Anyone who knows me and knows my awful track record in Maths will not be surprised at the above. I am sure there is no way it makes sense numerically nor is it a sensible equation or formula. Perhaps the only place it makes sense is in my head. Hopefully you can bear with me. I have never used mathematics in the rumblings and today is no exception. It just looks like it. Everyone knows one plus one equals two. It is probably the first thing we learn in numeracy. It is basic. From the point of view of literacy it is as basic as ‘the cat sat on the mat’. As small children this concept was put to us by our parents and our teachers. They did this, knowing full well, that if we got the simple stuff right, so much could be built on it. One apple on the table, add another, we have two. One cow in the field, add another, there are now two cows in the field. So one plus one equals two is set in stone. To challenge this is a nonsense. At least it is a nonsense from the point of view of basic numeracy. However I want to ask is there any possible way that one plus one does not equal two but rather three. Or to make it even more mad would be to put it like this. One and one becomes three and possibly four.

If we take this out of the world of science and maths and bring it into the world of emotion and relationships would it make any sense then? Certainly in terms of emotions it is hard to see how it could make sense. Can you add two emotions together and get a third? Perhaps. A pretty obvious observation, once we agree that the premise is within the area of human relationships, might be to say: a man and woman being together sexually may lead to a third entity, in the arrival of a little baby. New life. In this sense we can say that one plus one becomes three. However leaving that aside, is there any other sense that one and one ends up as three? I think there is. Surely when two people come together in relationship, be that a romantic way or indeed in a good friendship then something new is created. That something is not necessarily a child but is a real entity with a beginning and an end and all the necessary nourishment needed in between. I include in this the joys and sorrows of life. I am speaking of the relationship or the friendship that begins to grow and develop between two people. There is the unique life story of each of them and then there is what happens when they relate to each other. This is the third entity. It might be described as ‘one-sided’, ‘mutual’, ‘supportive’, ‘unhealthy’, ‘blooming’, ‘draining’ and ‘life-giving’. Perhaps this is where you feel most fully heard? There is Maggie and Johnny. One plus one. Then there is their friendship, their relationship. They ignite it, create it, build it. If it’s not nourished it dies. It is unique. This is what makes it wonderful. There is no other relationship quite like this one. It is full of promise. Potential. Yes it could be a nightmare and it could be heavenly. I have had a little of the nightmarish, not much but some. Thankfully I have had a good deal of the heavenly.

Now we are near the end of our ‘equation’! I guess that’s all the mathematicians insulted. So, so far we have established that one and one can lead to three, when we take two people and accept that what they build together in terms of friendship is the unique third. Original unto itself. However the ‘equation’ does not end there, it proposes the possibility of a fourth. This distinction at the outset is an important one. The one plus one is presented as a definite but the notion of the fourth is in brackets followed by a question mark. It seems to suggest that the fourth may or may not happen. What is this fourth? Where does this fourth come from? Two people, the relationship that they build, is there any element or ingredient that can be introduced here that might add to it. The fourth I am speaking of is Christ. What would it be like to have a christo-centric relationship? I am not suggesting a ‘preachy’ constantly going on about God all the time, but I am asking what would it be like to invite Jesus into the friendship or relationship? Would you still go to the cinema? Or go for a pint? Of course. Jesus is not a kill joy! However a friendship that is conscious of Jesus might be a little bit more ready to forgive, to be gentle, to make excuses for each other. A Christ- centred friendship is one that is other centred. There is deep listening here. It is a life giving friendship. It is always fresh. In this sense one plus one is always three, and sometimes if we are brave enough, and we are open to God’s blessing, sometimes, just sometimes 1+1 = 4 !!

Categories: Fr. Joe's Rumblings