*I posted other visuals on the Facebook AEDM page for
Days 24 and 25, then came across this photo from one
of my walks and began thinking about the number 3 –
my favorite number, beliefs and stories we are told
Holidays have arrived. Most people are celebrating something somewhere. We share many of the same rituals and symbols, but not the same respect and love for each other. Ever wonder about the origins of your beliefs, how they effect the way you treat yourself and others? I certainly have. I was raised a Catholic in churches with largely Italian parishioners, the early influence of stained glass windows and carved marble with gold appointments sparked my first awareness of art. I see it in the visual art I now create, hear it when I read my own writing out loud, listening to the structure, the cadence. I was mesmerized by the windows in our modest church with primary colors emblazoned in morning light, the gold tip of the church spire a mystery to me, supposedly celibate priests, nuns with fists of iron and my friends rebelling against the church with early clandestine sex – all of them except me. I was a late bloomer. I came to curiosity late. Church was my very own art museum, not where I found God. It stays with me, the luster, the shapes, the glory of my partially remembered childhood. The dogma did little for me until I investigated what I’d been taught, finally coming to my own conclusions. That might not be your experience, and maybe it was but yours was labeled differently.
Let’s get back to the number three just because it fascinates me. I was taught about the Three Wise Men, the Holy Trinity (more men), three levels of heaven (written about by men)– this is not about religion, sexism or numerology. It’s about similarities we share without realizing it, uninvestigated similarities we use to judge others. I know much about little. I’m simply a curious soul, a writer, artist, lover of form, of the nuances of my language, of symbols and their origins and use. I love the number three, my favorite, so I’m using it as a jumping off point. But where did my love of it come from? I use the number when I decorate, balance color and form, when I photograph – shoot nothing straight on someone told me, when I dance, loved the cha cha cha in high school (think about structured dances like the Waltz – 1, 2, 3 – 1, 2, 3), when I used to need a tool to end panic attacks – inhale, hold, exhale. I never understood why I loved the number so much until I went back in my own history. You know, of course, there is nothing new anywhere, that what we create is simply a reconfiguration of existing info in a perfect universe – the same is true regarding the air we breathe. It is the same air breathed by Jesus, Buddha, Hitler therefore they are a literal part of us, their molecules and ours floating around in that dusty mist you see on rainy mornings – that should make your holiday season edgy – I digress. Think about numbers, rituals, stories passed down to you and what you do that you have never questioned. Do it if you love it but understand why. Because… many of our judgments of other people, of ideas that seem foreign to us, of art and literature, of the politics of others come from deep seeded beliefs we blindly accepted. Since nothing is new, we’re all accepting the same thing labeled differently, marketed and sold like the old bottles of snake oil salesmen.
I did mention religions, though, didn’t I? Well, let’s go further out of Catholicism to see similarities – here at My Jewish Learning – Three signifies completeness and stability, as represented by the three Patriarchs and the three pilgrimage festivals –Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.
Buddhism has The Three Jewels – These are the Buddha, the Dharma which is the teaching of the Buddha, and the Sangha, which is the community who follow the teaching. More info here at Urban Dharma. Such interesting similarities.
I’ve only mentioned three religions but if you look further toward others you’ll see references using the number 3 as well as others. We believe what we are taught as children. We judge based on those beliefs. The “other” (we create the other) judges us based on their own unquestioned beliefs and symbols. There we stand, two or more forces often arguing about the same issues and not knowing why although we’ve followed similar beliefs/stories passed down to us. I’m not saying these beliefs are all lies. I’m saying we only know if they are truths if we question them. Much of the time we don’t even know that we don’t know.
A lovely site – the Shawl Ministry – provides religious and non-religious references of how we think in numbers in daily life – three in particular – and take these numbers/rules/beliefs as word without questioning their origin. Shouldn’t life be about learning, growing, and not just following? Well, that’s my opinion. Fine if you don’t agree. We must have different stories.
I fell in love with the three trees in the photo I posted above. I felt centered when I saw them, grounded and whole. Even saying “centered” implies there is one side, and another, and I am in the middle – my own triad of sorts.
