I have recently taken up knitting again. I used to do it, probably 30 years ago or more, but I got away from it for some reason. In Arizona, all the sweaters, heavy shawls, afghans, and ponchos are seldom needed, but it’s a temptation to do handcrafts just for the pure pleasure of it. Still, with yarn come tangles.
The other day I bought a skein that had obviously been at least partially used and just put back on the shelf, half in the skein in half out. Since it was the only skein of that yarn in the three cities around which I circulate, I bought it, and promptly spent a number of hours that day and the day after, trying to untangle the mess that someone had left. I finally got aggravated in one spot and just cut first one end and then the other end of the tangle, and that was that. Normally I am very good at untangling tangles. I actually like doing it: fishing line, clothes line, yarn, macramé string, kite string, I like untangling them all. I can spend hours doing it and not really get frustrated. My fingers in a way seem to know where the yarn needs to be teased apart just to find where the main knot or tangle is, and the best way to get it straightened out.
As much as I don’t really mind tangled yarn, I hate tangled thinking and tangled words. I have occasional aphasia, which makes me use the wrong word. It absolutely aggravates me beyond all measure. I have no patience with aphasia whatsoever. I have trouble thinking of it as just another form of tangle that needs to be undone. So, the neurons in the communications center of my brain get tangled up every now and then, so what? It’s just that for somebody who likes words as much as I do, I find it frustrating when I know perfectly well what I want to say, but it comes out wrong because my brain told my tongue to say something different.
Tangles or entanglements or entangling shows up occasionally in the Bible. Probably the one that’s easiest for me to understand is when the Pharisees surrounded Jesus and tried to trap him by getting him tangled up in his words. Jesus’s facility with words confounded the ones trying to entangle him and they walked away frustrated. There are several other references, one of which is when Moses and the Israelites were in the desert and, having walked a fair way in one direction, turned around and headed back the way they came to try to confuse Pharaoh’s soldiers who were trying to get them back to Egypt. Another tangle — Moses was one who had a tangled tongue. His brother Aaron was chosen as spokesman for Moses when Moses needed to give God’s words to the people.
I seem to run into entanglements in my personal life quite often. It’s so easy to get tangled up, especially when I leap before you look. I confess, although I tend to hang back on many occasions, there others were I indulgently leap forward only to find out the nice comfortable dry shore that I’m trying to reach is either out of range and I’m going to get wet or I fall face first into a rock. Each time I do that I think that I really should have done it differently, but somehow, in the course of life, I usually forget that until it’s too late again. Confessions of a slow learner.
It’s sometimes difficult to listen to news stories and soundbites that feature people who seem to talk in such a way as to tangle up what they actually mean with what they actually say. It’s hard these days to know what’s real and what isn’t, because what’s announced joyfully on one network is squashed and totally different on another. Even the people who are giving us the information tangle it up. How many times have we heard someone say that something is going to happen only to be told the next day, well, we really didn’t mean it that way. It’s like being in a giant tangle of fishing line, very fine fishing line, and trying to untangle it seems like almost impossible task.
I don’t think God really intends for us to be tangled up. The 10 Commandments are relatively straightforward, even though we have to remember that in some ways some of them are now interpreted slightly differently than what has been done when God first gave them to Moses. I often wonder why God didn’t put in some other things that may be would be helpful, like “Thou shalt not speed on the highway,” or “Thou shalt not be spit on the sidewalk,” or “Be polite; a smile won’t kill you.
Okay, most of those are covered with some commandment or other, but not all of them can be read literally. Today we consider “Thou shalt not kill” to mean we shouldn’t commit murder and looking at the statistics on the television and the radio, a lot of people ignore that one completely. Then you have the folks who argue that killing anyone is murder, although in wartime it’s perfectly fine. One side is urged to kill the other and vice versa. Whether or not it’s killing seems to depend solely on one’s position. And then again there are those who believe in the “I’ve got mine, too bad about you,” the folks who have what they want and need but do not feel it’s necessary to share with those who are less fortunate, even small children who starve to death in our own country. Some will tell us all “Well, it’s their own fault. They shouldn’t have had the children if they couldn’t afford to feed them,” or “It’s not my job to take care of somebody else’s kids.” But just wait until their child gets sick. They are the ones demanding that their insurance cover everything and that their child get the very best treatment possible. Meanwhile, maybe just across town, homeless child dies from a very preventative illness, but without any medical care or insurance, there’s nothing their parents can do for them.
We’ve got a lot of problems these days, individual and collective, that we need to get straightened out. I know I do, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this ark. Jesus’s solution, I think, to being entangled is to be to be simple, to read and follow the Beatitudes, and mostly to love God and love their neighbor as themselves. That’s a pretty simple group of words, and almost impossible to get tangled up in. Simple solutions to complex problems? Why not? Those complex problems started out pretty simple ones, but nobody paid attention.
Perhaps it’s time for us to go back to the simple ways. To be community, to look out after one another, and try to avoid tangling the fishing line or the knitting yarn or the kite strings. Remember K. I. S. S.,” Keep it simple, ******”. I don’t think we necessarily need to call ourselves or anybody else by pejoratives, but keep it simple. The message that God gives us over and over and over again in the Bible to love your God, love your neighbor as yourself. How much simpler can it be?
I’ll probably continue to untangle knitting yarns crochet thread, and boardroom flaws, although I think kite strings and fishing line are out of my lifestyle currently in my life. Maybe I should do with my own life what I try to do with the yarn — keep it simple, avoid entanglements, work patiently, and take my time. Sounds like a pretty good idea to me.
Image: Dominic by Linda Ryan