Sunday, October 01, 2006

When the Yarn Breaks

When I learned how to spin, my teacher Louise did something I did not appreciate at the time. In the second or third class, after we had spent some time practicing the very basics of adding twist to fiber and could make a basic join if we had to, she made us intentionally break off our fiber supply from the forming yarn and then join back on again. We did this every yard or so for most of a bobbin. I remember feeling inexplicably resentful as I did this exercise, thinking that my teacher was wrecking a whole bobbin of my (free with very inexpensive class fee) yarn I was trying to make. I felt this way because up until that point I had dreaded having to join when the yarn broke or I got to the end of a length of roving. I knew that whenever I plyed my earliest spinning the singles tended to break at the joins I had made. So because I was not good at joins, and it was difficult for me to make a good join, up until that point I had avoided them as much as possible. Louise made me face them, and do them over and over, until I could make a good solid join that did not break. She also taught me that when I got a thin bit in the yarn I was spinning, which would most likely break at some later point because it was weaker than the yarn surrounding it, I could choose to break off my fiber supply and join just ahead of the thin bit, drafting back over it thus adding enough fiber to make it just as thick and strong as the rest of my yarn.

At the beginning of the two year "Crossways" bible class I recently completed, my teacher Sue told us that she had really been struck by a passage in a book by a Christian author she respected, in which he stated "Life is supposed to be hard" and the sooner you accept that the sooner you can properly cope with what life throws at you. I felt the same sort of indignant resentment I felt when Louise made me break off my yarn on purpose. Although I've always known that Sue is a very wise woman, I did not appreciate her words until fairly recently. Life before the fall may have been meant to be easy, but not since then.

Four or five years ago I read two of Wally Lamb's novels. They are excellent stories, and both follow main characters whose lives become, over most of the course of the novel, much harder than mine has ever been. I read both as audio books, and at the end of "I Know This Much is True" the reader interview Mr. Lamb about the novel, his life, and his writing. When asked why his characters went through such amazing difficulties, and why it was the hardest part of their lives that Lamb wanted to focus on, he said something pretty interesting. He did write about characters who faced much greater hardships than he ever had. He hoped he never would go through what they did. But if he had written about characters who always had everything go their way, we never would have found out what they were really like, or how strong they were. He felt his characters were most interesting and engaging as they struggled. It wasn't hardship and suffering that made them interesting, but what they became as they coped and came through the most difficult events of their lives that made them worth writing and reading about.

I think this is why I view his novels, which in synopsis may sound very depressing, as being really very positive.

I recently had about a five year span in my life that went very smoothly. It might look uneventful to some, but my difficulties were small and easily solved or endured, and I was quite happy with that arrangement. Over the past two years things have been a little tougher, and I often feel that resentment again, because I believed that life was meant to be as it was before the fall. As I watch the yarn break I'm learning that life may have been meant to be perfect before the inevitable fall but once we fell the intention changed. The solution wasn't to restore humanity to it's garden of Eden innocence, thereby avoiding the problem. The answer is to solve the problems, not avoid or rewrite them. That act of salvation for humanity involved more suffering than I ever wish to know.

In the fallen world I live in, I do have to keep facing my problems; I can't avoid them, and don't really get to be indignant about them because Sue was right. Life is supposed to be hard. It's supposed to challenge me.

And the yarn full of joins? It held together. Thanks to Louise, my joins are strong. I've learned that breaks and joins are just as much a part of making yarn as drafting and adding twist. I can now reap great enjoyment and relaxation from the whole process, and consider my spinning a source of solace, joins and all, when the rest of life has gotten me down with it's trials.


Romanadvoratrelundar said...

So because I was not good at joins, and it was difficult for me to make a good join, up until that point I had avoided them as much as possible. Louise made me face them, and do them over and over, until I could make a good solid join that did not break.

I really like your story/metaphor, and this is a lesson that is close to my heart. Avoiding avoidance is the main skill I hope to improve.

*insertion of inarticulate mention of Buddha and the fourth truth's cessation of suffering still meaning that life requires effort*

robb said...

All through my recent trials I had one great overriding dread-- that I would come through all this completely unchanged.

I'm not sure that, for me, life's tribulations are the only path to strength but it's one sure way to test our strength, our faith, our humanity...