Thinking in Threes
The ancients understood the strength of things arranged in threes, and the thesis that “a threefold cord is not easily broken” (Eccl. 4:12) expressed a truth that no one in olden times was prone to doubt.
A simple deference to geometry sufficed to settle the question. The triangle, after all, is plain geometry’s only stable figure with straight lines. Geometry—literally, the measuring of the earth—is solidly founded on trigonometric functions, and the surest way to calculate the earth (or the heavens!) is by trigonometrical survey.
When we make such a survey, moreover, we are well advised to steady our instruments on a tripod, for nothing is more stable. Indeed, anyone ever seated on a wobbly chair can testify that chairs themselves seem to prefer three legs to four. Their wobbling is an agitated protest against that extra limb.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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