Archive for the 'merging' Category

Putting the elephant together

April 9, 2014

I make reference to the Sufi tale about the blind men and the elephant fairly frequently.  It represents for me a shorthand way to refer to differing perspectives, to refer to our understanding of God and the mystery of the universe, to refer to the need for the human project of sharing.

So when I saw a tea-for-one set with an elephant, I decided to buy it.  It’s a gift for myself for a couple of occasions.

It arrived today with the cup in pieces.

Broken Item

Willy used to glue such things together, but I’m not sure even he could have repaired this one, as there are some very small fragments.

But it makes a great reification of a metaphor, actually it reifies a couple of metaphors and brings them together:  Henri Nouwen’s focus on us as broken vessels, his focus on that cup that we have trouble draining, and the Sufis’ separated parts of the elephant.

We had to send the nytimes store a picture, so that’s how I happen to have one.



December 21, 2012

I was reading Richard Rohr’s post about incarnation this morning, how it’s a big focus of God’s.

And I could read his post as saying it’s God’s big focus, as in, his chief focus.  But I’m not sure he actually says that.

Anyway, I think it may very well be a big focus but I don’t think it’s more important than other aspects of the universe, I think it’s more like the big deal for our part of the universe and that we’ve gotten stuck trying to get those pieces (spirit and material) to meld together.  Sometimes there’s too much heat and the components lose their identity, implode, and become something inert, sometimes there’s not enough and the identities are fine but there’s no union and therefore no transformation into some third thing.

I can see Jesus’ teachings as trying to get people to do this melding, but I can also see distortions in the way those teachings have been transmitted.  I think the teachings need to be set out there but that to actual do the melding, coaching is needed, not teaching.  And the coaching is about interior development of individuals, starting with the development of self-awareness.  No one’s going to meld on the basis of having been taught the idea.  Even surrender to God requires the ability to be able to distinguish between our wishful thinking and spiritual understandings if it is to be most helpful.  In the meantime it seems to be something like “two steps forward, one step back” for most of us, I think.

Anyway, I titled this “Beads” because to me, the incarnation issue is one bead on a strand with a number of beads.  Instead of picturing a clasp on the strand, I see our learning to balance spirit and material as what will make one of these beads (the incarnation bead) cohere and become unified, and that this helps the strand be a continuous loop.  While our task may be to focus on this incarnation bead, if we don’t recognize that it is one of a number of beads, I think we can distort its importance and from this, distort our actions in our attempt to unify the bead.  It’s a string of beads, I think, not a pendant.


November 4, 2012

My apologies if I’ve written about this before, but I was thinking about how this person “done me wrong” if I go by their way of looking at the world, and how if I use my own, I can see it quite differently.  I can see that they are so caught up in a limited worldview that they don’t realize they are confusing the other person with a reflection of themselves and the reflection of themselves with the other person.  I can forgive them for inability.  If I used the worldview they are pressing on me, paradoxically I wouldn’t have the basis for forgiveness, I would be insisting instead that they done me wrong and took my role and played it badly.   But how can you blame a person for not recognizing themselves in the mirror, for not recognizing that what they’re seeing is a mirror image of themselves?  “Objects may be closer than they appear,” or whatever the sideview mirrors say; how about, “Objects may be the opposite of what you process,” instead?  “I” and “you” merge into “we” if we learn how to merge — at that point, mistakes in processing mirror images don’t matter.

Merging and enmeshment

October 29, 2012

This post is inspired by my viewing and listening to Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas singing what turns out to be a Bob Dylan tune (in other words, I didn’t realize this at first), during the Transatlantic Sessions, series 5.

A little after the three-minute mark, they sing together.  Their respective expressions I find very moving and their very different voices blend beautifully.  For me it’s a wonderful experience aesthetically, but it’s also an illustration of how we can relate to each other.

I think so often we end up enmeshing with each other using the part of ourselves that is only our personal identity and is managed by our ego.  These jockeys interact with each other, and with many of us, using them we cross one another’s boundaries and become enmeshed — extensions of one another.  This can manifest in trying to tell other people what to do or in bleeding for them.  Suggestions can be good, compassion is good, but trying to be someone else or to live their life for them is a dynamic that ultimately fails (and damages).

