The promotional image of Emond's Field, centered on the Winespring Inn in the background, with a bunch of villagers going about their business in the foreground.

The World Should be Braided

by | Dec 19, 2021 | 0 comments

The World Should be Braided

I woke up in a rage today, and I have been unable to escape it. It’s a thing that happens to me from time to time and I’ve always seen it as a side effect of seeing the world as it should be in addition to how it is.

The world should be braided.

This might be a clumsy way to introduce a discussion of the Wheel of Time and the one fundamental lesson we should learn from it, but I am far too angry to care.

First, I Confess to both Arrogance and Ignorance

There is an author whose non-fiction work I appreciate greatly, and whose fiction has never really grabbed me. It’s not written for me, and that’s okay.

Her name is Kameron Hurley, and she was once asked what she hoped to accomplish with her fiction. Her immediate reaction was to say she wanted to change the world.

So do I.

It is with that in mind that I am embarrassed to admit that I did not properly understand the significance of Nynaeve’s braid until I saw the first episode of the new Wheel of Time television show.

For those who are unaware, braiding one’s hair is a rite of passage in the Two Rivers. It represents a transition from girlhood to womanhood, but it wasn’t until I saw it on screen that I fully understood its significance—and the significance of Nynaeve’s frequent tugs.

In this show, starting at 4:55 of the first episode, Nynaeve tells Egwene:

This braid will remind you that you are a part of us and we a part of you. To be a woman is to be always alone and never alone. So when the Dark surrounds you and you see no Light, feel this braid, and know that we all stood before you. We all stand with you.

It’s a lovely sentiment of feminist unity, but I think most feminists would agree that in a truly just world, it should not, cannot, must not be reserved for women.

In Which I Answer Cain

Yes, you are your brother’s keeper. And your sister’s. And your mother’s, father’s, children’s, neighbors, and complete strangers. I have said for decades now that The Wheel of Time is about collective action for the greater good. Yet, in all that time, I failed to appreciate the simple profundity of the braid.

As we are all threads in the pattern, we are hairs in the braid. Our lives are intertwined with those in the community around us, and the braid that is our community is wrapped up with the braids of other communities into a giant mega braid that is both a sight to see and representative of the greater universe.

We are not alone and we cannot pretend that we are. When we become adults, we must put aside childish things like greed and fear and hate. If we cannot support each other because of our differences, we must support each other in spite of them.

Our similarities are far more numerous and far more meaningful than our differences.

And yet, here we are in the third decade of the twenty-first century and people would rather have a few more dollars in their pocket than end child poverty. They would rather endanger everyone they encounter than cover their face. They would rather we sit down and shut up than take the effort to live in a just society.

It’s not about them any more than it is about me or you or some random stranger halfway around the world.

It’s about us.

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