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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

The worst leash is the one you don't feel: a random walk through a piece of metatextual string

Al­most noone likes to be tied down. That is sure­ly a non-­con­tro­ver­sial state­men­t. Of course, some peo­ple dis­agree (y­ou freak­s). But let's ig­nore them (f­reak­s) for a few min­utes, and con­sid­er the con­cept of ty­ing and ties.

I have spent many an un­pleas­ant minute try­ing to ex­plain to lay­men why there is a branch of math­e­mat­ics that has a for­mal def­i­ni­tion of what is or is­n't a knot. Usu­al­ly that is met by the usu­al eye­-rolling and com­ments of "y­ou stupid math peo­ple" and "it's ob­vi­ous" (but it is­n't). If you don't know what a knot is, and what is a knot, then you don't know whether you are tied to some­thing or not.

How can you know any­thing if you don't know what things are at­tached to you, and what you are at­tached to? Lit­er­al­ly, you can't know your­self with­out know­ing about knot­s, and how they bind you. Even east­ern prim­i­tives who did­n't know about the germ the­o­ry of dis­ease rec­og­nized the im­por­tance of this, and preached the need to de­tach your­self, to cut the knots ty­ing you to the ma­te­ri­al world.

Con­sid­er the sem­i­nal 80's sit­com, Fam­i­ly Ties. It's all about the at­tach­ment be­tween a boy and his mon­ey. And then the boy grows up, be­comes a writer, goes to the big city and gets drunk and does a lot of drugs, but it is al­so about how he feels at­tached to his fam­i­ly... and about how the kid wears ties.

Is it a co­in­ci­dence? I say it's im­pos­si­ble. Why is the clear­est sign, the ob­vi­ous in­di­ca­tor of be­long­ing to grownup so­ci­ety a piece of string that you tie? Be­cause oth­er­wise it would fall off your neck? Yes. But some­times an ob­vi­ous sym­bol­ism is ust an ob­vi­ous sym­bol­is­m. You tie your tie, and you tie your­self.

Why don't wom­en use ties? Well, be­cause they have not yet reached that epoch in cloth­ing. Ties are de­rived from Croa­t­ian Cra­vats and date all the way back to the 17th cen­tu­ry. but wom­en most­ly still dress like 16th cen­tu­ry peas­ants. If you look in re­nais­sance pic­tures, all men have purs­es. Lat­er, none of them do, be­cause they have a great mod­ern in­ven­tion, called pock­et­s. For some rea­son, wom­en are stuck in the pre-pock­et age of cloth­ing.

Here's a sim­ple ex­er­cise for het­ero­sex­u­al­ly mar­ried peo­ple: count the pock­ets on wom­en's gar­ments and on men's gar­ments. I (male) rarely can be found wear­ing few­er than 6 pock­et­s. If I were to dress in mod­ern clothes (suit­), I would have over 10 pock­et­s. Most wom­en's wear (ex­cept jean­s) has no pock­et­s. Or (jean­s) it's so ridicu­lous­ly tight that you can't use the pock­et­s. So wom­en use purs­es. But if you use a purse, you are ba­si­cal­ly giv­ing up a hand a cer­tain part of the time. Would you give up a hand 10% of the time to make a fash­ion state­men­t? I say if wom­en were to make that de­ci­sion con­scious­ly they would­n't do it.

So why is that? Beats me. So, while men use ropes tied to their necks to show ad­her­ence to so­ci­ety, wom­en are part­ly lamed for the same rea­son (not to men­tion the idea of buy­ing shoes that are pret­ty but hurt a bit when walk­ing). Goes to show that not all ties are vis­i­ble. Fol­low­ing these con­ven­tions are in­vis­i­ble or on­ly metaphor­i­cal­ly vis­i­ble ties. The lat­er sto­ics (much smarter peo­ple than the pre­vi­ous­ly men­tioned east­ern prim­i­tives: they had in­door plumb­ing) said things like this:

"Things not in our pow­er in­clude the body, prop­er­ty, rep­u­ta­tion, of­fice, and, in a word, ev­ery­thing which is not our do­ing. Things in our pow­er are by na­ture free, un­hin­dered, un­tram­meled; things not in our pow­er are weak, servile, sub­ject to hin­drance, de­pen­dent on oth­er­s."

Now, how much fun is it to say that ev­ery­thing you own is not in your pow­er. That the very pow­er you pos­sess is not in your pow­er. But they al­so said that you had two things that were the most im­por­tan­t: the will to get and the will to avoid. Those are the ba­sic tools of hu­man ex­is­tence. If you have the will to avoid pain, you can not buy painful shoes. If you have the will to get pock­et­s, you get pants with pock­et­s. And you can de­cide what you want to get or avoid by just think­ing. There is no se­cret.

Lucio / 2012-01-02 18:24:

A rope is not a knot. An o-ring is a knot. A tie, even knotted, is not a knot. I am free.

Roberto Alsina / 2012-01-02 18:25:

No levantes la perdiz ;-) Aparte vos no usas corbata!