For the Japanese, who know so much and intuit more, human relations are predestined by a red string that the gods tie to the pinky fingers of those who find each other in life. Legend has it that the two people connected by this thread will have an important story, regardless of the time, place or circumstances. The red string might get tangled, contracted or stretched, as surely often happens, but it can never break.
This legend, so much more aesthetic than that of the twin souls, occurs when it is discovered that the ulnar artery connects the heart with the pinky finger (which is the same reason why in many cultures promises are made by two people crossing their pinkies). The thin vein running from heart to hand extends through the invisible world, to end its course in someone else’s heart. But unlike other amorous superstitions, the Japanese one isn’t limited to couples, or a single person who one is destined to find. It speaks of a type of arterial ramification that emerges from a finger toward all those with whom we will make history and all those whom we will help in one way or another. For the ontological imagination, the myth of the red string is a way to understand our itinerary of encounters as a predetermined plot where couples’ relationships, the intimate brushes against someone, and all the little stories we crisscross with others are neither random triumphs nor accidents, but part of a scarlet tapestry whose threads were given to us when we were born but which we knit ourselves.
One Japanese legend tells of an old man who lives in the moon and comes out every night to search among kin spirits to reunite them on Earth, who have something to learn from each other, and when he finds them he ties a red thread to them so they find their paths. Thus, our red strings end in someone else. Accepting this, or at least considering it, is a secret consolation: it is as if our steps — stubborn as they may sometimes seem — knew the route and geography of our multiple amorous destinations, and therefore there were no “slips” or poor decisions.
There are two memorable moments in cinema that pay tribute to the subtle and mysterious aesthetic of this conductive read string: the first is the film Dolls by Takeshi Kitano, and the second Sayonara, by Joshua Logan. In both we find out at the end that the couples were united by the red string of destiny, and that everything that occurred before was nothing more than a plot through the route of string that would end up reuniting them. “Journeys end in lovers meeting,” William Shakespeare said.
All cultures have pondered what it is that governs the individual path of each person, and among them many have conceived an astronomical thread that predicts their paths. Think of the Moirai of the Greeks, who hold a thread of gold for each person on earth and cut it suddenly when his or her death is due, or in the thread, also red by the way, of the Cabala which connects the believers to the holy land of Jerusalem. It’s logical to think that if life is conceived as a great text (from the Latin textus: knitting, connection), the strings are the main material of men to rasterize their daily lives. To “lose the thread” is now a universal expression to refer to practical or even existential deviation.
Thus, the legend of the red thread tells us that within the labyrinth of encounters and shared stories there is a predesigned and perfect path, a scarlet string which, like that of Ariadne, connects us with our irrevocable destination placed at the edge of another string that will also lead