At first, I thought her singing was something different. I didn’t have time to think what else, but the very fact it took me a few seconds of staring at her to link the sound I was hearing with the women walking across from me suggests a curiosity at the unusual. She had a nice voice, I thought, though she was quickly out of earshot. Headphones on, she was clearly somewhere else; not strolling down the road on a pleasant but cold end to an otherwise miserably grey day.
I could quite easily imagine the disapproving glances aimed at the singer, the exchanged looks and raised eyebrows, the whispers. The horror some might have that the proscribed norm had been broken. Buskers sing, but then that’s expected. People walking alone down quiet streets usually don’t. It’s not an environment we’re supposed to express ourselves in. It’s too residential, conservative. Keep the shenanigans for city centres, not the suburbs.
It got me thinking about the story of Arachne, the brilliant weaver who drew the jealous interest of the goddess Minerva, the very embodiment of weaving. Arachne, confident in her ability – or just plain arrogant – challenges Minerva to a weaving contest. Minerva’s tapestry is rigid, almost statuesque; it’s a set of schematics. Arachne’s is a fluid, almost lifelike vision. It is clearly better than the goddesses, so Minerva tears it up and turns Arachne into a spider, doomed for eternity to weave the same design over and over. She’ll never create something unique again; that is her real punishment.
Let’s all express ourselves. That’s what we as humans are; it’s the one thing that separated Minerva from Arachne. It’s what makes us write, makes us paint; makes us sing on the street. We’ll never stop creating. Let the gods hurl their thunderbolts, let them try to turn us all into spiders. We’ll admire their beauty as they light up the sky.