If your lover sent you eleven roses, how would you feel? If your package of baked goods contained only ten buns, would it seem right? Not at all! You would feel undervalued, shortchanged, or cheated.
We pretend that numbers are logical devices, free of emotional resonance, but that’s a false premise. Twelve is a number with a special significance; one to which we attach a totally irrational value.
Why is twelve so special to us?
Twelve measures the rhythm of human life. Our ancestors, who were better connected to nature than us, were deeply aware of the twelve lunar cycles in a year. Early calendars and modern religious calendars are intimately connected to the cycles of the moon. Twelve new moons bathe our world in silver light from one winter solstice to the next. In our artificially lit world, we sometimes forget how significant that is.
Despite decimalization and digitization, we still split our day into two twelve-hour blocks. Twelve o’clock represents both the zenith of the sun and the nadir of the night. Twelve is a factor of sixty, the basis for the sexagesimal system, first used some twenty-four centuries ago, and surviving today in our computation of seconds and minutes.