I’ve been re-reading The Power of Myth, the conversation script of the renowned PBS television series featuring Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. Essential of myth, the words are timeless and as relevant today as when they were first heard in 1988. Campbell’s work came to my attention again a couple of months ago when I attended my monthly gathering of group facilitators and conversation hosts. That evening we used the story of Ariadne’s thread as a way into our circle conversation, each of us sharing the current thread of our life.
From The Power of Myth (150):
Moyers: I like what you say about the old myth of Theseus and Ariadne. Theseus says to Ariadne, “I’ll love you forever if you can show me a way to come out of the labyrinth.” So she gives him a ball of string, which he unwinds as he goes into the labyrinth, and then follows to find the way out. You say, “All he had was the string. That’s all you need.”
Campbell: That’s all you need – an Ariadne thread.
Moyers: Sometimes we look for great wealth to save us, a great power to save us, or great ideas to save us, when all we need is that piece of string.
Campbell: That’s not always easy to find. But it’s nice to have someone who can give you a clue. That’s the teacher’s job, to help you find your Ariadne thread…
…..This I believe, is the great Western truth (in contrast to the traditional Orient and in all traditionally grounded societies): that each of us is a completely unique creature and that, if we are ever to give any gift to the world, it will have to come out of our own experience and fulfillment of our own potentialities ….something that never has been and never could have been experienced by anyone else.
The next day I wrote an email of my musings to one of the members:
I left last night feeling very grounded in the knowing that we are co-creating a supportive community of practice. The attention and intention given over the last few months – to make explicit our various backgrounds, orientations, lineages – is weaving a magic carpet on which to carry us and our callings to goodness knows where! When I heard the feedback from last month’s meeting, my sense is that we truly began last month…getting the loom prepared and last night now beginning to identify the yarns with which we weave, with all the preceding gatherings being necessary preparation.
It’s an interesting metaphor, started by the telling of Ariadne’s thread, and certainly prominent when I recall all the carpets and weavings I saw in New Mexico…in fact one of my favourite shops was the Taos Weaving Guild (Weaving Southwest)… and from my research of it, sense a history, energy and commitment much like we are working with here. We each come with a thread or yarn – at least one – and as long as we have a strong frame or loom – and a core group of weft and woof threads (I’m digging deep from my textile classes many decades ago!!!), we can tolerate the comings and goings of our members and still go about weaving this most beautiful, though no doubt irregular, yet sufficient and perfect, carpet! Magic carpet, prayer rug…
Next week it’s my turn to co-host our first meeting of this new year. I appreciate continuity and so will plumb deeper this metaphor of thread…yarn…carpet weaving.
Together with my textile artist co-host, we’ll invite each person to choose from the rich and diverse colours and textures of yarn the one(s) symbolic of the substance of self with which they aspire to create this year’s work and service. We’ll provide finger looms so individually they can weave a small sample using their yarns. And as a closing, we’ll bring the pieces together to consider how it is that we weave the world together.
Woven another way…. a favourite poem by William Stafford:
The Way It Is
There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.