String Theory

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For a moment, try to imagine a rope that has become a bit frayed. Not just at the ends, but at a spot in the middle. The strands that twist and hold to each other have found a way to loosen up enough that you can distinguish them from each other, even poke things in between them. If you pull on the rope from either end, it still works like a rope. If you whip the rope around, it still flails mostly like you'd expect a rope too. But if you grab one of the strands in the frayed spot and pull, you might start fraying it more. With some careful effort and destructive intent, you could probably fray the whole rope working out from the weakened middle.

Sometimes, I think society is like that. We're each strands in this rope of human progress and experience. One end is our future, the other is our past, and as we live chronologically we coil around each other to form a braided rope we call culture and society. For the most part, we lend each other structure and strength so that we may all accomplish more than we could on our own. But like the frayed rope, there are times when the strands aren't so closely bonded. You can lose touch with the people that used to be close to you, you can grow apart from the people you care about, you can be divided my someone or something poking into the rope to separate you. Before long, you can find yourself feeling very alone and isolated. Seeing the strands you are used to coiling with spread out and bunched up with other strands can make your own strand feel far away from the rope.

But that's an illusion! A frayed strand is still just as integral to the rope as any other. It still comes from the rope, and returns to the rope, it's just a little out of shape. It still holds weight when pulled, it still twists and flails with the rope. Likewise, a person feeling isolated and alone is still a part of the social society. Their history is part of society's history, and their future will be part of society's future too. Don't be fooled into thinking that a frayed perspective makes you any less a part of the whole system. Too look at the space between strands as permanent and insurmountable is to give up on the rope entirely, and to forget that ropes tend to pull taut under pressure. Chances are, if you're frayed, there are other frayed strands near you, often for the same reason. Most people wish they were closer with their friends and loved ones. Most people feel underappreciated or overlooked. Most people feel like they're on the outside looking in, at least from time to time. If you see a bunch of frayed strands around you, try not to see it as a personal failing, instead try to find a way to twist a few frayed strands back together. You might not be able to pull tight with the strands you're most familiar with, but strands that twist together become braids, and braids have a funny way of winding up as rope before long.

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