Magic Fire Mountain is the monthly newsletter from Adam Burk + Co. This month’s newsletter is created by Hugh Weber. Hugh Weber is a researcher, network theorist, storyteller, community organizer, design advocate, and small town kid. After working in over thirty states as a political consultant, Hugh returned to his home state of South Dakota in 2006 to see if his expertise and experience, often used to wedge communities apart, could be used to bring people together. His story in this month’s newsletter reminds us of the invisible connections that we don’t see until we start paying attention.
RED STRINGS OF DESTINY
by Hugh Weber
Years ago, I read a certain Japanese legend that speaks of the connections that we don’t see, the red strings of destiny that connect us to what will matter most. Now, I never much cared for myths and rarely even read fiction, but there’s something in this particular story that I find resonates deeply for me.
You see, the myth is built around this matchmaker of sorts - in many traditions, he’s literally connecting soulmates, but in the version that I’ve read, he’s connecting people that will share a story together. Regardless of time, place, circumstance, they will come together in an unbreakable, shared destiny. This matchmaker, who lives on the moon, dips down into humanity and ties a single, red thread to the pinky finger of one and through time and space connects the other end to the kindred spirit and fellow traveller who will complete the story.
Why the pinky? Good question. It appears that the pinky is the most ulnar of the fingers and traces back through the ulnar artery indirectly and ultimately to the heart. Our moon-based, matchmaker is connecting us to another thatfulfills our story at a heart-level. Now, I’m not at all confident of the science of all this, but let’s not let it slow us down.
Thinking about the power of pinkies inevitably pushes me towards the pinky promise, the most solemn of swears. This tradition, which I foolishly assumed to be American in origin, may have started in Japan as the yubikiri….or the “finger cut-off.” Yeah, this gets intense for a second. You see, at some point in the past, the pinky promise included a vow:
"Finger cut-off, ten thousand fist-punchings, whoever lies has to swallow a thousand needles.”
Sorry for the tangent, and a particularly dark one at that, but alas to love me is to know that a story will follow its own path to get to the destination. And, this one is just getting started.
So, to summarize, we’re tied at a heart-level to the shared story with another who, where, why, when and how we don’t yet know. And, this extended connection - preordained by the matchmaker in themoon - is the cosmic version of a pinky promise supreme punishable by ten thousand fist-punchings.
I, for one - and perhaps only one, am completely reassured.
And, this leads me to recommend a book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Professor Yuval Noah Harari. It deserves note that this is a book I’ve never read, which might seem particularly cavalier, but it has been recommended so many times by so many brilliant people in my life that I feel comfortable offering the same to you. But, I’m not asking you to join a book club. I’m bringing it up for a purpose. The central argument of this book is that humans - sapiens - have come to dominance in the world because they are the only animals that can cooperate with any flexibility at scale. We owe this ability to a single truth - our cognitive ability to believe deeply in things that exist only in our imagination - complete fictions.
But, what myths do we as a collective - the enlightened and scientifically informed - still believe. I mean, beyond monetary systems, national boundaries, and human rights. We still believe in human rights, right? Is equity non-negotiable?
I spent the weekend in alternating states of disbelief, discouragement, distress, and debilitating despair. I watched as men like me shouted hatred in the public square. Like a belligerent group ofpreteens rejecting the gifts that come through the shared fiction of Santa, these men proudly and violently denied the shared destiny that comes through our long-held, sacred beliefs in humanity, created equal. These men like me shouted “blood and soil” - last used to celebrate the virtuosity of the German farmer in a battle for racial purity - hit a little too close to home.
I’m three generations removed from men who hung robes and hoods in their North Dakota closets in between their use to terrorize "the impure of heart and faith." I’m three generations detached from men who claimed land from a government that didn’t own it and had committed a genocide in order to maintain it. I’ve played my part in electing men and women who find it politically expedient to criticize injustice rather than condemnit, and name one flavor of extremism while ignoring another.
These are stories that I didn’t start, but I do get to be part of finishing.
It was only in remembering the red string that I found rest and resolve. I allowed myself to imagine that I am on the other end of the string from the hate-filled. Not pleasant, but it filled me with possibility. I considered what actions I might take to change the narrative. I’m giving my platform and privilege to those that need it where I can. And, I’m questioning the unquestionable in other spheres. I also remembered that this means I have strings that run directly to the hearts of each of you. And, perhaps, I have the power to tie some strings of my own.
I believe that we’re created equal. I believe that the future can be more equitable. I believe that the universe bends towards justice. I believe in a society that creates beauty and possibility together. It all seems like fiction today, but believing in shared myth is, after all, what makes us uniquely human.
Will you believe it with me?
But more than that, I want to speak up and speak out even if I stumble in my words. I want to step back and make space for new voices and new stories to be heard. I want to sacrifice privilege for a greater possibility. I want to see and take actions on these beliefs.
Will you act with me? Pinky promise?
WHAT WE'RE UP TO
Maine’s bold visionaries tell personal stories that will give you insight into what drives them—and keeps them moving forward.
At Maine Live, each presenter will speak for 12 mesmerizing minutes.
This inspiring day is capped off with a closing reception where you can meet the speakers and other attendees.
Join us for this fifth Maine Live and gain new perspective on why we’ve all very purposely chosen to live, work, and play in Maine.
WHAT WE'RE LISTENING TO
Each month we explore our theme through music. Our friend, mosart212, curates our playlist.
This month's mix sets out to explore the tenuous network of connections we have set up. How fragile they are. In addition to the songs in this mix being six degrees apart, the songs in this mix speak of our need to examine our networks, reflect, readjust, and strengthen them in order to create meaningful, progressive connections. Positive networks and positive connections. We’re all trying to connect, We all want to network. It's always been this way, but right now it seems more important than ever.
mosart212 spins it from downtempo to hip-hop to funk to break to broken beats to jazz to world music... He has had residencies in NYC, Boston, and Portland, where he currently resides. He has opened for acts ranging from Tiger Man Whoa, Brzowski, and Xena Rubino to Das Efx, KING, and Sinkane. As a producer and remixer, he has worked with genre bending acts like Seepeoples and JD Sampson. mosart212 spices his mixes with original edits, blends, and sample drops. His mixes can be found on his Brooklyn Radio show Symphony Sessions. He loves music, he loves mixing, and he loves you ...
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