A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 15 September 2007

The Number 3

Thought, word and deed - the human triptych?

Ever since my post about the 3 denials of Peter, the 3 verses of Seferis and Lawrence's 3 angels, I've been thinking about the significance of the number 3. Though I'm also quite partial to 5, 7 and 13 (my birthday), 3 is my favourite number. All these are prime numbers incidentally! And, again incidentally, true gardeners always plant in groups of 3, 5 or 7 rather than 2, 4 and 6. I wonder why that is so? The cachet of number 3 has a long and universal pedigree. In Ancient Greece there were 3 Fates (Moirae)(see pic) - Clotho (who span the thread of life), Lachesis (who measured the thread of life) and Atropos (who cut the thread of life). There were 3 Greek Muses - Aoide (Song), Melete (Practice) and Mneme (Memory); and 3 Graces (Charites) - Aglaea (Beauty), Euphrosyne (Mirth) and Thalia (Good cheer). In Celtic times they had the sacred tree-trinity of oak, ash and thorn; and also the Wiccan moon goddess (manifested in the stages of the moon's waxing and waning), the triple goddess of the cycle of rebirth: Maiden, Mother, and Mature Woman. These 3 archetypes were transmuted into the Greek goddesses Artemis, Demeter and Hecate; and the Roman goddessess Diana, Ceres and Trivia.

Hindus believe in a triad or trimurti of overarching gods: Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Protector) and Shiva (the Destroyer); and the basis of Christianity is of course the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I could mention the 3 persons in grammar (he, she and it), the 3 dimensions (length, breadth and height), the 3 windows of time (past, present and future), the 3 kingdoms of matter (animal, vegetable and mineral), the 3 primary colours (red, yellow and blue), the 3 primary human cultures (art, science and religion), and the 3 vital human constituents (body, mind and spirit).

I could go on. What about the Greek logician's syllogism of major premise, minor premise and conclusion; the Greek philosopher's dialectic of thesis, antithesis and synthesis?

According to the cliché, 2 may be company and 3 a crowd - but often a third party can smooth over differences and prevent a 1 to 1 relationship becoming an injurious and dead-end superior/inferior or dominant/submissive one.

The Beatles were of course a 4some - but what band could match the pared down, attacking drive of Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton in the legendary rock trio Cream? I'm getting silly now..!
Any more 3somes, anyone..?

1 comment:

John Hee said...

3 piece rock band - now theres a classic number
Motorhead anyone?