Merging our spiritual selves with the divine works.  And we all have the divine within us, too.  Rohr’s daily meditation for today speaks to that.  Those aspects of ourselves allow us to merge with each other.  Merging with each other through our souls, on a sort of spiritual exchange platform, is fine, I think.  (And I think those mergers are temporary, even if the effects can be long-lasting.)  The outer parts of ourselves can interact in other ways, like singing harmony with one another, and maintain their needed boundaries.

So I see in this video two people separately going deep into their respective selves while also interacting with one another.  I suspect they connected with each other on multiple levels through the (musical) experience.  To me it’s what we should be doing with each other, even without the music.

I noticed after listening to the video multiple times that many of the commenters to the video also noticed the passage that caught my attention too.  I think we all are attuned to the same sense of what works — we know it when we see it, even if we can’t do it or don’t analyze it.  I am grateful that musicians have preserved in their realm a public demonstration of this core human dynamic.

Vines and hybrids

May 31, 2012

I know I’ve mentioned how I have a couple of plants that were hybrids on which the fancy specimen part died back and the root stock grew out — a Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick and a Pink Dawn Rose.  Then I’ve got this vine issue I mentioned in my previous post.

Host and guest is the theme, it seems to me.  In hybrids we encourage the relationship, even preferring the guest at the expense of the host plant.  With vines, especially when they become too exuberant, we see a negative parasitic relationship and see the host as victimized, perhaps.

Maybe every plant should have its own space, including roots — that would avoid finding a balance between the needs of the intermingled plants.

Somebody brought up to me a number of years ago the issue of “roots.”  Not genealogy but this kind, plant roots.  For him they were mysterious and somehow threatening — like for me the way the tops of the trees were when my mother read us that Robert Louis Stevenson poem “Windy Nights”.

I sometimes wonder whether the real lesson here is overcoming that fear of roots (or vines) and seeing that it’s all a matter of balance, that neither host nor guest need be deemed harmful if everyone’s needs are being met and balance is achieved that keeps the system sustainable; that’s it’s balance that is the real issue, not hidden roots, climbing parasites, or even intermingling through a lack of boundaries.


May 5, 2012

I saw some beautiful Egyptian artifacts at the Museum of Fine Arts the other day (the day Juno was off-limits to me and the rest of the public).  I was especially drawn to some of the jewelry, necklaces, collars, hair ornaments in turquoise, lapis, and carnelian.

I love that combination of turquoise, lapis lazuli, and deep  orange, in Tibetan finery and Native American decorative arts as well.  But my expectation is coral, not carnelian.  I don’t know why and I don’t know which element is “preferable” or “better,” even just for me.

I know I am drawn to coral, that when I wear it I feel different in a positive sort of way.  And I am aware from the news that coral reefs are threatened by changes in the ocean and changes in earth’s climate and atmosphere.  So part of me wants to champion the coral and see the carnelian as an inferior substitution, an impostor.

On the other hand, I can wonder whether I have been unhelpfully avoiding something, the carnelian, that I should be embracing.

It’s interesting that coral can be dyed, that carnelian can have different hues.  (I’ve also had friends with white hair who used to be redheads, and friends with white hair who took to dying it red, a color that was never theirs when they were younger.)  Maybe they help tell the same story, in terms of their relevancy to me.  I can see in that common feature something similar to the way one color of wine is transformed into another during a Tu Bish’vat seder.  It also reminds me of how the grafted part of a showy hybrid plant can die back and the root stock then flourish.  Two elements blended in one thing, one having ascendency at times, then the other.  Trying to compare them and judge them relative to one another — that strikes me as probably in error, that rather I should probably see each of them as having its place and serving its own function.

It’s funny, I can spin a riff off of seeing carnelian in Ancient Egyptian jewelry at a museum and derive a spiritual interpretation, where maybe I should just visit Jeanette in the bead store and grab a bunch of carnelian beads and see how they affect me.

Equipment and technique

April 4, 2012

Gita says that my mind is constantly in motion, and implies that this is difficult for some other people to deal with.  I think of it as being something like a car battery in an engine that wouldn’t turn over and has been jump-started, and you keep the engine running because you’re not sure whether the battery can or will hold the charge.

If a person “hooks up” with higher ways of understanding the world, that hook-up is like a one-shot connection, I think, and I think we try to maintain that connection by keeping our mental engine running.  I think that hook-up may be the same thing people mean when they talk about spiritual union with God, I’m not sure.  But I am pretty sure that we don’t engage in that hook-up through our willing it, that it comes through a combination of willingness to serve, to do what serves, and to accept and learn from a whole lot of experiences in life other people might try to escape or control.  I don’t think it’s compatible with a lot of what most people want to have in their lives.

