I once imagined myself as a small ant, walking on a burning rope. Somebody (or Something) placed me gently on that rope and lighted the fire. If I were to elaborate on that image, I would say that the rope would have to be tasty – sometime sweet and sometime sour; a bit salty, hot and spicy, then bitter and then again sweet... and so on. If I am really lucky, I can even get chocolate rope from time to time. Sometimes the rope gets sticky, other times slippery. Anyway, given mainly the tasty nature of the rope, it is always full of many other ants, which walk either next to me, or ahead, or beyond me.
This rope has many knots and splits; therefore sometimes I lose sight of some of the ants which I know best, other times I find myself close to unknown ants – more or less friendly. Funny-looking and funny-talking creatures! After a while, I learn to anticipate which of these ants are more likely to stay close and which I expect will take different paths, depending on the taste and consistence which I experience on the rope, at certain points. Too often some of the dearest fellow ants lag so much behind on the burning rope that the fire gets to them – and then it has no mercy.
This is how I imagine the timeline of my life. Like a burning rope. I cannot turn back the time, cannot go back where it has already turned into ashes. I just need to keep on going, until I will get too tired of going anymore, and then I will welcome the fire behind me, as a way to let go of the fight and get the most decent rest of my life. I remember my Grandma-Ant telling me why she needed less and less hours of sleep as she got older: ‘ My dear (she used to say) I will get enough sleep once the fire catches up with me on that rope. Until then, I would better run and jump over knots and enjoy it as much as possible’.
I remember her words and engage myself on the path ahead, trying not to hesitate to decide which way to go at every new split. Sometime this means staying closer to some ants and letting go of others. The rope improved very much in the past years and has developed new ways of crossing our paths. We of course still have the classical physical ones, but also increasingly more virtual ones. I love the virtual paths, but mainly because they help me stay in touch with those dear ants, which I long for hugging every time when we cross the physical paths again. And this is because I am an ant of feelings and touch; I need to connect my emails and SMS-messages to faces and smiles, voices and perfumes, tones and intonations – otherwise I cannot perceive any ant as part of my own rope universe.
This actually brings me to the most interesting part of my burning-rope story. Every time when I say good-bye to a dear ant, before it (that means he/she) goes on its separate rope-path, I wonder whether we will get to cross our paths again sometime in the future. Life has taught me that sometimes we do, other times we don’t, and we cannot always anticipate that.
I always wondered why it is so easy for us to tell the story of our life to perfect strangers. Or why we regret not saying important things to special ants, only after they have already left, and we do not know if we will ever see them again. I already know that it has to do with our perception of vulnerability, with our circle of comfort. As long as we do not expect a stranger to get close enough to us as to judge or question our path, we feel very comfortable in sharing. The same happens after our paths part away – we feel safe with the physical distance and get more daring, just to find out that if we unexpectedly cross the path with the same ant again, we have trouble finding the proper words again.
When there is a distance between our physical ropes, we can afford to dream. This is why long-distance relationship between ants usually function rather improperly – as we spend so much time apart, imagining how the other would be; then we actually get disappointed when we see it as it actually is. We fall in love with images and false expectations, as we do not have the time to invest in getting to know each other. I found a nice quote today – Mary Tyler Moore (an actress of almost the same age as my Mother-Ant) said that ‘Sometimes you have to get to know someone really well to realize you’re really strangers’. And that could be attributed to the little time and very divided attention we give to other ants and, at the same time, to the excessive attention we give to our own needs, and dreams, and expectations. We try to ‘fit’ the other ants into our dreams, instead of trying to get to know theirs; we very seldom love and accept them as they are.
Once we are physically facing another ant’s reactions every day, once it may contribute to our development and future choice of our own path, we may feel endangered and hesitant, especially if we are used to make our own choices on the rope. However we should also realize that there could be knots too high and crossroads too complicated to jump over or cross safely by ourself. Climbing on each other body helps us get higher, pushing together moves bigger obstacles, holding hands prevents one from slipping on creamy portions of the rope (as alternative we may as well hold feet – as I wonder whether ants actually have hands…).
Finally, we should not forget that there is a special net design, made out of our billions of ant ropes, which we will never be able to fully understand, let alone anticipate. Every time we choose one path, we actually choose also thousands of future alternative paths, which lie behind that (the phenomenon is also known as consequence). Every time we choose to join forces with another ant, it will enable us to choose more dangerous rope paths, as we will have multiple power and confidence. And this is valid for all kinds of ant relationships – family, friends, love partners. It is even applicable to enemy relations – maybe surprising, but a wise ant can learn how to choose its enemies. This can be done in two ways – choosing which battles to fight and learning when to give in.
In a nutshell, we have to learn how to ride this burning rope, accept (even anticipate) its traps, appreciate its inconstancy of tastes, while freely loving or just tolerating our fellow ants. As such, we will get to enjoy every second of our path, then forget about fear and hesitation, while getting to live comfortably with the idea of the fire chasing us. And maybe our ropes will be so long that, by the time the fire will finally catch up with us, we will no longer feel any fear of getting ourselves fried.