A Tantalization of String

comments 30

The string had many ends
protruding wantonly
from its various epicenters
of line, curve and catastrophe,
each one of them meriting
careful study and consideration,
because it seemed very clear
to those who dared to look,
that a string with more than two ends
was surely more than one string,
and thus reducible, though
simultaneously such logic broke apart
upon close examination
of the thing itself.
Because also, the string was routed upon
and through itself in ways
profoundly unreasonable,
such that it also appeared to be continuous,
and to occupy some regions of space
with bristling vector contusions
of coming and going and intersecting
of impenetrable, resplendent density,
while in other areas one could follow,
with the proper magnifiers,
the merest of lines
lackadaisically bisecting existence itself–
always unbroken, free of color
and spanning the silent chasms
that lay like unmapped territories
between thoughts, commercial breaks
and those bunched-up circus riots
of split ends, gyres, and whirly-gigs
already so described.

And so…
the problem of the string was tantalizing.
People untrained in the arts of circumspection,
when confronted by the audacity,
blatant disorder, and unconscionable depth-of-field
of the string’s presence, would often ask,
with a great deal of emotion,

how could this have happened?

And they would deploy logic such as this:
I did the same as I have done
on every other day,
but on this one day in particular
the parked car with flashing lights
forced me to step off the curb
a few feet to the right of my usual
point of departure
and a pothole that had filled with last night’s rain
exploded into my face when a municipal truck
bore across my path like a near death experience
on hardened rubber wheels.

how could this have happened!?

Well of course, the circumspect will offer,
a meteor could have struck the earth
near this location several million years ago,
creating gradations of characteristics in the earth’s crust
that when burdened by a ceaseless convoy
of modern contrivances,
have no option under the laws of this world
but to buckle, crack, yield and splinter.
Then fill with rainwater.

how could THAT have happened?

You can see how this might go on for quite some time…
and all the while, people
are crying out for peace.

Yet there are few willing to be satisfied
by the answer of the String Whisperers,
which I think merits careful reflection
and reads more or less as follows:

There is not just one string.
Nor are there many strings.
What seems to be a knot
cannot be seen to offer resistance,
while what is so obviously a delicate line
is the means by which everything
is held together.

So we are left to conclude that, yes…
the problem of the string is tantalizing,
but best to keep a safe distance,
which I acknowledge is tough to do,
when string is all we are.

* * * * *  And now for a musical diversion * * * * *


  1. Genie says

    The kaleidoscope of strings,
    All together, and yet,
    Each one separate;
    Some strings are woven from
    Transcendental ether,
    Others, from

    Now, a musical interlude:

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Genie,

      Yes, we are woven from a gestalt of the universal and the local– from joy and from struggle both. Thank you for the link, and for the song which I really enjoyed. When all is said and done, we are hungry for the basics– for very simple things like friendship, freedom, and opportunity. It is a nice time here, outside with the birds and my watch cap on my head to keep me warm, to reflect with gratitude on the passion, beauty and grace of the human odyssey…

      Much Love

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says

    Hey friend,
    Ok, this one might take me a little bit. I will get back to you on this. Haha. Maybe need to read it more than 3 times. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ha ha… Yes, this one had a little different subject or tone or something than some others I’ve written lately. I hope it opens up a little for you… I see you wrote more below, so I’ll talk to you more when I join you there… 🙂



  3. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says

    Oh, yay, I can’t always get videos up here, but this one finally came through. Wow! Powerful!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. footloosedon says

    Your piece immediately got me thinking about String Theory, physicists’ attempt to provide a unified theory of everything from relativity to quantum mechanics, including the possibility of multiple universes [see String Theory for Kids (and clever adults) at https://stringtheory4kids.wordpress.com/#_Toc268811025 for a very detailed elaboration of the theory.] In this theory everything in the universe can be thought of as a string. Personally, I’m all tied up in nots just trying to think about it.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Hi Don,

      I’ve read a bit about string theory and I thought of this also after I began writing this piece. This one began with the emotional context of working on a complicated project where many things were not going quite as anticipated, but of course this is entirely normal. But to those who expect or hope for a much more flawless process, it is natural to wonder, how could this have happened? In reflecting on that feeling I saw this idea of a ball of string that clearly couldn’t be a single string, but could never be reduced to individual strings either, and thought it was an intriguing approach. But when I started writing I definitely thought about string theory.

      I like reading about science as you may have gathered, and string theory is one I’m not all that emotionally invested in at present. I think it is fascinating on one level, but on another don’t quite know what to make of it, since to date (to my amateur and not entirely up to date knowledge) the theory hasn’t produced new ideas that can be tested by scientific experiments. It began, I think, with a very simple approach to solving a simple problem… “In the beginning…” quantum physics had “particles” but because they had a finite width across them, relativity theory objected to some of the work of a particle based model because it required information and energy to essentially cross the distance of a particle instantaneously– which would be travel faster than the speed of light. Relativity does not permit that…

      So, to try and marry these two pillars of modern physics, I believe scientists decided to try and treat particles as singular points of essentially zero diameter. This worked very well until you tried to understand what was happening very close to the particles. You can imagine a few equations along the way involving a distance of “zero” ended up dividing by this zero, creating mathematically meaningless statements…

