I am working on a theory. It is about points and lines and balls of string. It is about connections and dimensions and the way we get along.
I don’t fly a lot but when I do it is a marathon. Twice a year now for 14 years from the US to South Africa. Johannesburg to Boston and back again.
Usually I land somewhere along the east coast and then make my way up to Boston. Sometimes it’s New York, sometimes Washington, sometimes Atlanta. On the commuter flights going north the passengers are collections of points. Business types. Used to be they shook open a newspaper for the couple or three hours. Now they pop open their laptops, or work their phones. The flight is quiet, bit like a library or a club or a morgue. Even when the planes sit on the runway waiting for tower gods to answer our prayers, each of the passengers sits in silence, reserved, complete. Perfect points on a common plane.
Every once in a while I have connected westward going back to visit Claire’s family in Saint Louis. Then we flew into Chicago for the last leg of the long haul. Chicago in the summer, it is not unusual to be held up on the runway for hours while thunderstorms roll by.
The passengers on these planes arrange themselves comfortably. They settle right in like it was a neighbour’s kitchen or a Sunday afternoon block party. They swap recipes, discuss the best way from here to there and generally get all connected.
I listen in to snippets of conversations,
“Now my cousins”
“My Auntie Jane”
“Hey you must know,”
These passengers are like a kitchen drawer full of saved bits of string and they just can’t resist getting all tangled up in living.
Points and lines are separate. Points can be stacked in parallel planes. Points can be connected by a line but they are like train stations then, something one passes through. They remain, singular. Discrete. Alone.
In philosophy class, back when I gave college a try, we read Hume or Hobbes, some such 18th century thinker dude, he came up with the idea of monads and likened our own existence to a unit of individuality, self-contained, distinct, and forever locked away within. Points.
When I think about that time and the class, I recall the professor liked to talk about how much he enjoyed cherry pie with beer even though it made him sick afterwards. How is hair was fashionably long and wild. How he invited some of the class along for supper at his place. How I was never included. How one of the women who went was expelled a few months later for plagiarism in his class. How years later I read poetry he'd written.
The memories bump and jostle against one another.
Monads of existence? I think not. I think we are string.
String can be rolled oh neat into a ball, tied onto with a strong sheet bend or a sure-to-slip-under-stress square knot. On that plane on the runway in Chicago lives interconnected, so that ideas, events and characters became a jumble of connected existence rolled up on itself like a length of string jammed in my pocket or stuffed in the kitchen junk-drawer.
Humanity as string, a much more cozy relationship with reality and connection. Instead of perfectly splendid isolation string theory wonders when our paths will cross again.