Stitch with me, Make sense with me

The golden thread of meaning. Roland Barthes, Kintsugi, lockdown and after

Something I have (not) done during lockdown

I have some garments I really love. Often these are woolen.  One even has a name, given by my daughter, it’s ‘calduccio’ (the little nice warm thing – except it’s not even a ‘thing’, is a place, and effectively an embrace). Calduccio is a merino wool hooded cardigan with pockets and without buttons, it’s big and spacious and – if I were Nordic – infinitely hygge. It also has holes and snags now; from moths, from unthreading, from sheer usage. It is, after all, well over 10-year-old.

Many times I thought  I should repair it, but somehow repairing felt wrong, unrespectful of the story that made it the way it is, of the memory and significance it had assumed day by day being domesticated within our household, from a mass produced high-street garment into a unique piece of our story. So, the holes kept growing and the threads loosening. Then during lockdown, I knew what I should do: kintsugi it. Celebrate its age and life with golden thread. The golden thread of meaning.

Weave and unweave

Towards the beginning of his course on The Neutral, Roland Barthes refers to description as an unweaving, which is a quest both for meaning and an escape from absolute meaning.  Weaving and unweaving mesh, what is to be mended and what mends, what is to be displayed and what hidden, swap, creating a space, nuances, freedom (possibly what Barthes would call ‘third meaning’).

Barthes attempt in this course is “To describe = to “unthread” a word”. In French, he says, an ancient word that can serve as metaphor is “parfiler {to unthread} … to unthread a fabric, to unweave it thread by thread to separate out the gold.” What is this unthreading, this parfiler for?

Barthes continues:

“To describe, to unthread what? The nuances. In fact, I would want, if it were in my power, to look at the figure-words (beginning with the Neutral) with a skimming gaze that would make the nu­ances come out …What I am looking for, during the preparation of this course, is an in­troduction to living, a guide to life (ethical project): I want to live according to nuance.”

Roland Barthes, The Neutral