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The Holder of Strings

"Beauty and the Beast", Hilary Knight (1961 -), American

"THE Father of the eye, the Wise in spirit, created both these worlds submerged in fatness. Then when the eastern ends were firmly fastened, the heavens and the earth were far extended. Mighty in mind and power is Visvakarman, Maker, Disposer, and most lofty Presence. Their offerings joy in rich juice where they value One, only One, beyond the Seven Ṛṣis. Father who made us, he who, as Disposer, knoweth all races and all things existing, Even he alone, the Deities' narne-giver, him other beings seek for information. To him in sacrifice they offered treasures,—Ṛṣis of old, in numerous troops, as singers, Who, in the distant, near, and lower region, made ready all these things that have existence. That which is earlier than this earth and heaven, before the Asuras and Gods had being,— What was the germ primeval which the waters received where all the Gods were seen together? The waters, they received that germ primeval wherein the Gods were gathefed all together. It rested set upon the Unborn's navel, that One wherein abide all things existing. Ye will not find him who produced these creatures: another thing hath risen up among you. Enwrapt in misty cloud, with lips that stammer, hymn-chanters wander and are discontented." - Rig Veda, Book X, Hymn LXXXII: Visvakarman

Stories have a unique appeal to us and they follow us throughout different cultural contexts we as a humanity find ourselves in. Imagining the past, we often picture our ancestors sitting around a bonfire, telling stories and myths - a thing we still do when we go camping. Stories captivate us in a written form, and in our, modern times, they captivate us through all kinds of motion pictures, and even interactive video games. Stories seem to reveal something essential to us - some common truth or wisdom that seemed to escape our perception, some patterns of human behaviour or psychology that now, following a story or following a character's inner logic, makes more sense to us. A story as such is almost a replica of the physical world we live in, yet the experiences or the events are heightened, revealing to us some underlining truths about our own selves. Such story serves as a mirror to us - an illusion, a fabrication that essentially teaches us the truth.

The Rig Veda hymn above is dedicated to Visvakarman, the Ultimate Reality, from whose navel the whole world emerges. Maya/Illusion is one of his sons. In India, there is a caste called Sutradhars, who are carpenters believed to be descended from Maya. Sutradhar, translated from Sanskrit, literally means "the thread holder" or "the string holder" - the word is also used to denote a storyteller of classical Sanskrit. Sutradhar is, as such, the bridge between the two worlds. The storyteller's world is the world of Illusions, yet at the same time, the storyteller is the holder & messenger of truth. A beautiful story captivates and hypnotises, pulling us deeper within itself, but it is the story's inner, hidden, essence that shows us the truth, if we are perceptive enough to catch it.


She Who was Saved by Storytelling

"Scheherazade", Louis Icart (1888 - 1950), French

"A conscious attempt to fall asleep is sure to produce insomnia, to try to be conscious of one’s own digestion is a sure way to upset the stomach. Consciousness is a poison when we apply it to ourselves. Consciousness is a light directed outward. It’s like the headlights on a locomotive—turn them inward and you’d have a crash. So what will happen to your consciousness? Your consciousness, yours, not anyone else’s. Well, what are you? There’s the point. Let’s try to find out. What is it about you that you have always known about yourself? Your kidneys? Your liver? Your blood vessels? No. However far back you go in your memory, it is always in some external, active manifestation of yourself that you come across your identity - in the work of your hands, in your family, in other people. And now listen carefully. You in others - this is your soul. This is what you are. This is what your consciousness has breathed and lived on and enjoyed throughout your life - your soul, your immortality, your life in others. And what now? You have always been in other and you will remain in others. And what does it matter to you if later on that is called your memory? This will be you - the you that enters the future and becomes a part of it. And now one last point. There is nothing to fear." - "Doctor Zhivago", Boris Pasternak

Scheherazade is probably the most famous storyteller - there are a few of those who do not know the story of the cruel Sultan who takes women only to kill them & the one who saves herself through the magic of her storytelling. The Sultan is the inner fire within each of us - the fire that burns with the mightiest of powers yet fails to manifest itself externally. The fire that fails to be born is like a baby that will not come out & in the agony, burns both itself & the mother. When we fail to extend beyond our own limitations, we fail to recognise any part of ourselves in the world - the world becomes an alienated, disconnected place that offers no consolation. We burn in this fire, and sometimes the fire takes the form of rage or power complex.

"The Odalisques with Sultan", Émile Friant (1863 – 1932), French

Scheherazade is the saviour of herself, but also of the Sultan within. She is intelligent and perceptive so she knows that in order to save her life, the appeal to human concern or sentiment will not do - for how could one appeal to that which the Sultan has repeatedly demonstrated not to possess? She also knows that she cannot fight a physical fight or attempt to be the one to kill him instead - she is in a weaker position, completely at the mercy of the powers around her and any attempt of a combat would result in death. She also knows that there is no point in attempting to seduce him or try to prove herself different than other women who have been there before her - he would likely be insulted & her fate would be the same like that of others.

She did know though that the only way to neutralise the internal power is to externalise it - the very thing Sultan was doing, the only difference being that instead of that power being absorbed by death, it is now reflected by a mirror. The Sultan may be captivated by a story, wanting to hear the end, but the end never comes - she becomes not the death, but the eternal storyteller, the eternal power in its manifestation, and he becomes not the fire that swallows the world and himself with it, but rather the one for whose sake the story exists. Perhaps, one day, our Sultan tires of the story & dares to look at the Storyteller: "And when the long debauch has reached its end I saw the Sultan in a glass, grown old, While his fair wife, her tales all told, Smiled at him fondly: "O my dearest friend," Said she: "You were my master from the first, Release me now. I would refresh My Soul in that cold fountain which the flesh Knows not. Grant this, for I am faint with thirst." And he: "But it is I who was your slave. Free me, I pray, to go in search of joys Uninterpreted by your soft, high voice, Along the stony path that senses pave." Weeping, they tenderly embraced and went Their ways. She and her fictions soon were one He slept with no moon, woke in blinding sun, Too late to ask her what the tale had meant."

- "The 1002nd Night", James Merrill


The Navel of the Story

"Egypt", Maxfield Parrish (1870 – 1966), American

"And the night was alive and anhungered of life as a tiger from toils cast free:

And a rapture of rage made joyous the spirit and strength of the soul of the sea.

All the weight of the wind bore down on it, freighted with death for fraught:

And the keen waves kindled and quickened as things transfigured or things distraught.

And madness fell on them laughing and leaping; and madness came on the wind:

And the might and the light and the darkness of storm were as storm in the heart of Ind.

Such glory, such terror, such passion, as lighten and harrow the far fierce East,

Rang, shone, spake, shuddered around us: the night was an altar with death for priest." - "A Channel Crossing", Algernon Charles Swinburne The Storyteller, The Holder of Strings & Threads, just like the Vedic deity, creates from the navel. A navel, on a human body, is a tiny, knotty depth that was caused by the act of becoming separate from the mother. Still, the little knot is also a reminder that once we were not separate and that we were connected to her, as one may imagine, with a thread made of flesh and blood. The navel holds the memory of what was before the separation. The cosmic navel from which everything arose is also the knot in which everything is non-separate - just like the hymn says: the gods, the asuras & everything else are brought together there. The Storyteller is only the Holder of Strings when the navel is accessible to them. Otherwise, it is just a random lining up of phenomena and events. Many try to tell stories, and many stories are told, yet not every story captivates. Not every story comes from the navel, but one should not worry about it. For the story that does come from the navel, is the story that you will be able to recognise, for it will be about you, including the you that is hidden from your own self.


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