That hook-up is, I think, what develops the equipment we have in a nascent form; I think it’s kind of like a leaf unfurling, a flower opening, a balloon inflating, a Mars land-rover deploying after landing.  So, I think we lack the equipment in a useful state if we lack the hook-up, and that many people do lack it.  (I think some people have experienced the jump-start for its instant but have not been able to maintain the connection it allows, perhaps because they had not first readied themselves.)

My sense is that a person has to develop mental equipment and then technique, in order to engage in some kinds of understanding.  That’s what I was getting at in my comment to Ross Douthat’s blog post.  I think plenty of smart, well-educated people learn technique, but I think that without the “hook-up,” the technique applied produces a flattened view of a multidimensional scene.  And most people don’t want to do what it takes to experience the hook-up, in part because that sort of a life is antithetical to many of the things they wish to do with the ability to understand profoundly — the ambition undermines the very things they need for the experience and maintaining its aftermath.

I used to think that people who have developed the gift of understanding through such a hook-up could themselves connect with other people, people who don’t have it but have something else, like a means of communicating the understanding to a wider audience.  Kind of like components to old-fashioned stereo equipment, I think, with its amplifiers and subwoofers and such (I may have the technology misunderstood, but my point is different units networked together to produce the sound for the audience).  I even think the stereo analogy may not be unrelated in content, because I sometimes think I have developed the equivalent of depth perception in part through my connection with another “viewer,” whoever that may be, as if we were two eyes seeing together, and hence in three dimensions instead of two.

So, I used to think, I think, that one of these people/eyes got the vision, the other provided the translation and publication, in some kind of partnership.  And maybe it’s so.  I don’t know.  I used to have a sense of how it might work, but in trying to move closer to it, I feel less sure of it.  Maybe that’s just an artifact of getting up close to the object, no longer seeing its totality, like seeing less of the earth as the airplane gets closer to landing.

But I’m not sure.  Part of me thinks my collaboration model was wrong, and that in the past it produced unhelpful and damaging results that needed to be walked back.  And so I wait to get some clarity, trying to remain open and loving to everyone involved, and intending no harm.


March 7, 2012

Having alluded to having had a sort of spiritual experience back in 2000, I thought I might write about an aspect of it that I haven’t yet understood to my satisfaction.  I wrote that “I found myself connecting with faith, joy, hope,”in my previous post, and that’s true.  I also found myself with a really strong sense of yearning.

My immediate association with the yearning was high school and unrequited romantic love, which was quite an experience at age forty-two.  I felt moved to write a poem, the first one I had written in decades, and it turned out to be about longing and previous loss, about the narrator as an adolescent and about a younger boy named Icarus lying dead on the beach beside her.  In it also figured her burnt hands, an accident, a great love from her past whom she hears singing in the distance behind her.  It started off with a question about how do you capture the emptied heart, and it seems to resolve it by not trying to possess the love of this man in the background but to accept it, to bask in it as being for her but not hers.  She winds up by the end of the poem being able to look at her scarred and misshapen hands and not hide them, as she had, and somehow by accepting his love as for her and but not as generated, in its origin, on her behalf, [“It is just what he does / for a living, his living], her heart has grown full again.

There are three kinds of yearning I’ve read about since I had that experience and wrote that poem that have rung a bell for me in connection with that experience.  One was C.S. Lewis’s sense of yearning in his own spiritual journey, another was something I read in a eastern religious context about yearning and about not confusing the willingness to serve (which does lead to a requiting of that yearning, through union with God, which does not and instead results in a “fall”) with desire to merge with God and experience that love and resolution), and the third was about a yearning for admiration and righteousness, as I recall it from memory from a recent David Brooks column.

So, to me, this all indicates that the yearning is for love, and for a very deep love.  Maybe some people hope that the sum total of the love they receive from others in response to their upright behavior will be the path to that love, while others seek it through an interior experience.  I’m going to speculate that the orientation of pursuing admirable and righteous behavior is a way, and a wonderful way, of keeping a person’s heart open during adverse circumstances.  My own experience of needing to keep my heart open was in the context of creating a family, and I knew after losing a baby, that I needed a child to nurture in order to keep from becoming angry and bitter, which I knew with a great certainty was something to avoid.  So my husband and I adopted children (which was actually something we had planned to do after having a couple through the biological process), and my heart was kept open through that (maybe also broken, but I’d prefer heartbreak to a closed heart).  When the heart is kept open, I think great things are always possible.

