Yes, 2+3 does not equal 5, not in the world of metaphor anyway.
The numbers 2 and 3 represent definite events that come together and although we think we know the outcome of those events happening, the outcome is always more and less than 5. For example, I may think if I go to a good school and work hard, I would land up with a good education.
This is true, of course, but a lot more happens in addition to my receiving a good education. I learn, I make friends, I get inhibited by conditionings during my education, I unlearn a lot that was actually part of a good education, I realize my strengths and weaknesses, I experience many, many ups and downs in addition to the outcome that I actually anticipated. Thus, the outcome is more than I can identify - always. Some of it may be outcomes I am aware of, like, and enjoy, and some may be undesirable outcomes that I may accept or suffer as I choose, and many others that I am completely unaware of.
We tend to focus on the goals we seek and ignore the others which come along. Yet, when you step back and think about it, the latter far outweighs the former and ignoring that could cause problems.
For example, when I think of moving to a bigger house for more room and am focused on that alone, I may know that a bigger home means more room for my things, but ignore the fact that it also means more upkeep, more expenditure of time and energy, a different neighborhood and with it, people who think differently, etc. etc.
Having moved several times in my own life, I know that each move has been way more than just the geographical shift, even if it was just a couple of blocks away. Nothing is as simple as we would like to reduce it to.
Nothing is really all good or all bad. Every single outcome is teeming with all kinds of possibilities.
So also, 5-3 is not = 2.
When we lose something or someone, we immediately assume it means we have or are less than what we were earlier, which is again not the only truth there is. Yes, we do lose that thing/person, but there are far reaching effects of such an apparent loss, not all of which are negative.
A new world of possibilities now opens up to us as we face that loss, as I discovered recently when I lost my mother. Friends emerged out of nowhere, relationships within the family changed, I found myself in a frame of mind that was completely new to me, and so much more that continues to reveal itself to me every day, even as I grieve her absence. While the loss can never be replaced, the new reality is not less than what it what before- just different, and with new possibilities.
So as we revisit our concepts and consider that maybe each number is simply a placeholder for a new set of possibilities, we start to look at the world and our lives differently. Instead of seeing things in a linear fashion we place the numbers on a circle like a giant Ferris wheel knowing that at each position we are offered a new view of reality although some leave us feeling high and some leave us feeling low.
The Eastern spiritual teachings see God not only as a good person, but as a word, a place holder for infinite possibilities. From out of that space, all of reality is birthed and all of reality again is full of possibilities. There is a great hymn in the Vedas that sings “from fullness is born fullness, sustained by fullness and ending up in fullness, so there is always only fullness”.
If God is the place holder for infinite possibilities, then 2+3 = God and 5-3 also = God: meaning we move from one set of possibilities to another set without really gaining or losing; like taking one exit over another on the expressway.
Only if and when we live by this interpretation of the numbers on the various measuring rods of our lives, can we live out the many possibilities available to us at every point on our journey, whether high or low. Our old compartmentalized ways of looking at life through the lens of more and less, would be replaced by a world of infinite potential which includes both good and bad as everything always is and has been.
Arriving at such a mindset is the spiritual journey and it is a long one. The destination is Nirvana or Moksha, freedom from attachment.
We hear stories of Yogis, Sufi and Zen masters who have arrived at such a state of being. They take every bend along the path, every bump on the road, as a new set of possibilities and move forward fearlessly.
How would it be to adopt such an internal posture? And how would things shift if we did? It is said that when we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change. How would we influence the world we live in when we begin to look at everything in our life as filled with possibilities for both more and less, every experience as a cup that is both half full and half empty as it always is?