Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why Knots? Why Not?

Related to all this "techne" stuff we've been blathering about lately, I've taken up a new hobby. Knots. But not just any knots: knots with a purpose. Specifically, the material I'm using to knot is called 550 paracord, which is military grade parachute cord with a tensile strength of 550 lbs. I've mainly been using it to make "Survival bracelets", popular among outdoor enthusiasts and others in "survival" situations, such as those in the armed forces around the world. So why this, why now, and what in the world does this have to do with what we've been talking about?

There's something very appealing about the blending of the basely practical - rope is rope and can be used for a million different applications - and the art form of creating things with knots. A fellow Georgian named "Stormdrane" has a blog where he creates the most visually appealing and yet strikingly practical knot-based creations out of paracord and other types of material.

It occurs to me now that a great deal of its draw for me and where I am in life is the ability to take a plain piece of rope and turn it into something interesting and complete in about fifteen minutes. If the metaphor isn't jumping out at you, I won't belabor the point, but I'm wondering if this is one of those little trophies we have been discussing - visual evidence that I can indeed do something useful and practical with my life.

I also find the whole "survivalist" movement  very fascinating. Of course it's not anything new; who doesn't remember the outrageous stockpiling that occurred in preparation for Y2K? How about the popularity of the zombie-apocalypse trope that runs throughout pop culture, in movies and video games (I can think of about 15 off the top of my head)? Not to mention the unmentionable genre of general-apocalypse movies like 2012 (it's okay, I'll always have a soft spot for John Cusack too). I can also think of popular books like The Road and the Hunger Games series that rely entirely on this survivalist theme. I just learned that the Walton family (a la Walmart) has a super-secret guarded underground bunker to retreat to in case of WWIII.

So what I'm trying to figure out is, what is the appeal of this sort of thinking? A good friend of mine frequently dreams of witnessing a nuclear explosion that wipes out most of the inhabited world. Sometimes, the dream for him is frightening, while other times it is almost peaceful. Even though we aren't the Cold War generation, those who were shown disturbing public service announcements as children, the echoes of those fears persist. So, what's the balance between the desire to be prepared for the worst-case scenario and living fully in the moment? Why does the disaster/survivor/hero motif possess so much currency in our culture? At the end of the day, is it because it is comforting to project the fear and anxiety produced by the disorder in our lives onto stories where the hero is the one who survives by essentially bringing order to the chaos?

As always, comments welcome!

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