Cosmic Rock, Paper, and Scissors
The number three has had profound influence on human cultures in most times and places. One of the most important groupings of three is that of Mind, Body, and Spirit. These are disparate things, but as humans we possess all three, and we can see their influence on societies everywhere if we look.
Christian theology bears evidence of the Mind, Body, and Spirit paradigm. The Holy Trinity consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Father is the mind, the thing with the plan and the source of its creation. The Son represents the body, flesh and blood that can take action, but can also be hurt. The Holy Ghost is the Spirit that permeates all things. No one is completely sure its there, but everyone would feel weird if it suddenly wasn’t.
The Philosopher Plato spoke of Mind, Body, and Spirit. He likened them to a chariot, with two horses and a driver. Plato said the Mind should always be the one in control, while Body and Spirit were merely beasts of burden to help us get around. Anything else would be like yoking a human to pull a horse around.
Of course, Plato was biased. He probably used his mind far more than his Spirit. As for his body, there is a reason the statues of him are always just busts. You don’t see a lot of philosophers at cross-fit.
The Mind, Body, Spirit trio is not just delegated to ancient thinkers, myths, and legends. These things persist into the modern day, but we may know them by different names.
The modern analogue of Mind is Science, for Science is all about understanding what is right in front of us.
The practical concerns of the body have been rolled up into the realm of Politics. For Politics are generally concerned with keeping people fed, keeping base urges in check, and the distribution of power.
And the role played by Spirit is often filled by Religion. Religion, like Spirit, is all about seeing even though we can’t see. Knowing, even though we can never really know.
II. Groups of three are nice because, when balanced correctly, they can keep each other in check. Like a triangle, all sides lean on each other, but there is no way to determine which one is really the “base.”
Or like the childhood game rock, paper, scissors. Not only is it a fun way to pass the time and a fair way to make difficult decisions, but the game also teaches us about balance. Rock defeats scissors. Scissors defeat paper. And paper defeats rock, because we all know things totally go away when you cover them up.
All the objects in the game can defeat, and in turn they can all be defeated, but only when you play the game correctly.
III. Ideally, this system would work for Science, Politics and Religion.
Science can sway politics. Such is the case for topics such as climate change. No matter what your opinion is on the matter, it is undeniable that scientific studies have played a prominent role in the debate.
Politics can influence religion. For example, many Christians went to fight in the Crusades of the 13th century, not because God told them too, but because of the political realities of the time. In a similar way, Christians should know that slavery is wrong, but because of the political climate of the 19th century, many convinced themselves it was ok.
And Religion can be tempered by science. Many devoutly religious people can believe in evolution and the Big Bang without abandoning their faith. In fact, many of the greatest scientists were religious, and few of those people were ever radicalized by their beliefs.
IV. Unfortunately, as history and contemporary problems show, things rarely go so smoothly. Science, Religion, and Politics rarely interact like a nice game of rock, paper, and scissors. It’s usually more like playing with that kid on the bus who can’t handle losing. So he always chooses Dynamite! Then everyone chooses dynamite and what started out as a nice game becomes the ruin of friendships. Nobody wins, and everybody loses.
VI. There are probably three ways to deal with this problem, but I can only think of two. We can all learn to play the game fairly and foster a new age of understanding and cooperation. Cosmic Rock, Paper, and Scissors could show us the way to Enlightenment. Or, we can learn when to call it quits and not even play the stupid game anymore when people cheat. Like Monopoly, or Risk.
But both of these methods require a certain amount of maturity. Something the human race fails time and again to demonstrate.
Mind, Body, Spirit. Science, Politics, Religion. There has to be an easier way to deal with these things. Its probably as brutishly simple as just punching our problems to death.