      This was resolved by a calculation approach called “renormalization” that was found to work, and is at the heart of the Standard Model (I believe, again being far from the center of this work). Renormalization is basically a series of steps that are not physically meaningful. It’s like one of those childhood riddles. Start with the age of your father on the day you were born, add 2 pot pies, divide by the square root of your shoe size, and you get the right answer. Renormalization was tested countless times to extreme degrees of precision, and found to work. But physically no one could exactly say why, so to many physicists this was dissatisfying. Paul Dirac himself, who I believe developed the procedure, didn’t agree it was really a good physics answer…

      So the string was introduced because it has a finite length, but it could be coiled up into a really small space. So, it helped solve some math issues, but then to “recover” all the previous predictions of quantum mechanics and relativity theories, it required many more dimensions. It also gave equations that could predict many, many universes whose properties are very different than our own. But if you pick the right parameters, by tuning the knobs to the settings we observe in our universe, then it could be said to be a working model of our universe. But as I said, this also is somewhat complicated, and not all physicists are happy with this model either… And a big reason, as I said, is that it didn’t make any new predictions we could test. Quantum mechanics and relativity theory were amazing because they predicted the behavior we already knew about AND predicted new and unknown behaviors we could look for… and FIND!

      Anyway… blah blah blah… I like to think about these things. String theory is a perfect model in a sense for the basic point of this poem, which is that no matter how we try, we really can’t reduce what’s happening in any moment, or in our lives, to a specific and isolable thread of cause and effect. The causes and the effects are just too interwoven and myriad to be reduced to something we can control…

      Much Love

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi JoAnna,

      Thank you very much! I’m glad you had fun with this one. I really liked the feeling of the idea that we’re always thinking we’re close to understanding exactly what is… but on closer inspection it proves to be otherwise in some way we would never have guessed. And then… we are that… We are ourselves this essence we are staring into all the time– we are also a mystery that never quite falls out into something orderly, linear and explicable… 🙂


      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree with JoAnna. Also, I find your poetry to fire inspiration here on the Cloud, which doesn’t happen often when reading other people’s work. *Smiles* I enjoyed the music as well as the words by the way.

        – Esme upon the Cloud

        Liked by 2 people

        • Hello Esme!

          Thank you for dropping by and for such wondrous sentiments. I find the Cloud to always be inspirational and provocative, so if I am able to reciprocate it is an honor indeed.


          Liked by 1 person

  5. I am watching from beyond looking in as my mind follows the twists and turns, the ins and outs as the string pulls me in like a universal tug of war, and I let the thoughts go like a balloon at the end of a shining twirled string as it floats higher until out of view. I know it’s there somewhere, I just know in the releasing it shall join the skies untethered.

    Liked by 6 people

    • What a beautiful response, Kim. This is it… Letting our perceptions drift off into the sky, or dissolve into the mystery of it all, which somehow leaves us standing in an even more intimate connection with with the joyously inexplicable! We can feel it. We are it. But we can’t really describe or elucidate what that is… And yet it is the most profound knowledge we possess…

      Have a great Thanksgiving!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, I often think I am alone in my thoughts on things, it seems the more I let go, the more I get it…but don’t you find it hard at times to know or feel there are so few who do? I thank you for his lovely comment, I always feel so much energy when I read your works, I am thankful for you my friend and have a lovely holiday. Looking forward to four days off straight, a lot of catching up on reading and writing…peace, K

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This is excellent Michael, and I mean that by your own standards, which means it is rather beyond excellent by most other standards. My own last post about what many call the ‘via negativa’ – the negation of phenomena as inherently, part or wholly, one’s being or self or god – has very strong parallels with this current work of yours.

    In a sense, that ‘way of negation’ is to view each phenomenon, as it stretches out in time, however briefly, as a piece of string with two ends: a beginning and an ending. And if a phenomenon has an ending, then it cannot be the enduring ‘me’ I imagine to exist. And yet it is in another way. It is the glimpse of a section of string which itself has neither beginning nor ending.

    In the East, the analytically reductionist phrase, as I think you know, is ‘Neti-neti’, meaning ‘not this, not this’ – again a way of negation. If I apprehend a phenomenon, it is never ‘me’, and I come to see that all percepts, meaning all phenomena, are not ‘me’, not the ‘self of me’. And yet they are in some yet-to-be-understood sense. Again, each percept is a momentary creation in the mind of a finite experience, one with a beginning and an ending, and whilst the rational mind reasons that each therefore cannot constitute the enduring ‘self of me’, and that I am obviously not a percept and therefore not perceivable, they ultimately are also not, not me! And two negatives, as all we all know (etc.).

    How is it so that they are not, not me? Because my conception of self, and of what I am, is erroneous in the first place. I am not a ‘length of string’ stretching out in linear time from the 1950’s to whenever, only an aggregation of bodily cells is, and even that is not true in the strictest sense, as they constantly replace one another. So, I am neither a percept to be apprehended, nor a body to be lived and die as. What am I? Impossible to say, but something like a knot in an endless length of string might come close.