Beliefs, habits, rituals (numbers in particular, magic symbols, superstition) – the ways in which we lead our lives on auto pilot causes me to question just about everything until I understand who believes that, me or the other people in my head. We all have other people in our head. Ancestors, lovers, media….sliding into our cracks and altering who we are and how we think. Considering today’s world, the changing landscape of our post technology daily lives, the media’s chronic distortion of facts happening at the speed of light, every one of us functioning on some level of blind privilege – I’m just using the number 3 here to express that we pass on information, have been doing that since the beginning of recorded time (and before that information was passed down in oral stories – how can you tell a story accurately twice? You can’t even read it the same way twice), and many of us never wonder where that information comes from, whether it is still relevant, whether it creates our prejudices and, most importantly, whether it creates the evil we commit in the name of a broken and no longer valuable belief system that isn’t so far removed from the enemy we insist on fighting. You could use a numbers game, of course, and decide the victor in any of these “wars” by playing Rock Paper Scissors.
We all have the opportunity this holiday season to evaluate ourselves, our beliefs, our lives and how they impact others. We live on a beautiful planet with incredible natural resources. We have the potential to soar in the chain of evolution, taking all other life forms with us for the ride if we stop killing them off. We have the chance to look at ourselves, our stories, number sequences that carve out many of our ritualistic behavior, symbols and similarities, our friends and loved ones as well as those we judge, those we criminalize, hold down and storm onto their reservations wanting only to steal what would have been the community’s if we hadn’t oppressed them in the first place with cruelties based on reactions to old beliefs – we have the opportunity to inquire within, remove our auto pilot and question what no longer works, question everything we do that is done without love or compassion or investigation and regain the wonder that was there when we first arrived. We came without conscious beliefs, concepts, and hatred. We’ve strayed in ways we don’t even realize and won’t see that as long as we accept blindly what we’ve been taught. Ever wonder why you always knock three times, use certain racist phrases then say you’re not a racist, think you’re an enlightened man yet call women by certain names? Where did you learn the names and why did you believe them? Habits, beliefs, rituals – the three amigos. You don’t know you don’t know until you know. It’s time to know. Change yourself, change the world.
I’ll tell you why I love the number three, a silly thing. When I was eleven I had a crush on an older guy who was an usher in a movie theater where my brother and I went on Sundays. His name was Pat. Makes no sense, of course, but I began counting in 3’s, tapping in 3’s, talking in sentences of three words each. I think I drove my mother crazy. She was patient enough but I might have broken her with that and the time I shaved off my eyebrows. We all got through it but the number three helped me navigate a few rough years of puberty. It isn’t more magical than that. I still purchase certain things in threes – candles, apples, socks. Makes no sense whatsoever. Maybe that’s how you feel about your stories, the history you’ve been told, the number habits you’ve developed. An OCD friend counts to 10 before she walks out her front door. Her mother told her a story once that had to do with police arresting a rapist in their neighborhood at 10 p.m. She bought into the fear of the dark, of being a victim. The number 10 comforts her.
Think about what you believe and where it came from, whether it keeps you from opportunity, from seeing someone else as your equal, or a new path to travel that you might have feared – whatever you are wrestling with. Consider that while there is nothing new, what you have inherited is a trail of beliefs belonging to someone else, that those beliefs can determine the direction you take on your path in life. The “other” person’s beliefs are also based on stories, symbols, versions of basic truths bastardized and re-labeled differently than yours/ours/mine. At least question things then make your choice based on fact and truth. You can only arrive at truth after facing it head on. In the meantime, enjoy the trees. They know the truth and will share it with you if you ask nicely. They are the innocence we once had. Let them teach you.
Read some of Joseph Campbell’s work. A master of mythology, of similarities in religious connections, the origins of our belief systems, archetypes……
More food for thought:
The Huffington Post article – Harness the Psychological Power of 3 to Improve Communication
Doctor Who episode – The Power of Three (I’m a proud Whovian)
The New York Times article The Power of Three – Three is the right number for persuasion
© jacqualine-marie 2016