There are times in my experience when a strange and sultry dream image is mirrored with remarkable clarity in my waking life. As I surfaced through the hazy space between dreaming and wakefulness recently, I reached for the wisps of a fading dream. The whisper of Hollywood director David Lynch echoed through my mind, “The vermilion thread cannot be broken. We are the vermilion thread.” I quickly reached for my dream journal and scribbled the enigmatic message.
Curious about the reference, I investigated cross-cultural allusions to vermilion thread. Buddhists believe that red thread symbolizes the life blood of passion; it is that which creates and nourishes life. A red thread bestowed upon Hindu boys of the Brahman caste gives them access to ancient knowledge. In Judaism wearing a red thread signals an intention to remain open to receiving God’s grace and protection. An ancient Chinese belief affirms that an invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break.
On Saturday we celebrated the Hindu holiday of Raksha Bandhan, which honors and reaffirms family bonds. Tying a vermilion thread around a brother’s wrist, a girl reminds her brother of his obligation to protect her in times of need. This simple gesture is one that transcends culture and family connections, however, as it reminds us of the ties that bind us all to each other.