count them so quickly?” “We didn’t count,” they said, “We saw them.” The doctor already knew that the twins had remarkable abilities with numbers such as the ability to know what any day of the week a date for the next 40,000 years would fall, or the ability to tell when Easter will be for the next 80,000 years. He also knew that the twins were incapable of simple calculations. But the appearance of prime numbers aroused his curiosity even more.
Some time later he saw the twins sitting in a corner grinning at each other. As he drew nearer he hear one say to the other a six-digit number. The other twin would “catch the number, nod, smile and seem to savour it.” The other twin would return the favor and say another six-digit number, which met with a similar response. The doctor comments, “They looked, at first, like two connoisseurs wine-tasting, sharing rare tastes, rare appreciations.” As he reflected on what he had observed, he wondered if the numbers, which seemed so special to the twins, had any meaning to anyone else. After doing some research, he found that each of the numbers was a prime number. He returned the next day with a chart of prime numbers and joined in on their “numerical communion.” At first he just sat and listened. Then he made a contribution of his own, an eight-figure prime he had gotten from his chart. “They both turned towards me, then suddenly became still, with a look of intense concentration and perhaps wonder on their faces. There was along pause--the longest I had ever known them to make, it must have lasted half a minute or more--and then suddenly, simultaneously, they both broke into smiles.”
From that time on, he was joyfully accepted into their very exclusive number club, as long as he brought his chart. After some time, the club started swapping larger and larger numbers. After an hour they were giving 20-digit prime numbers, however, the doctor was left out because his chart only went up to 10-digit numbers. Of course in 1966 when this occurred there was no easy way of checking whether they were actual prime numbers or not, but gauging from the contented look on their faces and the fact that it took 5 minutes for a twin to find the number from out of the ether, the doctor felt confident that in their results.
How amazing this is to me! This, to me, is another indication that we are created in the image of God. Some have said that God’s language of this universe is mathematics. And I DO believe He is sending us a message about His eternal power and divine nature. Some would look at these twins and their limitations and say, “How sad it is that they are autistic.” But I think that God creates “unique” people like these twins as a hint that they are actually NOT unique. An indication that though our minds are very limited now, if a few switches were flipped, we would all have many mental powers that seem beyond imagination. Perhaps this is a foretaste of divine glory with resurrected and transformed bodies and minds. Perhaps mathematical insights and facilities will be accompanied by linguistic abilities, memory, scientific insights, artistic and musical talents, emotional depth, a sense of humor, sensory abilities, etc. etc. that would literally blow our minds. As the Rich Mullins song says, “There is such a thing as glory and there are hints of it everywhere.”