|THE QUEST FOR THE GOLDEN ONION|
THE QUEST FOR THE GOLDEN ONION
An associative investigation into the three parts of three
The artist at last stood in the pulpit. I’ve always wanted to begin that way, but until now I’ve always been on time. Well, I’m not late now either, but, well… Anyone with me? Recognized the first sentence? <<<If yes: Oh, I’ll remember you. Have a candy! If no: Never mind – with a smile. >>>
My name is Ulrika Erdes and this is an associative investigation into the three parts of three and the whole thereof as well as a quest in itself.
So let’s begin, and begin we shall, at the beginning and the choice of precisely three.
But even before that; this is a lecture, a performance, a piece of art and as such it might affect our persons. I want you to contemplate that knowledge of different sorts of things helps form our identity, as well as summon peers, but that same knowledge might, in another context, ruin us. The knowledge of certain things makes people look at you sideways; it might be a glimmer of recognition or it might be in scorn. The knowledge of many things might be appreciated by some and yet cultivate suspicion, anger, envy, from other directions.
Then how much shall you admit you know? Three strikes and you are out? Is the sensible approach to always keep quiet, never utter a word, at no time acknowledging your insight? But how will it suit your character to be the one who never knows a thing, never seems to get the pun? This is not to be taken lightly; this is not to be seen as a joke or mere amusement.
Enough said. The beginning begun some time ago and we have yet to address it properly. Three is in the centre here, so then the question is; why three? It is a hard case to argue, perhaps. We could just as easily have chosen four, a number common enough.
So I decided to get some help. Boye wrote:
Yes, there is goal and meaning in our path –
But ‘tis the pathway that is the labour’s worth.
That is to say, three might be the stipulation, although not the subject. It is only after three is chosen, that we can perceive what appears around it. And Churchill said: “For it is choosing that is crucial, not what’s chosen”. With this in mind, without hesitation and with no further ado; in three we put our trust.
<<<Churchill. Who was Churchill? Please tell the others. Great, oh, wait, (go through purse) have a candy>>> He was prime minister, he also received a Nobel prize in literature, but, more interestingly, designed clothes. He believed jumpsuits to be both practical and comfortable and wished to see it as the preferred garment throughout society. Since it would still be important for everyone to be able to easily determine class, labour and such, he eagerly designed suitable accessories and suggested colour-coding.
I’d like to make you aware, that there is a price at the end. I will give you clues and hints along the way. We seek an object, an object that is also the price. If you get, and are also prepared to admit, getting the references, said price will be yours. I’ll give you a hint right away; a golden thing that might make you cry. Think about it.
So. This will be the third and last beginning of the lecture, how appropriate. I’d like to start on a personal note and give you a few, well three, significant occurrences of three my life. First – I have two brothers – that makes us three siblings. <<<some of you have siblings? Great, have a candy>>> Secondly – a reference to a musical instrument – my clarinet box, borrowed from school and marked with the number three; this made me choose three as my lucky number. And third – my grandfather, who had but three fingers on his left hand. Funny thing; he was called Joseph and his wife Mary, and also, he was a carpenter.
So, in a way, God could have been my great-grandfather, but they didn’t name my father Jesus, so there you are. And also, my father isn’t a very god-fearing man, and, imagine being God’s only son and an atheist. So I’m glad his name is Adam. No it isn’t. Yes it is. No. Never mind. I shouldn’t have said that.
Reaching out of myself and in to ourselves; from the egocentric to the anthropocentric; where in our bodies do we find a three-some? Five senses, four limbs, and then a gap to the pair of lungs and a single head. Perhaps half a centaur at the end.
There are lots of demand for threes in other locations, though.
* Divine law, Natural Law, Human law. So reads the Three Laws, written down in the first century AD by Saint Augustine. Saint Augustine, who also gave us the Three Features of the Soul, that is; Intellect, will, memory.
And we shall not forget the axis of evil. <<<How many may they be? – Three! Absolutely!>>> Precisely three axis of evil, declared by Bush junior in the State of the Union Address on January 29th 2002.
I can go on, and I will. You see Kant’s all over the place; Three Faculties of Soul, Three Higher Faculties of Cognition, Three Judgements of Quantity, Three Categories of Quantity, Three Judgements of Quality, Three Categories of Quality, Three Judgements of Relation, Three Categories of Relation, Three Judgements of Modality, Three Categories of Modality.
White men absolutely love when things come in threes.
You also find three is connected to the art world and this, as you just noticed, will not be overlooked here. Three happens to be the fourth Fibonacci number <<<Are you familiar with Fibonacci? The spiral that looks like a shell?>>> Well, you can’t say he invented it – because the idea really came centuries earlier from India – but, around 1200 AD, Fibonacci wrote down what we now call the Fibonacci sequence.
If you draw it, the sequence creates a spiral-shape, and this form fits perfectly in some of the most famous pieces found in art institutes. For example, if you tilt Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”, just a little, it becomes apparent how this spiral-shape fits the towering water perfectly.
The lovely little lady at the Louvre of course hides the Fibonacci feature in all sorts of angles and sizes, you would expect no less of the, perhaps, most well known painting of all. I’m sure you’ll be interested to find a third example on your own.
I told you earlier how a box opened up before me and three took root as a personal lucky number. <<<Does, anyone else have three as a lucky number? Yeah, great, good for you, have a candy>>> As for the rest of you, you really should look in to it.
