What is Straw & Spindle?
The Last Straw
the last straw, the final irritation or problem that stretches one's endurance or patience beyond the limit;
origin: 1840-50; after the proverb 'It is the last straw that breaks the camel's back'
the straw that broke the camel's back, describes the seemingly minor or routine action which causes an unpredictably large and sudden reaction, because of the cumulative effect of small actions
Welcome to straw & spindle. I am Molly Claire Benjamin — a writer and a scholar of history, myth-archaeology and psychology. I believe that the community of living things on this planet is in the midst of a profoundly important and necessarily chaotic turning point. A rebirth, if you will.
We’ve all heard the phrases “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and “that’s the last straw!” In this crazy world it often feels as if that final straw might drop at any moment. The dropping of that final straw will mean an avalanche of messy change, the precursors of which are simmering all around us. And yet, despite the chaos and upheaval that true cultural and social change means, it also means rebirth and transformation — think Alchemy, and the mystical Phoenix rising from her own ashes.
spindle & straw is my contribution to our collective pile of straw, on the one hand, and on the other, my effort to remind us all that it does not just end with a pile of straw. “Spin this straw into gold,” the king tells the miller’s daughter. The miller’s daughter, through discovering and giving voice to the name Rumplestiltskin, draws upon an ancient female power within herself and learns to spin the straw into gold. And so, I believe, we shall — using our spindles we shall alchemically transform & compost the straws burying our poor camel into ropes of golden thread. From this thread we can weave a brilliant new future.
We battle a multitude of seemingly insurmountable problems today, problems that keep us up at night, problems that have us biting our nails in panicked anxiety. It is my argument that every one of these problems originates from the same loss. It is a loss that began centuries ago when one group of people began to believe that one singular book of stories was the only collection of stories worth knowing; the only collection of stories that held truth; the only collection of stories to believe in.
Nearly two thousand years after these stories were collected in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, we live in a world where, when individuals reach young adulthood, they are told to stop believing in pretty much everything except capitalism. We are told that fairy tales and Santa Claus are for little children and that imagining the impossible is a waste of time. We are told that the only book of stories with any worthwhile lessons is the Bible and, further, that what the Bible tells us is set in stone. How often does the daily news report a quote from some politician insisting that such-and-such cultural reality defies the “truth” in the Bible? The Bible has become, for too many, a frozen, dead story.
The problem is that when a culture’s stories become brittle and frozen, that culture loses the ability to form relationships with living stories and, as a result, they lose the ability to cultivate imagination. And without imagination there can be no faith in the future, no belief in intuition, no surmounting of the impossible, and no trust in the composting ability of nature’s seasonal cycles. Alternatively, when an individual (or community) engages in an active relationship with its cultural stories, a partnership is created that results in a third entity. In other words, from the interaction between individual and story is birthed a third reality inside of which that community can exist. Inside of that new reality, anything becomes possible. Do not fret if this sounds confusing - just stick with straw & spindle as we unwrap, unfold and unravel these fascinating & complex ideas!
I invite and encourage you to join my exploration, for through cultivating your imagination you will be able to look at the world with new, hopeful eyes.