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A woman sitting in a chair at Hawa Mahal (Palace of Wind) in Jaipur, India. Photo by Eliana Rothwell (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest Finalist).

weaving relationships

Students often come into a bridge year thinking they will learn about our world in the ways they have been conditioned to understand; What is this countries GDP? What are their politics like? How is poverty alleviated? What does the food taste like? and How can we help? What quickly and inevitably occurs however is a humble deconstruction of how we even define these seemingly universal constructs. We, nearly immediately, discover that virtually everything in our world is little more than a powerfully effective myth, that everything from politics to religion to our definition of “service” is but a well-crafted story and that the world offers many, many useful stories.

Nestled in the shadows of the tallest mountain range on earth, in a territory where the political map changes drastically depending on which valley you are in, we are learning how to see our place in the world from the vantage point of those forgotten members of society, those who are pushed aside and abandoned, yet whom no one would argue that society could not function with out them; I am referring to the farmers, the artisans, the women… the plants.

In India, they have even gone so far as to officially offer a system to push certain members of society into specific castes and other various subgroups in order solidify a mythology that our lot is life is somehow per-determined. As such, many neglect to experience the majesty and life-affirming wonders that come from working with the land, from making art, from attaining a deep relationship with art and earth. eARTh.

This week we have been invited into the homes of strong mountain women who have shared with us songs (which for ears able to hear hold clues to mysteries far beyond our wildest dreams) and have showed us how to spin wool (which for those with eyes to see can find hidden in the patterns riddles that gain one access into a deeper way of being altogether), to weave and knit, indeed to re-connect us entirely with a long-forgotten aspect of our human heritage that is although understood by the majority of world citizens as being directly linked to what it means being human, is virtually a skill completely unknown by the ruling classes of the world.

Our ability to artistically connect intimately and lovingly with, food, land and women mirrors our ability to connect with that part of us that lives for something greater than our own personal desires. When we visit these parts of our world, when we touch the soil and make beauty from the fruit of hard labor, we tenderly weave ourselves into a Bigger Story and in doing so we heal the part of us that feels alone, disconnected and fearful. We spin our experiences into a culture worth descending from. We enter into the Grander Story, that links all cultures and peoples, all animals, plants and rivers into a mythology of meaning and purpose, like the Mahabharata, like the ones being told by our Munsiari hosts, like the ones our ancestors told around fires in times long forgotten that tell of a story older than time. The telling of these Stories do not require WIFI to be told, and care not for what filter is manipulating the film, but do require full presence, humble determination and a deep connection to place.