The Ties That Bind Us

In Chinese folklore, two people who are meant to be together are tied by red thread, a single line of thread seemingly flimsy and unsustainable.  But have you ever tried to break a piece of thread with your hands? The material digs deep into your skin, persistent and unyielding.  This magical, invisible, stubborn line binds you to your one.

The tie does not come easily.  It is said that ten years of cultivation grants you a passing encounter and a hundred years of cultivation will allow you to share the same pillow.  A century of past lives and encounters, good deeds and misfortunes, accumulate to bring you to this lifetime, weaving this red thread that intricately pulls you closer to your one.

If all of us believed that to be true, we would not dismiss anyone who crossed our paths and shared our pillows, even for one night.  We would wonder how many good deeds we had to accomplish, how many misfortunes we had to endure, before we were rewarded with this encounter, this love.

There is a tale about a young girl who was the disciple of the celestial being of love in the heavens.  She had accidentally broken a line of thread and was sent to earth as a mortal to fix her mistake.  Her mission was to find the two people who were meant to be together and mend the broken red thread between them.  She found the man first and fell in love with him.  Knowing that she couldn’t stay with him forever, she placed a pebble into a glass jar after each day she spent with him and promised herself that when that jar was full, she would finish her mission.

The celestial being intervened; he mended the red thread and brought his disciple back to the heavens.  She pleaded with him to allow her to return to earth.  He warned her that if she truly wanted to be mortal, she would have to be reborn, she would not be able to be with the man she loved.  And as a mortal, she would feel love and joy, but she would also suffer from pain and heartache, endure illness and ultimately face death.  But she was determined; she would rather be in the same world as him than watch him from afar.  In this lifetime, they would not be together, but there was always the next, the one after that, and the one after that…


Two Wolves

David: my soul is wild
have you ever heard the story of the two wolves in our souls?
me: no
tell me about this story
David:  it’s an old Native American story
so the chief of the village was talking to his son
and he told his son that there are two wolves in his heart and they are in constant battle
one wolf wants to destroy him and the other wolf is protecting him
the son asks which wolf wins
and the father tells him “the one you feed”
me: I love that story
you surprise me with your wisdom sometimes


I once read a story about a little boy who knew a terrible secret about the king.  The little boy couldn’t tell anyone the secret for fear that the king would trace it back to him, but he couldn’t hold it in either.  So he dug a hole in the ground and told the secret to the earth.  Then he buried it.  In a few months’ time, a tree grew in that spot with leaves lush and green.  And every time the wind blew, the secret was whispered by the rustling leaves.

“Tell your secret to the wind, but don’t blame it for telling the trees.”

A Thousand Splendid Suns

I too, am carrying the burden of someone else’s secret.  There’s no hole I can dig big enough to bury it and there are no whispers loud enough to spread it. The secret needs to be told to the people it’s hurting, but it’s not my secret to tell.

Word spread of the tree that whispered with the wind, and soon the entire kingdom learned of the king’s secret.

That’s the thing about secrets, they don’t stay buried forever.  纸包不住火.

A Human Touch

In a time of great technological advances, of cell phones that talk back to us, of face time and Skype, do most of us feel more or less connected?

I feel some annoyance every time my phone rings, how dare a person call and demand a piece of my valuable time?  I’ve replaced phone conversations with text messages and gchat.  Why spend 30 minutes on the phone giving one person my undivided attention when I can spread it among 5-6 people?  Communication nowadays consists of fragmented, incoherent shorthand’s masquerading as words.  When did “totes” become an adjective?  Sometimes I can barely remember how to form a complete sentence.

No amount of typing, whether on a computer keyboard or touch screen phone, makes me feel more connected to a human being than a simple touch: a hand gently placed on my arm, a hug.

I learned the lesson from Midas at an early age.  Midas was a king who valued wealth above all else.  Because of a good deed, Midas was granted a wish by the Gods: everything he touched would be turned to gold.  Midas was ecstatic; he had access to unlimited wealth! When his daughter came home that evening, he rushed to the door to hug her in celebration of his new power.  As soon as he touched her, she became a gold statue.

What is wealth (or technology) compared to the human touch?

Are we promoting productivity or detachment?

Perhaps it’s not annoyance I feel when my phone rings but anxiety.  After spending so much time interacting with keyboards, even a phone call feels overly intimate.  A unique voice on the other side of the line with the potential to invoke nostalgia, happiness, attraction, dread, excitement, loneliness…it’s too easy to press the ignore button and text instead.