It Always Happens in Three’s: Football, Furies, and Fate
This post would most likely have been better two days ago, Pentecost 33, or tomorrow, Pentecost 36. My apologies to those who love numbers and consistency, etc. for the discussion of groups of 3’s on a day that is decidedly not evenly divisible by three. The fact is, though, numbers only have the power we assign to them.
Let’s take the number 357. In base ten the first number, 3, means three hundred. The second, 4, means forty and the last, 7, means seven or seven ones. In base four, however, it is a different story; 35710 converts to 112114. While you may not be a mathematician, numbers are something we all use and rely on around the world. Numbers denote power.
The deities of the various world mythologies were all about power. A power is an exponent to which a given quantity is raised. You may not have realized it but power is a numbers word, a mathematical concept. The word exponent, the basic definition of the word power, has many synonyms: backer, promoter, advocate, champion, model, example, explainer, interpreter, booster, or a fan. In math, an exponent is a number or expression placed to the upper right of a number that tells how many times that number or expression is multiplied by itself. For example, 23 equals 8 or 2x2x2 which is…8.
Common men, elected officials, trending Hollywood actors and actresses, top-of-the-charts musical talents, and winning sports figures all have power because we give it to them with our fan following. We become the exponents by which their status is multiplied to star status. We boost their popularity by seeing their performances, buying their music, wearing their jerseys and going to the games. They remain, however, the same people when they lose. What is different is that they have no exponent by which their presence is multiplied. The women on the US and China soccer/football teams are the same women awaking today that awoke yesterday. The difference is that today, the US team came out victorious in the World Cup quarter finals.
Greek mythology has its own trio of beings, two of them in fact. Known as Erinyes in Greek, the Furies were said to have been born from the spilled blood of Uranus after his fateful encounter previously discussed with Cronus. The blood is said to have fallen on Gaia and gave to these three a primeval birth, making them very different from the other immortals of the time. Their names tell their demeanor: Alecto or Never-Ending; Tsiphone or Voice of Revenge; Megaira or Envious Anger.
The ancient Greeks never uttered the names of the Furies aloud. Much like the movie “Beetlejuice” in which the uttering of the main character’s name three times would call him and create mayhem, destruction, and death, just calling their names was said to have power. It was believed that the Furies could drive a person insane.
Another trio from Greek mythology was called the Fates. Known as the Moirai, these three were said to have originated as birth deities and most likely their intended purpose was to predestine the life of each upon birth. Daughters of Nyx or Night, these goddesses were known as Clotho or Spinner, Lachesis or Drawer of Lots and Attopos, Inevitable.
Both the Furies and the Fates were depicted much like old women. The Furies were considered evil hags with snakes and whips. They brandished torches at their victims and sometimes were seen as chasers of the guilty, even in the underworld. The Fates were old women who sat spinning. Clotho was said to spin destinies on her spindle while Lachesis measured lengths with a rod and Alecto snipped the lengths with shears. There is some dissension over whether or not the Fates could control the gods and goddesses or whether they too were subject to the Fates. Eventually only two remained – birth and death. It is said that Zeus assumed the role of Lachesis by measuring the lifespan of the mortal mankind.
Today many will awake in the USA and rejoice over the Women’s Cup victory. Some will proclaim it fate since US teams have been victorious over Chinese teams in the past. Others will shout for joy and say it is the result of hard work, diligence, personal talents, and teamwork. A few will be bitter and find a referee’s call they feel was unjust or a player’s move they think illegal. Hardly anyone will give the power of the outcome to the ball itself, shrug their shoulders and murmur: “That’s the way the ball bounces.
The names of the Furies are feeling we all have felt or wanted to feel. Most of us have been in situations that seem never-ending. Whether we like to admit it or not, we have all felt envy and perhaps that had led you to also feel anger. The powerless seldom think they have the power of revenge and often they are correct. My question to you is this: Should we want to assign power to revenge?
It is my humble opinion that revenge, one of the Furies, connects us to the Fates. It alters our destiny, shortens our options, and inevitably leads to more grief. Revenge is not a path to closure from an unfortunate incident. Remembering the good, the love that abounded, is a much better path.
This week in the USA has seen three important events…both illustrated with a flag, neither flag being anything more than simple fabric. It is, as discussed earlier this week, a myth, a a fictional story, to assume a flag has power and yet, they often do. They become exponents that incite, encourage, and explain. The flag used by the Ku Klux Klan has been retired and removed in many locations. Its history will never be erased but its purpose, never a good purpose for the health of mankind, has long been outlived. It was time for Lachesis to cut the thread of its life.
Another flag with rainbow color has become a flag for supporting same-sex legal marriage. With a ruling from the highest court in the USA which stated all couples should have the rights afforded to some, this flag has been spun and worn proudly. It too has no power except as a pretty ornament but for many, it was a sign of freedom. For Constitutional scholars, it was an inevitable ruling.
Many today will shout “Team USA” and proudly wear their flag of the USA. Their white stars on a blue field accompanied by red and white stripes will proclaim their pride and the power they feel their country has. Some will disagree with the Supreme Court’s ruling while others will support it. Hopefully, all we come together in weaving a brighter future for the nation and all nations. They will, however, conveniently forget that other nations like Canada passes such legislation on same sex unions ten years ago as did several European nations.
One event does not define one’s path. We cannot let our anger destroy us. We cannot move forward seeking only revenge. We cannot let our current satiation be seen as the inevitable life we will forever walk. We can find joy in each moment, take pride in our potential, and create a brighter tomorrow. That is the real power of living.