|be yourself | March/April 2016
A little red string
by Sara Volk
One of my favorite things to do in my spare time is read stories from other cultures. And I don't just mean your run-of-the-mill mythology anthology. I like to dig into obscure stories and traditions, the references that are easy to miss if you aren't a part of that culture.
Sometimes, the stories that exist outside of your realm of reference are the most interesting because they are based on an entirely different world view. To understand these stories, to truly try and grasp their significance, you have to step out of your comfort zone. And their concepts are so new and foreign to those looking in from the outside that it's hard not to fall in love with the imagery.
Enter one of my favorite cultural tidbits: the Red String of Fate.
It's a simple enough concept. In Chinese lore, the Red String of Fate connects two people who were destined to be together by their ankles (if you prefer, the Japanese swear by the pinkie finger). The string can tangle, stretch, and knot--but it will never break.
This image has fascinated me for years. The idea that you could represent a connection as deep as what you might have with a soul mate with as mundane a thing as a single, fragile red thread was beautifully simplistic, and spoke volumes. That little thread represented a bond, a link, that tied two people together.
And why did it have to stop with your soul mate? I imagined a rainbow-colored web that tied me to everyone involved in my life. The romantic red thread, of course, but there were also orange cords tying me to my teachers and professors; yellow to my friends; green to family and loved ones; blue to my spiritual leaders; violet to my coworkers.
I could feel the tug as they stretched between cities, over state lines and across oceans, tied to every person I kept in contact with. I could see some that dangled lifelessly when I found a connection that had been cut. Sometimes I'd find the other end, and tie them back together; with others, I knew it was healthier to keep the strand severed.
I could see, clear as day, a network of connections woven out of thin air.
Connecting with people, maintaining and adding to my web, is one of the richest experiences I've ever had. It never mattered if we were from a different country, a different culture, a different background. You can find common ground, build a bond, and weave a cord until it's stronger than any chain. It's those connections that make life interesting. And, ultimately, they're what make life colorful.
Sara Volk is a Bismarck native and the current Special Sections editor at The Bismarck Tribune. When she isn't working to give her cat a better life, she dabbles in baking, sewing, and anything nerdy.