Y’ part o’ th’ tradition, now, son. Part o’ th’ tradition. – Maelstrom
A ritual is the enactment of a myth. And, by participating in the ritual, you are participating in the myth. And since myth is a projection of the depth wisdom of the psyche, by participating in a ritual, participating in the myth, you are being, as it were, put in accord with that wisdom, which is the wisdom that is inherent within you anyhow. Your consciousness is being re-minded of the wisdom of your own life. I think ritual is terribly important. – Joseph Campbell
The tradition, as I understand it so far, is the ritual of going down deep into your heart – the ground of your being (the orlop is the lowest deck of a ship) – and connecting with your innermost self. Really connecting.
So why are the lips stitched shut? To represent the silence and stillness required to connect with ourselves authentically. We wear so many masks and we posture ourselves with words so often that we forget how to go down deep to the orlop deck of our lives – to our very souls – and connect with who we really are. We need to shut up and get real – with ourselves – to really understand who we are. Only then can we understand who we are to be.
And why black thread? Why not some other color? Doesn’t black always represent evil? Why black? Perhaps the answer lies in the only other time (in my awareness) that a story inspired by J.J. Abrams has black thread piercing the skin and weaving back and forth through it to seal something shut.
In the Pilot for LOST, after Jack is done trying to rescue everyone else, he realizes that he has to rescue himself. He has a serious wound in his side that needs care. He finds a secluded place on the beach, takes off his shirt, and examines the wound. He realizes that he needs stitches. A woman approaches, clearly having her own internal crisis. It is then that Jack and Kate first meet. The following scene ensues. In case you can’t watch the video at the moment, I have included the transcript…
JACK: Excuse me. Did you ever use a needle?
JACK: Did you ever … patch a pair of jeans?
KATE: I, uhm, I made the drapes in my apartment.
JACK: That’s fantastic. Listen, do you have a second? I could use a little help here.
[Kate walks over to him.]
KATE: And with what?
JACK: With this.
[Jack shows her the wound, and she grimaces.]
JACK: Look, I’d do it myself, I’m a doctor, but I just can’t reach it.
KATE: You want me to sew that up?
JACK: It’s just like the drapes, same thing.
KATE: No, with the drapes I used a sewing machine.
JACK: No, you can do this. I’m telling you. If you wouldn’t mind.
[Jack looks at her pleadingly.]
KATE: Of course I will.
JACK: Thank you. [handing her the little liquor bottle from his pocket] It’s for your hands. Save me some for the, for the wound.
[Kate picks up a little sewing kit that has several different colored spools of thread.]
KATE: Any color preference?
JACK: [laughing] No. Standard black.
The next segment of the scene is the dialogue that occurs between Kate and Jack while Kate is stitching Jack’s side with black thread. Jack tells a very important story which helps explain why black is the color used. You won’t get the answer outright. That’s not J.J Abrams’ style. But if you turn the story over in your mind, it may come to you. I’ll add my commentary later. (Transcript below the video if you would rather read than watch).
[Kate sewing up Jack’s wound.]
KATE: I might throw up on you.
JACK: [shaking his head] You’re doing fine.
KATE: You don’t seem afraid at all. I don’t understand that.
JACK: Well, fear’s sort of an odd thing. When I was in residency, my first solo procedure was a spinal surgery on a 16 year old kid, a girl. And at the end, after 13 hours, I was closing her up and I, I accidentally ripped her dural sac. Shredded the base of the spine where all the nerves come together, membrane as thin as tissue. And so it ripped open. And the nerves just spilled out of her like angel hair pasta, spinal fluid flowing out of her and I … And the terror was just so … crazy. So real. And I knew I had to deal with it. (He’s crying). So I just made a choice. I’d let the fear in, let it take over, let it do its thing, but only for five seconds, that’s all I was going to give it. So I started to count: One, two, three, four, five. Then it was gone. I went back to work, sewed her up and she was fine.
KATE: If that had been me, I think I would have run for the door.
JACK: No, I don’t think that’s true. You’re not running now.