First, as promised, the poem for the more spiritually-minded:
Life is But the Weaving (The Tapestry Poem) by Corrie Ten Boom
My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget he sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ‘til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing the truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.
The idea of life as a tapestry, a needlepoint, or a cross stitch isn’t particularly novel, but for some reason I had either (a) never heard of it or (b) never registered hearing about it until recently. I heard about it at church and it just resonated with me. It was one of those days when you sit there in the pew, certain that the priest/pastor/rabbi/whatevs is looking straight at you, into your soul, and telling you the-exact-thing-you-absolutely-must-hear-at-this-moment. It made me think about all those times I’ve ranted and raved about this, that, or the other thing only to find out later that it was just a necessarily dark thread in a much bigger and more beautiful picture. Something I couldn’t have imagined, something I didn’t think I wanted, but something I, in fact, needed.
If religion/spirituality isn’t your thing, I totally get that. And I can speak your language too, because science, you see, is my mother tongue. That’s where I’m really fluent and that’s where I feel most comfortable. (Writing in medical-ese is my day job!) So, when I think about this concept, this tapestry thing, in more scientific terms, two ideas come to mind:
1) Schrodinger’s (someday I’ll learn how to add a diaresis above the o, sorry Schrodinger, friend!) theory of quantum entanglement, or what Einstein (rather jerkily, actually) dubbed spooky action at a distance. While Einstein’s intent was definitely not kind, I actually like the phrase spooky action at a distance. It sounds so… Halloween-style fun, doesn’t it? Anyway, in very, very rough terms, this is the concept that two particles that share a quantum state can never truly be separated even if they are no longer in the same vicinity. That is to say, if you know something about the one particle, you automatically know something about the other particle because they are inextricably and forever linked. Inextricably. And forever. And since every atom in your body has at one point in the history of time been a part of something else– a stick of gum, a bumblebee, a dinosaur, a blade of grass, a distant star– it’s hard not to believe that all of these things, all of us on this earth, all of us in the universe, are somehow, at least in some small, quark-scale way, connected. (As a side note: I’m pretty sure most of my atoms come from dinosaurs.)
2) Or, in slightly more simple, Newtonian-physics, equal-and-opposite-reaction terms: the butterfly effect. Like the movie. Like the phrase, “a butterfly flaps its wings in China…” you get the rest.
Of course, if you’re like me, all of these ideas– spiritual, religious, scientific, and proverbial– appeal to you. In that case, I would highly recommend Thank God for Evolution by the Reverend Michael Dowd… it’s a great read! The way he blends science, spirituality, religion… the universe… it’s beautiful and makes such lovely sense. I really enjoyed it. (Thanks, Dad!)
Regardless of how you want to think about, it’s hard not to believe, for me anyway, that the things that happen to us and the things that happen because of us don’t happen in a world that revolves around us. (Double negatives much? I’m leaving it…) Therefore, the implications, the ramifications, the causes and the effects, the bigger picture, is really something we can’t entirely wrap our heads around. No matter how much we think a decision through, there will always be consequences we can’t anticipate. No matter how much we analyze something, there may always be a cause we can’t even imagine.
That’s not so say that planning and analysis, careful consideration of causes and effects, can’t be beneficial. But it is to say that there’s more to this world, this life, than we can really comprehend. I’ve only very, very recently, and very, very inconsistently found the ability to sit back and put a little bit of faith into the idea that the whole, big picture, the one I am completely incapable of comprehending at this moment, is exactly what it’s meant to be.
So, back to the analogy of the tapestry… sometimes the threads are chosen for us, sometimes we get to pick out a strand or two. Sometimes we think we know what comes next better than the “weaver,” but perhaps that’s not the case. And the more I think about it, the more I find reasons to be grateful for the blessings in disguise and the silver linings that seem to line even the darkest of clouds.
Finally, I promised some pictures. My mom recently taught me to embroider, and I’m pretty psyched… but as in life, the back side is not so pretty.
Of course, if you’re like my mother-in-law at cross stitch or my friend Ellen at embroidery, even the back looks good:
But that’s the idea. In words, of the garden and medical variety, and in pictures, of the messy and the so-good-it-hurts variety. The underside’s not so bad, but the underside doesn’t make nearly as much sense. It’s that picture on top, that story we tell when the whole thing comes together, that makes life beautiful.
9 thoughts on “Life is But the Weaving… and Spooky Action at a Distance”
I’m so glad you have finally found the topside. From where I sit, the view is lovely! I am so fortunate to have partnered to begin three simple tapestries that continue to be woven into masterpieces by life, learning, and love.
I learned this lesson the hard way a couple of years ago. It completely changed my outlook on life, and I have to say, I’m a lot happier now.
P.S. I like to think most of my atoms were once chocolate 🙂
Lara, this comment absolutely THRILLS me! I’m so glad you are happy. What you are doing is AMAZING. Seriously. It’s SO hard to un-brainwash after grad school, isn’t it? But life is much, much better after that purge. I love that you are doing things you love!!!
Rachel- Now this is getting weird. I’m going to send you a message but suffice it to say I got confused reading this b/c I thought I wrote it. I love this.
Well written, Rachel! I find it fascinating that our minds are making this up as we go along. Our minds are interpreting all this information “out there” and creating a framework of reality. I had read somewhere (Scientific American, maybe) that bees can see ultraviolet light and so flowers appear to them almost like an archery target so they can zero in. So what is more real, the way we see flowers or the way bees see flowers? Or are flowers just a construct of the observer?
Love it, dad! That article was definitely in Scientific American… I read it at your house! I also read an excellent article about how dinosaurs mate in Scientific American at your houses. I really should subscribe.
Cory Ten Boom is amazing. I think I read The Hiding Place when I was younger, but I should revisit it. Also, I didn’t know what diaeresis is; thanks for teaching me a new word! (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/04/the-curse-of-the-diaeresis.html). BUT you were wrong; Schrödinger has an umlaut (which may be possible to type with ALT+0246). I’ll be working my way through your posts, not to correct your use of diaeresis/umlaut, but because I love them!
Crap! I even looked it up and STILL used it wrong– Wiki led me astray, I very much appreciate the reference to the New Yorker. And Schrödinger (well lookie there! ALT+0246 works!! thanks again!) was German, so it makes sense that he’d have an umlaut. Now I learned something new!!!
Would love to cross stitch this poem. Where can I buy cross stitch pattern?