Anyone consider four to be lucky? <<<Grab chair and sit down next to the person who answers affirmative.>>> Oh… I’m sorry. How’s that working for you? <<<As Dr Phil would have said.>>> Four sounds like death in Cantonese and are largely considered to be an unlucky number. Here, have a pity candy. <<<Take candy out of your bra and give it to said person.>>> Anyone else? <<<Reaches inside bra.>
The over-whelming presence of three, is probably not a surprise any longer, and, as it turns out, there are three types of science as well. They prefer to be called branches of science, but more specifically natural sciences – space, forces, matter and the like – , formal sciences – <<<anyone?>>> – math, logic –, and social sciences – which include human behaviour for example.
There are also another prefix to science and that is proto. Protoscience is a concept interlinked with Pseudo science and Fringe science. <<<Notice another threefold appearing!>>> Proto science is in part a despised nursery for real science, you might say. Once upon a time, Heliocentrism, the Big bang theory and Continental drift was laughed at and shoved in the proto-cave.
Those who came up with the theories were made a mockery of, by scientific community and society alike. It certainly can be fatal to speak your mind, or indeed the factual truth. So is it worth jeopardizing both career and your friends over claiming the continents are moving? They are in fact moving anyways, and its not like it’s a cure for cancer.
Cancer, as I’m sure you’re well aware, is a zodiac sign and I guess some of you here were born as cancers. <<<In the astrology context that is, of course! Anyhow, I’m not gonna give you a candy for that.>>> I just wanted to briefly mention that astrology is part of the Protoscience flock and has been for quite some time.
Three is occurring in all corners. <<<Walk up to someone in the audience and ask: How many corners are there in a triangle? What’s our theme? You looked kind of scared there for a moment! Not so nice knowing the answer is it?>>>
This excursion wasn’t a clue to the goal of the quest, but they might come unannounced. Maybe you already know the answer; that would be impressive, maybe you’re sitting on the information right now and don’t know what to do with it. Perhaps it’s better not to know, escape the agony, the urge to speak.
Back to where we were a while ago. There are a lot of things still considered dubious in Protoscience, and I’d like to spend some of our time on Alchemy. There are of course three main goals in alchemy, we can expect no less of a field with such ancestry, but they could easily been narrowed down to just the one, but “you gotta do, what you gotta do”, to end up with a constellation of three, I guess.
Let me explain; alchemy’s objectives are firstly to create the philosopher’s stone, secondly to be able to turn common metals into gold and silver, and third, to seek the elixir of life. The thing is though, the philosopher’s stone is presumed to bring you the ability to transform other materials into gold as well as being the well of youth and health. So why is it necessary to stipulate three aims when you’re actually good with one, one would argue, if one wasn’t aware of the absolute delight of things that come in threes.
<<<Do you think the philosopher’s stone turns anything into gold? And would it be solid gold then? If you peeled away layer after layer, like on an onion, would it be gold all way through? Or just gold covering the outer shell?>>>
And eternal life, just like vampires, would you actually desire that? <<<Anyone here who’d accept eternity in a heartbeat? Here, give it a try. (Give candy to someone – either one who answers or just someone by chance.)>>>
I hear not all vampires like eternal life, but with the philosopher’s stone you’d skip the murdering for lunch, and also not require a solely nocturnal lifestyle. But then I’ve read about those who just shimmer in the light.
Hm. Newton by the way. He was a keen alchemist. He actually wrote more pages about alchemy than on motion and gravity. Sometimes when my daughter falls down I give her a hug and say to her “Oh, Newton’s grumpy today”, or “Blame Newton” as her bottle drops to the ground. I guess we have to talk about cause and effect with her some day, dragging Hume into it and everything. I really liked Hume when I first read about him in Sophie’s world, but that was like twenty years ago and I really don’t remember much from reading his Treatise some years later. Anyhow. I guess we’ll figure it out together.
Lets talk about the moon. The moon is certainly affected by gravity, so it’s not such an abrupt change of topics. It also gives me an opportunity to mention a brilliant quiz-show called Quite Interesting, or just QI for short. One of their most talked-about questions is “How many moons does the earth have?” The answer is, in true QI manner, not one, but two. Scientists had discovered a new moon and named it Cruithne. A season or three later the question was asked again and the panellists quickly yelled out “Two”, but alas, the new moon no longer was a moon according to scientific praxis and the answer was a forfeit.
By the way, “new moon”, that combination of words, was actually a clue to the golden price that might make you cry. I’ll give you another hint; a trophy just like this was awarded to two high-school students at a biology class.
Well, why not, hand you a little cluster of things. This object at first appeared in a book. A book I’ve read at least three times. It’s the first in a series containing four books, a number not well suited for this endeavour, but consider that a major part of the plot is the relationships between three individuals, living in a cutlery town. And I say individuals, not persons, quite intentionally.
Do you know that feeling when you’ve decided not to say anything else for the rest of the lecture, not to give another answer, whatever the subject might be. And everybody else is also silent. And the questions and the follow-up questions become easier and easier, and you still don’t say anything, nor does anybody else, and suddenly its embarrassingly obvious what’s hinted at. And you feel compelled to say something, coerced by your previous remarks. A direct question might seem like an out, but it’s even worse; an answer implies you didn’t know earlier, a shrug and silence, you still don’t.
<<<Silently give a red apple to someone. Use both hand as on the cover.>>>
I have told you things, asked you questions and brought you sweets, and I wonder what light this puts on me. Did the words, the speech, the candy reflect well on me? Do I seem more charismatic now than when it all began? Like a know-it-all and your initial fears are all fulfilled?
I believe having the knowledge, being able to put the pieces together, won’t hurt your image this time. It’s such a despised, tacky thing, perhaps, in these circles, it rather gives you character. And if so, how does it feel to be truly oblivious at this point?
Made up your minds? Can you admit knowledge of a Miss Swan and the possibly soulless Mr Cullen?
I’ll just place the price here for someone who feels a right to claim it. <<<Place the golden onion on pulpit.>>>
The quest for the golden onion has come to an end.