Inhaling God

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Breath on a cold morning(red) String theory

There is a cat's cradle aura surrounding you. In the midst of divine fingers there are threads. Tiny fate filled marionette strings, not controlling but connecting us to our maker, each other and this often magical material world.

Your very body looks like a road map full of red string crossings. Your veins are so densely packed that your lips and hips would be clearly articulated if you took everything from your body but your circulatory system. If you were to unravel all your redness you would have enough veins to stretch around the earth twice. Nearly 100,000km of red strings knotting you together.

Not only are you a tangled ball of yarn, but themes of thread, ribbon, string, cord and line weave their way through folk lore, Greek myth, religious texts, and quantum physics — leaving a bread crumb trail of what ties us together.


Your veins aren't the only red string up your sleeve; there is also your blood line. The words blood, Adam, human, and earth share the same root word for red in Hebrew, dam.

In Genesis the first human family committed the first murder when Cain killed Abel: the beginning of countless acts of bloodshed which have become a human legacy and an indelible bloodline. We are also inextricably linked to the earth as our very name, human, suggests. We work the land, live off of the land, and return to the land in death. From dust we came, according to Ecclesiastes, and to dust we shall return. We are magnificent and brutal sand sculptures.

But interestingly there is another word for red in Hebrew, shani. Shani is most often used to describe a type of crimson string. This thread is used in purification rituals and in the textiles of the Tabernacle and later of the Temple. It has holy and royal significance.

In the Bible, in the book of Joshua chapter 2 verses 18–21, a woman named Rahab who lived within the city of Jericho assisted the Israelites in capturing the city. To indicate that she and her family were to be spared she hung a scarlet thread from her window.

Also in the bible is the story of Tamar and her twin sons Zerah and Perez. Zerah's arm extended through the womb during birth and a nurse tied a red string around his wrist to indicate he was the oldest, but his arm withdrew and it was Perez who breached first, later leading the bloodline of King David and Jesus.

These references infuse the symbol of red string with strong links to bloodline, and the promise of inheritance in Perez's case, while forgiveness and protection are conjured from Rahab's story.

Red strings may also signify sacrifice. During Yom Kippur, there is historically a 'scapegoat' ritual, in which two goats are presented. One is tied around the horns with red string and set free while the other has red string tied around the neck, to indicate it should be slaughtered, as it now bears the sins of Israel.

In Exodus, the blood of a sacrificial lamb was put over doorways as protection during the tenth plague. In Romanian folklore red string tied to the threshold of the home is used to symbolise that event.

The connection to red string and blood is clear, while Jesus is represented as the scapegoat for humanity. In John's Gospel, chapter 1 verse 29, John declares of Jesus, 'Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.'

These two types of red in Hebrew evoke two contrary symbols: the red of blood, earth and Adam, which indicates the marriage of man to his lineage of bloodshed, bound to the earth in life and returning to dust in death; and the royal red thread as a symbol of promise, protection and a new bloodline and sacrifice in Christ.

Thus the bond of our name, human, to the red of earth and blood was broken, and in Ecclesiastes it was written, 'The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.'

The threads that connect us:

'All the principles of heaven and earth are living inside you ... Everything in heaven and earth breathes. Breath is the thread that ties creation together.' –Morihei Ueshiba

As much as it feels as though we are an isolated island in a sea of many, we are intimately connected to one another in a fascinating physiological web. Your very breath is a receptacle for human history. In a very real way, you breathe the breaths of the first people to walk this planet. Every inhalataion has a volume of 0.5 litres with 1022 molecules of air. There are about 1044 molecules in earth's atmosphere.

As a result, says John R. Cameron, Emeritus Professor of Medical Physics at the University of Wisconsin — Madison, 'Each breath contains a molecule of air that was in a single breath of Archimedes, Aristotle, or any other famous person who lived many years ago. Jesus Christ took approximately 150 million breaths in his lifetime; thus, one could expect that each of our breaths could contain about 150 million molecules breathed by Christ.'

Now when the Bible says God is within you, you can breathe a sigh of relief and know it's true ... Just don't hold your breath too long!

Even at a cellular level we are connected. Each cell has its own electric field, which can be further-reaching than that of the electric field near a high-voltage power line ... and new voltage-sensitive nanoparticles have indicated that the electric fields inside cells could be as strong as or stronger than a bolt of lightning. Perhaps this explains the electric shock we get when we touch someone we are falling in love with. And it certainly gives the term staying grounded all the more electrical significance!

But puns aside, this electrical energy cannot be kept isolated; we rub up against each other's electric fields constantly. We are connected by this invisible energy within us. We cannot contain our brilliance.

