Not you or me, us. Society is a person. A complete third.

My idea of a relationship is one plus one equals three.

These are the words of Shan. A sex educator. I heard them on a clip on Youtube which you can find here. A conversation about monogamy versus polyamory, actually a conversation I would really suggest you watch. Anyway, I heard her words and this idea that society lives finally clicked in me.

At minute 18:40 in the video, they pose a question in the group for discussion. The question is, ‘I would feel incomplete without my partner?’ And Shan disagrees, enthusiastically, I assume that’s how she does everything.

She says she doesn’t connect with that. She imagines at the end of a relationship she would feel a number of ways, sad, disadvantaged and I might even add relieved. But what she can’t connect with is the complete loss of self.

You see, to Shan relationships are one plus one equals three. Where two complete people meet and through their interaction, a third springs up. A third complete person.

And it occurred to me. This is what happens whenever people interact, not just relationships. Whatever it is. The office, school, a date, church, every single interaction, there is always an imaginary third that lives.

I think this third is a paradox because in a sense they are at once the most powerful and fleeting person in the interaction. This is why people act so different in groups than they do when alone. It is the third, the presence of the third alone is so potent it changes the behaviour of the individuals.

But then again, when the interaction stops. It is the third that gets the axe. The first axe. So in a way the third is both the strongest and the weakest link. It is this third we are changing when we say society has indeed improved because in a sense the rest of us remain as we were.

I find this an interesting notion especially since we are always talking about changing the world and how that connotes with changing ourselves. And while I do not disagree with that. I think perhaps changing the third is just a tad bit more efficient. The whisper of the third does a lot more than the example of one of us. It’s the difference between using an elevator to lift something to a top floor of a sky scraper as opposed to having someone take the stairs with it in hand, in fact I think the difference is much more drastic than that.

The next question is, ‘So, who is the third?’ The law. Religion. The Internet. Our conscience or what. This I must admit I cannot answer but it would certainly be wonderful if this mystical third could be adequately isolated and truly utilized to ‘change the world,’ as we all so often proclaim.

quote unquote

What sort of men were these, then, who had been torn away from their families, their countries, their religions, with a savagery unparalleled in history?

Gentle men, polite, considerate, unquestionably superior to those who tortured them – that collection of adventurers who slashed and violated and spat on Africa to make the stripping of her the easier.

The men they took away knew how to build houses, govern empires, erect cities, cultivate fields, mine for metals, weave cotton, forge steel.

Their religion had its own beauty, based on mystical connections with the founder of the city. Their customs were pleasing, built on unity, kindness, respect for age.

No coercion, only mutual assistance, the joy of living, a free acceptance of discipline.

Order – Earnestness –Poetry and Freedom.

From the untroubled private citizen to the almost fabulous leader there was an unbroken chain of understanding and trust. No science? Indeed yes; but also, to protect them from fear, they possessed great myths in which the most subtle observation and the most daring imagination were balanced and blended. No art? They had their magnificent sculpture, in which human feeling erupted so unrestrained yet followed the obsessive laws of rhythm in its organization of the major elements of a material called upon to capture, in order to redistribute, the most secret forces of the universe…

Monuments in the very heart of Africa? Schools? Hospitals? Not a single good burgher of the twentieth century, no Durand, no Smith, no Brown even suspects that such things existed in Africa before the Europeans came…

But Schoelcher reminds us of their presence, discovered by Caillé , Mollien, The Cander brothers. And, though nowhere he reminds us that when the Portuguese landed on the banks of the Congo in 1498, they found a rich and flourishing state there and that the courtiers of Ambas were dressed in robes of silk and brocade, at least he knows that Africa had brought itself up to a juridical concept of the state, and he is aware, living in the very flood of Imperialism, that European civilization, after all, is only one more civilization among many – and far from being the most merciful.

Frantz Fanon, Black skins white masks.

To the natural philosopher there is no natural object unimportant or trifling…
a soap bubble…an apple…a pebble…He walks in the midst of wonders.

JOHN HERSCHEL, A Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy (1830)

‘I know, and very bad luck it is. But a world in which beastly things can happen to people through no fault of their own_ or, at least not-mainly through their own fault _isn’t hell: it’s only our world all over again. It only has to be faced, like our own world. Even if one was taken there_

Scudamour shuddered. The rest of us thought Ransom was being very unwise, but now I think he was right. He usually is.

‘Even if one was taken in there_ which would be worse than merely seeing one’s double in there_ it wouldn’t be essentially different from other misfortunes. And misfortune is not hell, not by a long way. A man can’t be taken to hell, or sent to hell: you can only get there on your own steam.’

 

C.S Lewis

The Dark Tower & Other Stories