A Magic Number

 

I think I was brainwashed as a child.  Ha ha, weren’t we all?  But I’ve been meditating on the concept of three lately.  For some reason, it’s cycled back through my subconscious – and this song came up.

A man and a woman had a little baby,

yes they did,

they had three in the family –

that’s a magic number.

Those lines cycled around my subconscious on an endless loop growing up.  It was always those lines.

Apparently I didn’t absorb the other math concepts in the song, because instead of 1+1=3, I decided to go for three kids rather than three total family members.

But three always did have a special connotation for me.  As an only child, it was always three of us in my family and what a nice little tight-knit crew we were.  I was assigned the number 3 jersey when I played CYO basketball for several years.  And speaking of spiritual organizations, there is, of course the ultimate – the Holy Trinity.

Revisiting this song in the context of today’s antiseptic if tolerant culture, I was super-surprised that the lyrics alluded to the mystical trinity.  Whoa.

There is a reason comparable concepts cycle through the universe’s subconscious.  There’s that, and the super catchy ditty that gets stuck in one’s head like an ear worm.  But all kidding and brainwashing aside, there is a magic to the way things grab onto us and won’t let go.  My man and I could have had a little baby and stopped, but I wouldn’t see the sparkle in each of their magical little eyes.

A few years ago for Christmas, I chose a card that said peace, joy, and love to accompany a photo of our three girls.  Each of my girls has one of these characteristics at her essence.  There is no measure to that number.

Symbolically Speaking

“Symbols arise from the instant and continuous deterioration of sensation in the memory since first experience.”

 –  in Henry’s notebooks from Perfection by Julie Metz

God, I hope this isn’t true in relation to writing.  In creating symbols and their –isms, does each time I hit that note weaken the power of the initial memory or feeling it elicits?

Writers use symbols to illustrate themes, ideas, emotions.  Illustrate is a key word here.  ‘Show, don’t tell’ is a mantra that haunts us all in our sleep.  We cannot describe said feeling without talking down to or boring our reader.  But if we can hit them where it hurts, draw out that venom from a similar hurt they’ve experienced, yes, that is what makes writing powerful and universal.

Raindrops, an unexpected phone call or delivery, a plump bud about to burst, a family business with one remaining heir.

But where do we cross the line between evocative and cliché?

A repetition, a refrain, an oral tradition, cautionary tales – there are threads that weave us all together in the collective consciousness of all time.  There are reasons for patterns.

But if we bang that drum one too many times, do we risk ‘the instant and continuous deterioration’ Metz mentions above?

Or is it not what we do, but the way that we do it?

The goal is to fine-tune our words, choose them like each brushstroke of a painting.  If we create a unique experience in each scene, regardless of its resemblance to an aura that once surrounded our readers, we will gain connection, a relativity with a resounding freshness.

It’s no small task.  But there’s also pretty good research backing us up.  There’s a reason symbols resonate throughout the millennia.  Through story, there is some thread of our DNA.  Whether it’s deteriorated throughout the years, some small part of it remains and vibrates within us when we read it.

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