And if that weren't enough, science has taken a science fiction-esque approach to the quantum world. Currently holding the standing title for a theory that unifies the chaos of quantum mechanics with the relative predictability of general relativity is string theory.

A concept developed in 1984 by physicists Schwarz and Michael Green, string theory essentially connects all objects in the universe to little bitty vibrating 'strings' of energy. A superstring is a hundred million billion times smaller than the nucleus of an atom.

Freeman J. Dyson, a former professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, illustrates just how small these strings are. 'Imagine, if you can, four things that have very different sizes. First, the entire visible universe. Second, the planet Earth. Third, the nucleus of an atom. Fourth, a superstring. The step in size from each of these things to the next is roughly the same.'

Each of those bodies is approximately 1020 times smaller than the one before.

If scientists wanted to explore the world of superstrings, engineers would need to create a particle accelerator measuring 1000 light years around. It seems very clear we are made of divine thread; our stories weave into one another's.

Stringing it all together

Someone is waiting for you with an invisible red string around their ankle. You have a red string around your ankle too, and it will bring you to your soul mate. In this ancient Chinese parable, it is 'The Old Man in the Moonlight' who ties predestined people together.

In ancient Greece, strings thread their way through the myth of Ariadne. Ariadne, princess of Crete, fell in love with an Athenian hero, Theseus, who was sent to a labyrinth to be killed. Ariadne helped Theseus escape by giving him string to find his way back out of the Labyrinth.

For Anglo-Saxons a string around your finger helped you remember.

In these three examples red strings declare the unseen elements of the world, represent divine intension in our daily lives, become the symbol of how we find our way to the source, enabling us to remember our purpose, and connecting us to one another.

Through physics, religion, the human body, and mythology, red thread has been the backstory weaving us into a tapestry rich in cultural, physiological, and divine connection. Follow the thread to see you have meaning in this creation: a new bloodline has been offered you, and we each are so miraculous we hold bolts of lightning in our cells.

Tie a string around your finger so as not to forget you are wrapped in the blanket of the creator as is every other creature on heaven and earth.

(red) String theory

I woke up ravenous
One red rib
On a tree limb

In China this means
You have a red string around your ankle
You are waiting for your soulmate.

Cats Cradle two Fridas
Pulling apart fibrous Siamese segments of grapefruit
Which is you and which is me

That we are a spider web of wanting and redness —
Explains it all
A theory
A marketing scheme
We like to forget
Of God with red fingers

As you fall asleep
Adam's rib is a red string
A blood line

It may stretch or tangle, but never break
Red remembers
Louder than an ice cube
Only blue blood could know how wide a red vine runs

Infra-red of the desert —
Far-red of tomatoes —
Unknowable reds of tomorrow —
You are a three-cord-rope
Called promise

In Hebrew
Adam, blood, & earth
Have the same red root
And all were meant to fade the fastest



Jessica VoelkerJessica Voelker is an artist and writer. She is married to a wonderful man and they have two cats, seven chickens, bees and lots of fun together. This essay was Highly Commended in the 2011 Margaret Dooley Awards for young writers.

Topic tags: Jessica Voelker, string theory, Margaret Dooley Award



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Existing comments

I find the notion of interconnectedness vital, but far more relevant to human beings and nature than to human beings and god... Buddhist & (Most)Shamanistic & lore have long acknowledge the symbiotic relationship with the natural world through an intricate web of infinite threads connecting all living things.
When it comes to sharing oxygen molecules, we are essentially & wholly more reliant on plants than we are on the idea of one God. As we all know that the carbon dioxide we breath out gets absorbed by plants and converted to if we are all sharing our ancestors is via the process of plant photosynthesis !
The inhereted violence in human nature is down to human perception & our inabilty to see others realities; every faith believes it is the one & only true religion (hence religious founded war)...Like language in the tower of Babel story, truth at some point became scattered accross all the nations of the world... a piece of the whole in each one, with the whole resting in none.
I find the model presented here to be a great example of the alliance that religion and (true)science can have and welcome it...why can't the theory of evolution and divine creation not co-exist? is the big bang not a divine moment ?
Quantum mechanics is indeed showing us the further complexity of our universe and the imperceptible forces that bind us...However, as past linear minded science had led us to believe that we (as humans) have dominion over nature and its finite resources...I would hope that string & field theory will help lead humans to acknowledging our inherent connection with the rest of the natural world before further conflating our already highly subjective connection with a 'higher power'.

Jef | 14 September 2011  


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