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.


Comments powered by Disqus