Where is my beginning? Where is my end?
A story by Anna M. Szaflarski
The universe was a ball of tightly bound knots, and our reality is made up of the continual expansion of that mass; an untangling and re-tangling mess. Just a complete mess. When they came tumbling out of that tightly wound ball, some strands looked for ways to attach themselves to others, not yet ready for life outside of a comfortable cuddle. They make patterns and surfaces, cover things and make themselves, some would say, even useful. Other strands get tangled in themselves, without being asked or pressed just wrap themselves around. Each knot is a word, an idea, a voice. Never wanting to come undone, just getting tighter and tighter as they are pulled in opposite directions by distant relative strands.
No bind is forever, because as the strings exponentially cover more space and time, they never cease to be connected. And as the tension throughout the, let’s call it, web is irregular and changing, it continually unmakes any knots it ties. The strings become straight and speechless again until a little slack in the tension of the cord comes their way, and they’ll hurriedly get all bound up again. Start again to make sense of everything, because a line, a strand, a cord, never has a voice until in bends back on itself, or wraps itself around another.
In these moments of released tension, they have a limited amount of time, that they know full well will be abruptly interrupted, so they start to make up some system, all at once. There’s no time for a conference, no time for a vote, so there’s only a mish-mash of rules from other knots from the past, combinations from other moments in time, and accidental twists that are embedded in each thread.
Once two or more strands are together, a knot is a consensus, a dialogue, or an intervention.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let us return to the original dense ball of knots, the navel of the earth. Inside was all the slack in the world, as well as all of the tension that was wrapped up in a bowline, slip, true lover’s or noose knot. All the meaning of the universe, life, death, love, was wrapped up together tightly like a can of writhing snakes. Keeping everything together, were square knots tightly binding the outside as long as they could. The square knot, also known as the strong Hercules’ Knot, is when two strands meet, they twist around each other once, turn around twist around again, and then go on their way. The first pass is an encounter, the second is an assessment: where did the other come from, what is it made of, what is the meaning of the tension inside of it? And without a complete answer and partially perplexed, they go on looking forward, yet back in the direction they came from. Behind them, the bind remains, always rubbing the encounter gently, informing the next knot they make.
These encounters and questions are what initially kept the ball together. The outside strands of the square knot were of the impatient type. They went on looking for the next to intertwine with, making the ball tighter and tighter.
Of course, you wonder, might it all only be one strand? That’s the irony of it all. Blinded by their own impatience, they did not recognize that the mysterious other might be a distant part of themselves.
Meanwhile, inside there were all sorts of combinations of knots that preferred to stay intertwined longer to find out a bit more. They weaved large carpets, going back and forth along each other, asking the same unanswered questions again and again thousands of times, until they came to the realization that the questions are answers enough. While panicked impatience tightened the mass’s exterior, inside there was a growing consensus.
And the panicked impatience continued to wrap the ball tighter and tighter, while the consensus became denser and denser until eventually, somewhere a strand snapped, and the ball came apart, and with it unraveled the connections of consensus, and the knots of encounters.
Do you know what happens when you put a rope loosely into a bag, and let it sit for a time on the top of your shelf? What happens when you pull it out weeks later? Behind the curtain of privacy, the rope will twist and turn restlessly until it has entangled itself. Even when alone the string goes on asking questions. And when you pull it out, it has done anything but answered them. It too is perplexed. And lets say you introduce another string to accompany the first and place the bag back onto the same shelf. They will twist and turn, and be a whole mess when you retrieve them and try to untangle them.
When the mass exploded and the consensus came apart and all of the encounters came loose, there was something, nevertheless, imprinted on the suddenly speechless and silent string. The feeling of the writhing mass didn’t disappear, and when given the chance the string would begin to writhe even though there wasn’t anyone to writhe against.
Why is it that we fight the string so much? Why do we want it to be straight, knotless, untangled, while it wants just the opposite? You’ll find strings bound around cylinders, tightly knotted to never come undone, preventing it from exploring. Motionless and silent.
There is something that shouldn’t slip your mind. The navel of the earth, yes, was in fact only one string, an endless loop. And when it exploded, remember that a strand had snapped leaving a loose end in the fabric. Most parts of the string are glad enough with any other part, they enjoy a spiraling or braiding conversation with any string segment that comes along, but this particular end is aware that it is part of a greater whole, that it has lost something beyond a close cuddle. The end is searching for its beginning. It doesn’t spend much time intertwining with other parts, but is crisscrossing the universe in search for its continuation. Unlike the questions of the knots, those very same knots which form our reality, the end is unsatisfied with elusive answers. It has only one question, Where is my beginning? And its beginning is searching just as emphatically, asking, Where is my end?
We should be very thankful for this painful love story, as it is the force that keeps the universe from collapsing completely. If the string was satisfied to be a straight line, to leave its hands out in the cold instead of tucking them back inside, its end and beginning would pull tightly away from each other. Eventually no knots would exist, and the universe would become speechless. But instead the end and the beginning are looking for each other, being constantly thrown off course while other parts are fighting for more slack to make meaning through complex webs, hammocks, angler’s knots and cowboy’s lassoes. But the end and the beginning pull back and eventually, I imagine, they will find each other again. Such determination can’t be doubted.
And every string that we use to tie our shoes or boats with is a perfect model for the ones that make up space and time, and so you should be wise to once in a while let them do as they please, as they might just ask a question that will pleasantly surprises you.