Warp and Weft

A man, a rug, and a warped view of life

BY: Ptolemy Tompkins

 

Continued from page 1

In contrast to this way of looking at the fabric of life, said Tyrrell, is the view that sees the warp--the fibers running at right angles to the weft--as the ones to follow. The perspective of the weft, he wrote, “deflects interest away from individuals to bestow it on the race. But there is another human race--a race of travelers whose members are permanent but whose habitat changes. If human personality is real, and not the accidental flash of a moment, there is a humanity which is passing through this world along the warp of life, bound on a journey which is fraught with an importance compared with which the most vital interests of the world of the weft are but as trifles… The suffering, the disasters, the tragedies, the waste of time and life and effort which the actual world presents are accidents involving sheer loss when seen in the perspective of the weft. Seen along the warp they indeed remain dangers, but they are no longer blind destroyers. For, let them do their worst, the personality is a continuous thing which stands firm and indestructible; and not only indestructible, but, if the reaction be right, it stands to gain immensely from the very fierceness of the ordeal.”

I glanced back down at the carpet and focused now not on a single “warp” fiber running at a right angle to the “weft” lines of fiber I was looking at before. Following it as it rose and dipped, traveling along the length of the carpet past one “warp” fiber after another, I imagined that that thread of carpet was me: the real, true, deeper “me” that was living the events of my life without being completely defined by them. Each weft fiber that my symbolic warp fiber crossed constituted an event in my life, just as it had before, but now something absolutely critical had changed. Day after day, one event followed another: some good, some bad, and some indifferent. But none of those events really defined the person--the more-than-simply-earthly being--that I truly am. Not only was that more-than-earthly being not defined by the earthly things that happened to it, it also didn’t come to a halt when the lines signifying the events of this present life ran out. It would continue on, past the final “weft” fiber that represented my death; the pattern would continue.

What really struck me, sitting there on that couch with Tyrrell’s book in my hand and my sister’s rug in front of me, was that in both of these two very different ways of looking at the fabric of existence, it was the same fabric that one was looking at. Life itself doesn’t change when we stop being “weft” people, when we stop seeing ourselves as purely physical beings totally defined and contained by the events of this present life. The good stuff that happens to us is still good, and the bad stuff that happens is still bad. But by making that all-important shift in focus that Tyrrell suggests--by going from a focus on the weft to a focus on the warp – the meaning of those events changes completely. By taking what you might call a warped view of the world, we see it, at last, in its true clarity.

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