LAYING DOWN OUR SWORDS
May 8, 2010 § 2 Comments
I had intended to include a quote here today from Swann’s Way, the first installment of Marcel Proust’s master work, A Remembrance of Things Past but alas, I now cannot find it. No matter. I will relate it to you in much more urbane language. The excerpt comes from a section of the book in which he speaks of the character Charles Swann and his obsession with a woman, an obsession that takes over his life and the love that he felt for this person soon turns to utter hate and contempt as he sinks further and further into mental and emotional chaos, his thoughts entirely consumed by her. Proust talks about how it is that we can love someone so passionately and affectionately and then in turn can resent the same person so completely and in reading this passage I was once again reminded of how important it is to simply accept all of the parts of the people we love for, to be sure, we cannot pick and choose their many facets; in loving someone and embracing them as meaningful parts of our own lives, we will almost certainly be inviting in the parts of that person that trigger uncomfortable sensations as well as the obvious things about them that stir our warmer feelings. The problem for myself and I suspect many others is that in judging, disliking and attempting to reject those aspects in the ones we love, we harden ourselves. Why is it that we can be in the presence of someone that we know we love deeply and yet can feel so little? Why do some of us habitually seek to find fault in our loved ones? We sometimes look for any excuse to push them away.
I have experienced strange anger at being touched by the ones closest to me; there are moments when I want to shout and scream and push them away and it is only the awareness that they surely must have touched something sensitive inside me that allows me to stay with the discomfort and accept their love, which is indeed precious. We must never forget that love for one another is truly the most valuable exchange that can take place in our world. There are so many of us that only know loneliness and are not surrounded by loving friends and family who regularly seek to connect with us, support us and remind us that we are not alone. We must be vigilant in our awareness of that part of us that would prefer to shut down, to disconnect, to find any distraction that will enable us to avoid our deeper feelings. While enjoying one’s space and time alone is vital, connecting with others in a meaningful way on a regular basis is the touchstone to which most of us wish to return, if we are in contact with our more primal needs. We live in a world that teaches us to compete with others, to find our emotional nourishment in material items and manifold forms of ‘entertainment’ which turn out to be so much noise and artificial light. We cannot be fooled by these placeba; they will never replace our connection with nature, ourselves and the people we love.
For all of us, at some point, have loved deeply. Even the orphaned child knows what it is to love; the pain and loss of emotional and psychic footing that often resides in children of this sort is testament to their unconscious knowledge of what has been taken from them. I have known many people who have assured me that they ‘don’t need anybody’ and barge their way through their life, building a seemingly impenetrable emotional fort. For most, that castle eventually falls and when it does these people often find themselves out of practice in being comfortable with reaching out and accepting what comes in return.
It is always healthy to affirm our love and those to whom we give it, or wish to give it. My partner Victoria will often say of someone, “they are just love”. We seem happy so much of the time to ascribe this quality to our pets yet find it challenging to see other people that way but, make no mistake, underneath all of the issues and harmful conditioning that most of us carry around, we also are indeed love.
So why can that love and good intention so often be hidden from the world? It is amazing to think that all of us have good intentions, even if that positive intent is narrowed down to simple self preservation. Behind every monstrous action is a need which had the potential at some point to be met in a positive, life-affirming way. Letting go of our judgement of others not only requires us to see past the outer manifestations of someone’s fear, anger or pain, it also requires that we do not allow our own commensurate feelings to be triggered in those moments. This is extremely challenging but the rewards can be handsome. The sad fact is that intent often does not equal impact. Sometimes a person’s belief that they need to protect themselves and the resultant action that springs from that impulse will be received by others in massively alienating ways. Our work with each other must include an exploration of the deeper emotional causes and effects that lie behind our actions toward one another. This is not taught much in schools; it needs to be. We seem to produce a lot of clever people who could use a lot more education in the understanding, acceptance and loving of other people.
I have been someone who has been contemptuous of others’ love for their pets; I have complained about the anthropomorphising of animals, of people’s obsession with their dogs and cats. Yet it is this need to love, this need to express affection for the living beings closest to us that brings fulfillment and well-being. Every effort must be made to remove the resistances and emotional walling that many of us have built up over the longest time that prevents us from reaching out to those who are so close to us in distance and yet can be so far removed from our good graces, through no fault of their own.
The time is now. Those things about that person that bug us, annoy us, cause our egos to spin are a trifle; the irony is that they usually find reflection in us. We will only ever love a very few that deeply… for most of us, protecting ourselves from that love is the most foolish action we can ever take.
*Image courtesy of IStockPhoto.com