the third thing

I like feeling gobsmacked.  All you, dear friends, who respond to these posts, keep me well gobsmacked by your compassion and wise, wise teachings.  And then, there is a lovely lung-filling moment when that turning word appears in a book and I feel deliciously gobsmacked that I knew this and now know it again in a deeply different way.
Continuing with Teachings of the Insentient, Loori writes,

Master Dogen addresses the secrets of the river and of all water: The river is neither strong nor weak, neither wet nor dry, neither moving nor still, neither cold nor hot, neither being nor non-being, neither delusion nor enlightenment. It is none of the dualities.  Water is H2O, composed of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, two odorless and tasteless gases.  You bring them together and you get water.  But water is not oxygen, and it is not hydrogen.  It is not a gas.  It is what D.H. Lawrence calls in one of his poems “the third thing.”  It is the same was with absolute and relative, with all the dualities.  It is not either one or the other; it is always the third thing.

Evan Thompson and Joanna Macy speak of emergent properties – the third thing that arises when things come together.  In another career incarnation, I was an archaeological chemist and in rifling through the detritus of civilization, it always amazed me that things remained recognizable despite not being what they originally were.  Talk about deep contact with the koan “What was your original face?”  The hairpin that could only be known as such because of the shape of the corrosion, the shards of glass that used to cohere as a decanter, the lengths of water-logged beams that once knew itself as a ship – these are all original faces.  All transformed intimately by trusting and letting go, becoming just what they are.

This very moment of being –
our original face –
eternally the third thing.

Thank you for practicing,


7 thoughts on “the third thing

  1. That Loori quote was one of the most crystal clear teachings I’ve heard in awhile. I have a few of his books on my shelf, next in my “queue”.

    thanks for that.

    • Loori was huger-than-life in person so I think I was too intimidated to get the teachings and that probably clouded my readings as well. For whatever the reason, these days, his words are crystal clear. I think enough of my brain cells have died so I may not be as resistant either. 😉

  2. Am glad you found the words that speak to you!

    Even wordy,”lofty” mountain mystics like me :)resonate with these wonderfully clear, concise words: “this very moment of being, our original face, *eternally* the third thing.” Yes! Only Be-ing – the third thing. All rivers, all ways, all things, all faces always flow back to their True Nature…Just Be-ing. Beautiful! Thank you!

    • Yahbut… lofty mountain mystics like you sound real and are skillful. When I go lofty, I get into flame wars with people who end up calling me names (they hit me back first, honest)! 😆

      I’ve been practicing roshi Joan Halifax’s favourite phrase: go to essence! Not always possible but it’s improving my attitude. 😉

      Thank you for Be-ing here. I really love your presence (and presents)!

  3. That “third thing” is the essence of Buddhism. The Buddha said in one of his later teachings that between “it exists” and “it doesn’t exist” is the Middle Way.

    That’s our way – kinda gassy and burpy, but good for the digestion.

  4. Pingback: compassionate mind « 108zenbooks

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