For much of my life I have noticed that there seems to be something about the number three, maybe it is the sense of balance that it conveys. The great significance to the number three really didn’t become stark to me, however, until I got into building things. My journey into building really grew out of my love of music. I love to play the drums more than just about anything but I also live in a 1900 square foot attached townhome with a wife. So I learned to build so I could have a studio behind my house for my drums and all of the other cool updates to a home that can’t really be afforded on a double teaching salary; necessity truly is the mother of invention. In learning how to build, the number three kept coming up over and over, particularly in the form of triangles. Knowledge of triangles is the most important piece of building a structure, which is sort of peculiar because most of the structures we build in the world are square, or at least quadrangular in some way. However, triangles are the thing that makes the whole thing work. During my learning phase I learned that a corner is square if you can draw a line 3 inches down one wall, 4 inches down the other, and connect those two points with a hypotenuse that measures 5 inches. I learned that a roof only has structural integrity if the peak is supported by a cross brace underneath, another triangle. In building walls I quickly learned that to keep a wall standing up in the wind long enough to build another wall you usually have to brace it such that the brace forms, you guessed it, a right triangle. It was because of this glimpse into the hidden, yet not-so-hidden, geometry behind our lives that I started to search for that triangular structure in all areas of life. The results have been astounding. In nearly every area of my life I have been able to identify how looking at things from a triangular point of view can help me make decisions, recognize imbalance, and attempt to put things back into balance. It’s not metaphysics, and I’m not about to start calling myself a guru, but it is interesting enough that it warrants a bit of exploration.
First things first, in order to follow along with what I’m talking about, you first have to understand that there are multiple ways of looking at the balance of things from a triangular point of view. I tend to subject the things I am examining to any one of three perspectives when engaging in this exercise; not everything fits neatly into the same category. The first perspective I take is what I call the “pick two” perspective. This one is probably the most known to people because it is used from time to time in memes and for satire or social commentary. In this one the triangle has three different concepts at the three different points and the person is led to pick two of the concepts, the idea being that having all three is next to impossible. I have generally found that this perspective holds water, but that it is limited by the fact that it really only describes what is, as opposed to what could be, but more on that later. The flip side to that coin is a perspective that I like to call the “two-supporting one” structure. This structure is similar to the “pick two” concept except that now any two of the concepts you pick are there to make the third one possible. This structural perspective is also limited somewhat in that it only shows us what could be, as opposed to what is in the here and now. But again, more on that later. The final structure is one that, thus far, has proven to be sort of my white whale, because I am having a hard time finding things in my universe that fit into it. This structure is, of course, the fully balanced structure, where every element is doing its part to equally support the other two. I’m not saying that the structure doesn’t exist, it exists in everything I will describe. The problem, however, is that there is usually one element that is not holding up its end of the bargain and throwing the whole thing out of balance. It is finding this balance in these things that has me fascinated and the reason for this journey that I am on.
The best way to ease into this thought process is to look at a triangle that is pretty much universally known and accepted by anyone who ever buys anything. I’m talking, of course, about the “good, fast, cheap” relationship. This relationship is one that applies to nearly everything that we consume on a day to day basis. Take food, for instance. In the United States, food is everywhere, even in places that we consider “food deserts,” which are defined as areas with limited access to food that is both nutritious and affordable. The idea behind food in America is pretty simple. Food is ever-present, but quality, speed, and price are ever changing sides of a triangle that does not often seem to fall into balance. Fast food, for example, is all over the place in America. Just about everywhere you turn, you can get something edible pushed out to you in under a minute and a half for less than 5 dollars. But lets face it, this food is usually only scraping the basement in terms of nutritional value. I mean, you know you’re living in a weird world when the salad at McDonalds is higher in caloric content than the triple decker meat behemoth that is the company’s signature burger, but I digress. The simple fact remains that if you want quality food in America, you usually have to be prepared to wait and/or pay through the nose. It is like this with many things. Another good example I can think of is houses. If you want a well-built home in America, and you want it to be move-in ready, you must be willing to pay a premium, especially if the home is in your desired neighborhood. On the other hand, you can get a wonderfully well-built home for much cheaper if you are willing to build from scratch, but it will be months before you can move in. Somewhere along the way you are going to sacrifice in order to achieve the optimal situation.
So the question then becomes, how can we create a situation where we don’t have to sacrifice those things? Even more interesting, in my opinion, is where these unbalanced structures exist in our daily lives. How are we unbalanced at work, in our relationships, in our leisure and rest time, or wherever? More importantly, what can we do to identify the things that we are accepting as making those structures “good enough” and push past them towards greater synergy? In many ways, I think this is one of, if not the most important question any of us can ask and answer for ourselves, and I intend on exploring it further as I embark on this new academic year.