Sunday, June 07, 2009

The Weaver's Dilemma

I was talking to my brother the other day and he made an offhand comment that I almost missed. We had been talking about communication and our different approaches to it. I said that I was speaking less during social occasions these days, since (as it seemed to me) whenever I did I seemed to be the target of irritated looks from people. Foremost among those angry glancers were members of my own family.

Well, you're a storyteller he said, not a conversationalist. I shrugged acknowledgement, and returned to the main topic. Suddenly I stopped, as it occurred to me that what he had just said was a huge portion of the problem that I have with interpersonal communications.

I am a storyteller. I communicate in narratives that flow along specific channels in order to reach a point. In order to communicate, I need to follow that stream until it finishes.

To use another metaphor, when I converse I'm like a weaver amongst tailors.

I carefully arrange the threads, the warp and woof of my thought, and create a tapestry. The tailors around me are impatient with the complexity and unconcerned with the subject. They interrupt, their words like shears cut across my work, my story, my meaning as they take small inconsequential pieces and stitch them into a patchwork. They glare as the sound of my loom and shuttle slowly click and clack. They have plenty of leftover scraps. They have no need of this new cloth.

But still, they cut the cloth as it comes from the loom and finally they cut so close that the weave is damaged the loom falls silent and I sit quietly at the table with nothing to contribute. Unlike Penelope, I have no need to unravel my work. That task is done for me.

I sit in silence and listen to the spools of thread whiz by my head, words that could be woven but not by me, or at least not here and now.

In a little while, after those around me have blocked my existence from their minds, I will pick up my loom and go to the small room, walled with books, and set the device back up. I will take the stories I have to tell and I will weave them the way I want. I will use black thread for the borders of the story and the pauses, the ellipses that indicate the twists and turns. I will use red thread for emotional content, green for physical growth, blue for spirituality, or maybe I will mix and match in different ways.

But I will sit alone in my room with my loom and I will weave the stories the way they should be woven. I will finish them and I will hang them whole on my walls.

In the other room the tailors chatter and make cat's cradles with the thread, playing with what I can only perceive as remnants and scraps. They have their art, I have mine. I cannot tell which is the best. I can only turn inward and realize that my weaving is what I do, is who I am, and if I am doomed to live as a weaver among tailors, I will have to get used to silence, solitude and (most painfully) scorn.