A THRONG OF THREES
Our lives seem to be ruled by numbers: telephone numbers, addresses, Social Security, bank accounts, finances, zip codes, license plates, grocery products, charge accounts…the list seems endless. But none is more pervasive than the number three.
We’ve been entertained by the Three Stooges, The Three Little Pigs, The Three Faces of Eve, Three Blind Mice, The Three Bears, and The Three Musketeers. Who says three’s a crowd?
Lights and pigments are blends of three primary colors. Our traffic lights shine red, yellow, and green. Sporting events offer the Triple Crown, triple plays, three strikes and you’re out. Why, the whole thing is a three-ring circus!
Here on the third planet from the sun, our three-month seasons regulate nature’s three entities—animal, vegetable and mineral—and in three dimensions.
Learning the three Rs without being given the third degree is as easy as one, two, three! Stroke Aladdin’s lamp three times to be granted three wishes.
Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar was offered the crown three times, “…and thrice did he refuse.” I guess he was a three-time loser, or maybe just three sheets to the wind.
The triangle is the symbol of stability, revealed in pyramids, tripods, tricycles, three-legged pots and stools, and even three-point landings to avoid triage. We try to avoid the consequences of the eternal triangle, perhaps by knocking on wood three times, or throwing three coins in the fountain since three’s a charm. Avoid three on a match unless you turn around three times, and don’t be part of a threesome in the Devil’s Triangle out there beyond the three mile limit!
Visual perspectives are based on left, middle, and right as well as up, center, and down. Time is referenced to the past, present and future. Sequences are beginning, middle and end. Life’s chapters are youth, middle age, and elderly. Attitudes are good, bad or indifferent. Our responses are yes, no or maybe. Intensities are high, medium, and low.
Most third-world countries fly three-colored flags, including France, whose Third Republic fell to the Third Reich. We have three branches of government. I may write a trilogy about the third estate.
Christianity is only one of the world’s religions with a trinity, possibly rooted in the concept of a creator, maintainer, and destroyer.
According to Biblical writ, Peter denied Christ three times. Jesus foretold that he would be buried for three days and three nights. Jonah spent three days and three nights in the belly of the whale (or big fish). We are taught the merits of faith, hope and charity by following the way, the truth, and the life.
Is this universal preoccupation with the number three symbolic of the family unit of father, mother and child? I’ll give you three guesses!