Friday Philosophy: Ties that Bind

I wandered the desert of my imagination and the jungle of my confusion this morning, peering into the nooks, looking for some hooks upon which to hang a few garlands of words, an awkward paragraph or twenty, sentences woven together, hopefully into some semblance of meaning.  And with any luck displaying the thoughts forming within, struggling to be given birth.

Being Blogiversary Day I eventually searched some of the olden times.  I discovered 51 essays tagged Friday Philosophy.  But one of them, NpK‘s Riffing off of Robyn, was rather an edition of Friday at 8.  Fifty.  I missed two weeks on the edge of the Mojave.  But the first Friday Philosophy was published before we officially opened, so maybe this is Numero Cinquenta.

Maybe not.  Counting things is an obsession, but it doesn’t rule my life any more.  That first piece after we opened to the public, as well as the first one with the graphic (which is called Occlusion, for anyone who has wondered) was The Closet.

Publishing A Transition through Poetry at Muse in the Morning has a tendency to drag me back through the sixteen years since I began my transition.  How could it not, especially since I have assigned myself the task of providing a little commentary to add flourish and some music in an attempt to evoke a mood?  

It is a time of reflection.

If I was musically inclined, I’d maybe try to write my own score, but instead I rely on my memory of how I felt at the time and my music collection.  And youtube.  Some stuff is just not available and may never be, like so much of the Donavon.

And like buhdy (See here, here, and here, for instance), I have kept coming back to the central issue:  who are We?  What is this “We” thing?

Is there in fact a We to even be concerned about?  And if there is a We for you and you and you…and even you, does it include me?  Are we somehow connected in some manner?  Where in our existences does that connection exist?  Does it slouch in a half-hidden corner, known only when we use the secret handshake, or does it stand tall and proud for all the world to see, regardless of the personal consequences?

What are the ties that bind?  What is it that makes us a community?  And how do we live to make that community more vibrant.  And how does the community remain healthy?

The ties that bind us together.  But there is a different kind of tie.  There are the linkages that connect us, but there are also the ropes which keep us in our place.  That is an image that npk generated in my head with her poem Mores this morning:

Straining against ropes

That bind in poor sweet Nell fashion,

No one can see them

But I feel them,

The knots and hard fibers

Biting into my soft soul.

You should probably go read the whole thing.

We live in a culture extremely conscious of the bonds of convention…shackles from which some of us must struggle to loose ourselves…chains whose purpose often seems to be to pull us apart, to separate the few from the many, to wash away the dregs from The Chosen, manacles whose purpose is to make belonging a function of normative behavior.  What makes me a Liberal, if that’s what you choose to call it, is the knowledge that there are people who would seek control of the definition of “normal” for nothing more than personal gain and political power.  For that reason I will always choose to challenge the meaning of normal.  In comfort lies stagnation of the expansion of the boundaries of what it means to be human.

Ties that bind us produce boundaries.  Do we demand them?  Do we accept them?  Or do we challenge them?

To me, being Liberal means accepting that it is okay for other people to challenge those boundaries…and maybe even being supportive of those challenges.  But I really favor people joining in the challenge.  Many hands may not make the work lighter, but it really does make the mood brighter, and provides some fuel to the soul once in awhile…and builds some of that connective tissue that is a community.

I will seek to ally with people who believe that challenging those boundaries is what we are meant to do during our time on this great wheel.  Perhaps I am doomed…perhaps we all are…to be shaking my head at the struggle between the peoples who only wish control of who gets to decide the definition of normal.

At least that’s the doom of this lifetime…for this one small life force.  But it is also the challenge.


All Aboard

The train pulled in

to the borderland

Beings disembarked

fresh from the city

built a town

a fortress


a replica

of the places

they came from


those things they hated

in the left-behind

Outside those walls

were the Others

pushing back

the Unknown

summoning the uncertainty

the distortion

that is a new boundary

so that once more

the train could move on

to a new borderland

Like the universe

humanity expands

and gravitationally contracts

into clumps

of sameness

ever spreading

further apart

until the border becomes

the edge of the clump

rather than

the edge of humanity

The train pulled in

to the borderland

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–September 12, 2008


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    • Robyn on September 13, 2008 at 00:01

    This does not seem finished.  But that might be because the frontier seems so indistinct.  It might be one of those pieces I am destined to pick at forever.

    Appropriate music?  Maybe one way or another.

    Girl from the North Country

    • Alma on September 13, 2008 at 01:02

    and it stands tall and proud for all the world to see.  🙂


    Many hands may not make the work lighter, but it really does make the mood brighter, and provides some fuel to the soul once in awhile…and builds some of that connective tissue that is a community.

    is beautiful, and I think we’ve done pretty well building that connective tissue.  It may not always go smoothly, but it does keep going, and getting stronger.


  1. that almost everything I’ve done that’s worthwhile in this life is about breaking those ties that keep us in our place.

    Perhaps that’s why the flying metaphor strikes such a chord with me.


  2. … we’re on the same wavelength – I swear I didn’t read this essay till now and mine is complementary to it — not a new occurrence but always a gas, as the old folks would say.

    Just finished diary mining for Election Diary Rescue, I’m part of the team again this go-round.

    What a wonderful essay to come to after doing grunt work.

    Thank you, Robyn.

    • kj on September 13, 2008 at 03:27

    so lovely.  the thoughts, the art, the poem.  so good to come here and sink in such a place.  thank you.  🙂  thoughts about ties and bindings and boundaries.  hmmm….

    • RiaD on September 13, 2008 at 23:56

    thought you’d like this……..

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