Borromean Rings

Borromean rings are a structure in which no two rings are interlocked, yet the three are inseparable. I’ve been puzzling over the meaning of this lately. They’ve been used to represent the Holy Trinity (natch), but could they also represent some other natural or philosophical truth? Red herrings abound: the Borromean PB&J sandwich, for example, is negated by the undeniable goodness of toast with jelly. I’m flummoxed. Can you think of any other Borromean Thing?

11 thoughts on “Borromean Rings

  1. Jordan Running

    Your PB&J comment reminded me of a topic I heard or read maybe a year ago about food. It went something like, can you name three foods for which any two taste good together but all three together are gross? Sort of an inverted Borromean food-ring. I wish I could find the link, but alas.

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  3. Daryl Scroggins

    That’s interesting, Jordan, because when I saw this I immediately bagan to wonder if one could contruct a verbal version of this structure out of intersecting palindromes set in circles with shared letters. But then it occurred to me that instead of sharing letters it would have to mask letters while also continuing to suggest the continuity of each palindrome. This seems to be related to the way “prophesy” works: the ambiguous edges of recognizable patterns overlap in a way that makes those edges take on the authority of a recognizable pattern. There is no chaos when a pattern must be found.

  4. Mike Dresser Post author

    Now that I think of it, they are a bit reminiscent of the checks-and-balances in our government; though each branch exercises no direct control over the actions of another, the the arrangement of all three blocks the free movement of any one. That is until the branches get together with a hacksaw to create a Unitary Executive Ring.

  5. Daniel Black

    Your mom.

    That should be read: “I got nothin’.”

    In the U.S., we might think of the three branches of government, taken as a whole, no two of which (hypothetically) overlap but which must exist together to exist at all.

    Alternately, take a Jane Austen love triangle.



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