This leads me to my latest understanding of my old poem.  That there is, in the context of romantic love, some sort of equivalent to loving a child born to another set of parents, and that somehow I am trying to figure out how to do that, and to do it without lapsing into petty emotions like jealousy and selfishness and whatever emotion “neediness” comes out of.  If I can figure out how to locate that purer strand of love in the midst of romantic love, I think I will find the blessing in the difficulty of the situation in which I found that love, and, paradoxically, come to accept and appreciate the difficult context.

How that experience of love relates to love of the divine and to spiritual merging I am not sure, but I have this nagging and annoying suspicion that it involves learning to love myself better than I do.  I think my sense of what it meant to buy flowers might be an opening to that understanding — when I love someone deeply interpenetrated with me, I love myself, perhaps inadvertently, and that experience allows me to prime the pump and feel what self-love feels like, and from that have that kind of love grow inside of me.  I’m not sure, probably because I’m in the midst of it.  I know I try to love and help other people in a way that probably is unhealthy, that doesn’t come out of a place of strength and deep resource, and I am aware of trying to adjust what I do so that I love people and help as I can but not become drained myself.  My sense is that my struggles with this are related to my difficulties with self-love.  I think for me a huge challenge is how to love myself in the face of loss, to not let difficult outcomes that I can’t control affect my regard for myself.  And I do know that I am a work in progress (although I do have that voice that keeps asking, “Are we there yet?”  We are when I don’t hear it anymore, I think.)

In the meantime I am thankful for having great love in my life, even when I feel frustrated by its context.  I guess I hope that recognizing the blessing in that perceived difficulty, welcoming it, and developing the gift it offers me will lead to a sense of peace that may quiet the yearning, either directly or indirectly.

Imploded yogi, II

August 10, 2011

I have been mulling over the phenomenon of imploded yogis again.  This comes after reading Stanley Fish’s latest on the limits of philosophy, or however his two pieces on “Does Philosophy Matter?” should be characterized.  The connection between his post and my musings is that his discussion struck me as so devoid of methods of apprehending the world other than thinking, other than using the intellect.  For me, there are other parts of my apparatus for taking in information than my intellectual mind and other processes for comprehending it than my thinking.  As I mentioned in my comment, sometimes one of these other ways of knowing is called gnosis.

When I understand something through this other means, it is a very internal process — it’s like getting the information through a conduit deep inside of me that I can access once I get my ego and thinking mind to get out of my way (like asking the kids or the dog to get out of my line of sight when I use the rear-view mirror in the car, kind of).

My impression is that an imploded yogi may end up with this conduit being very long and convoluted, and using, maybe as a consequence of this (I’m thinking there is difficulty receiving information through this means because of this, that the sound is very faint by the time it emerges from the length of the conduit) some other, more external means of “hearing” information (a sort of work-around, kind of like reading lips for someone who is moderately hearing impaired).  I suspect this works fine for certain kinds of information, certain frequencies if you will, this “listening” to them through some other means.  The problem arises, I think, with trying to “hear” information of certain other sorts through this external means (this “lip reading” sort of work-around) — for some “frequencies,” I’m thinking this method may result in overwhelming and muffling “sound.”

So, what’s an imploded yogi to do?  Well, first off, such a person can find someone to pull in information for them and then translate or transmit the information to the imploded yogi through a form that is accessible to them.  The problem with this solution is that there’s some stuff that will sound different to each person.  So, learning to hear it directly through an internal conduit is probably preferable for an imploded yogi.  Maybe this can be done through some sort of sharing of somebody else’s internal conduit, like the Graiae (or, Old Grey Ones) did with the one eye they shared among their three selves, since I have the impression yogis are pretty good at merging, or interpenetrating, or whatever we call how people connect with each other in less than obvious ways.  In any case, I’m sure there’s a way to help an imploded yogi hear internally. (As someone who has a substantial (physical) conductive hearing loss in one ear, I find this interesting, since the (physical) inverse of this is the one way I do hear with my left ear — anything internal, like chewing or dental work going on in my mouth, I hear all too loudly, whereas external sound, especially human speech and cars coming up behind me, not very much.)