    Great work my friend, and please excuse my tangential ramblings,


    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, Hariod, for such an insightful reply. I haven’t really spent much time grappling with the ‘Neti neti’ teaching you mention so directly, and it was helpful to me to walk through it alongside of you. The feeling that emerged– of a perception not being me, but also of that which I perceive not not being me– was that same vertiginous feeling I had in writing this piece and stumbling into contact with an awareness that I could neither claim as mine, nor separate myself from… These moments when the intellectual faculties are briefly satisfied, and drop away, and the pure feeling or awareness of it is all that is left, feel like the closest encounters possible to… to what? …to the nature of things. There’s not even a good way to end that sentence… 🙂

      Thank you for the feedback on the work as well, which is much appreciated as always.

      A dimensionless field of inexplicably contented feelings offered to you, my friend–

      Liked by 2 people

  7. “The problem of the string is tantalizing, but best to keep a safe distance”
    Yes, you are right, sometimes it may be best not to think too much. Choosing inner peace seems to be the only thing that matters. Even if that is hard to do.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hello Karin,

      I agree both that it is the only real alternative we have… and that it is not always easily done! This is why it is good to have a few compassionate and wise friends around to relieve us of our self-imposed chiding when we stumble… And to continue the practice of being such a friend when the chips are down… Another not always easy practice…!

      Much Love

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Michael, I enjoy reading your writing so much, it’s fun to read the first time, the second time, and I love how I connect, how I get pulled along and often pulled through. Peace, Harlon

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you very much, Harlon! You mentioned one thing I forgot, which is the string is composed of grace itself and will always pull us through! Ha! Always a pleasure to connect my friend. Hope all is well, and the knots are succumbing to close inspection and dissolving along your path…

      Peace to you also–

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says

    Seems like as we cry out for peace, we are all tied up in knots. But the knot offers no resistance. String is all we are, and not one string, but many. “And how could THAT have happened?” is like resisting reality, fighting with reality, instead of just being with what is and peacefully working with all the various epicenters of line, curve and catastrophe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beautiful summary, Mary… Thank you for adding what feels like a lived and “felt” response to the feelings that went into this piece. I agree that the question is a resistance, and here I was trying to point to the way we resist by trying to either understand what we didn’t control, or to identify the ensemble of “external” parties or forces who are to blame for disturbing our tiny little section of string we would love to keep “knotless”… In the end, we can only meet what is on the terms that are offered, and accept the wonder and beauty of what could never truly be disentangled…

      Which leads me back to physics… and entanglement… Ha!

      Much Love


  10. ” the string whisperers ” …wow Michael , you are so brilliant , so bewitching ! The way in which your words intersect heart and mind so beautifully . I especially like the thought of that ” meteor “at a certain location with the ability to change everything . And my favorite line is ” for those who dared to look ” … You inspire such courage my very dear friend …thank you for always shaking the earth upon which I walk ….love always , megxxx
    P.s. ….I’m a knitter and every new sweater begins with a yarn from the previous sweater and so ” all is one ” somehow in a strange sort of way ….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Meg. I particularly enjoyed hearing about your knitting practice, and how one creation is linked to the next, so that they are all part of a common flow or thread. Something about that seemed really beautiful to me, and “just right.”

      And yes, of course there are the string whisperers– the ones who’ve come to accept the string(s) and all of their twists and turns, and in their acceptance are able to become the knots and dissolve them… Such beings are my heroes!

      Blessings from this tin can, to yours, along the endless string…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Ka,

      Happy Thanksgiving to you also. I’m equally grateful for our blogging connection, and look forward very much to the “winding down” of the rather large working-life knot I’m traveling– it’s a bit like that Space Mountain roller coaster Hariod described recently somewhere that I read in the past week or so– and catching up on the work I’ve been missing.

      Blessings to you and yours as well–
      Have a lovely day!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow, Michael, this one blew me away. So excellent! Liked it a lot. The first part really reminds me of us here watching a ball of water snakes all curled up together, trying to figure out how many there are. 🙂 And to add to the confusion, there were branches that looked like snakes, and one snake was shedding too. At least with snakes, you can just count the heads to get the idea. And most interestingly, when we watched the snake shedding, the other knotty ones seemed to be holding the shedding one to help it out to wiggle of the old skin. The whole system they had was just perfectly working even when it looked very knotty and suspicious. 🙂
    I am so looking forward to browsing through more of your writing. Thank you so much for putting this wonderful gift of yours out to the world!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Kristina,

      Thank you very much! This one came when I was in the midst of a pretty challenging assignment– working through weekends and nights on a project where things seemed always to be going sideways. The client would ask how we could be in this situation… I realized untangling cause can be an impossible task!

      I love the observation of the snakes. I’ve never seen anything like that before, but it sounds like a cooperative venture. I can just imagine the snakes writhing together in the water– an indiscernible mass of coiled skin and movement. That is a perfect analogy for the images that were coming to mind here.

      And thank you for taking the time to explore. I really appreciate it! It is a gift that you give, to match the gift you have found… We help one another shed these old skins…


      Liked by 2 people

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