Archive for the 'romance' Category

Longing for love

January 19, 2014

There’s longing for love and then there’s longing for Love — yearning for the romantic love of one’s life to walk in and desire for spiritual union with the divine within us and outside of us, respectively.

The two can get confused, or maybe they are simply the same urge experienced at different stages of development and expressed according to the vocabulary with which the person is familiar.

But, maybe because the anniversary of my father’s death is in a week, I am thinking that romantic love with another person may be a decoy for deeper love with the divine.  He seemed to come to me after he died, confused about where he needed to go, and I redirected him — “No, not my light, but that bigger light in the distance; go with those nice folks who will help you go where it serves for you to go.”

I think I’ve gotten people who are actually searching for, yearning for, God, getting distracted by the kind of love I apparently can provide.  Again, “No, it’s not my love, but that bigger Love, for which you are really searching, and if you confuse what you really want, with having a relationship with me, it won’t end well, for either of us.”  I have these suspicions, I think, less because I am looking to flatter myself and more because I get so drained by those sorts of relationships;  I don’t have infinite love available on demand without pause the way God does, and when people expect that from me, I get exhausted.  That’s what gives me the heads-up that something is amiss.  Such a misplaced relationship also tends to play out as devastation in my personal life, as well as this emotional, spiritual, and physical depletion of me.  (Al-Anon talks about this pattern arising in relationships affected by the disease of alcoholism, too.)  I notice what’s going on more quickly when the love sought is not romantic, but eventually I even recognize it there — and I think it’s harder for me to resist, too, when the love is romantic, although I’m not sure why — romantic love can be quite seductive, I guess.  Maybe it’s got a quality found in substances that encourage a Pavlovian response or an addictive response.  As I said, there seems to me to be some connection here with patterns found in situations affected by the disease of alcoholism — maybe people so affected are looking in their own way for God, too, and get waylaid by a more immediate but destructive substitute.

My point is that, if people are looking for Love, could they please direct their attention to where they can find the supply they need?

For my own part, I need to recognize earlier what’s going on for what it is, and to find a way to redirect the person searching, preferably in a way that also results in a relationship with that person that works for both of us.


The dangers of teaching

April 14, 2013

I come from a family in which most people taught, either throughout their lives or for a time, myself included.  My maternal grandmother would interrupt my grandfather leading the family seder at Passover, to explain, in English, to my sister and me, what it was all about.  I enjoyed it.  I loved listening to her explanations — and to her stories, to her explanations of all the things, including from their travels, in their apartment in Brooklyn.  (If you seemed to really like something, it went home with you, unless it was already connected to someone else, like the “goody-goody gumdrop” candy dish, which, I think, was somehow connected to my uncle.)  I loved her pot roast, too.

So I feel as if I grew up in an environment in which teaching was a positive experience.  It was for me in school, too.

But in regard to some kinds of subject matter, I think there are dangers.  With regard to some kinds of knowledge, a little of it can be a dangerous thing.  The biggest danger, I believe, lies in explaining something that has to be experienced first or otherwise the experience will be influenced and distorted by the explanation, or in allowing students to substitute intellectual understanding of the concept for experience of the thing explained, and, as a further consequence of this, to make the direct experience more difficult to have.  Sometimes I think teachers can only really preach safely to the choir.

The choir may well need the teaching once it has experienced what it has experienced.  But I sometimes think that rather than have been surprised, or dismayed, by how his book Life of the Beloved found its audience with those already with faith, Henri Nouwen could have seen it as confirmation of a principle of the universe.

Do some people have faith experiences as the result of reading books or listening to lectures?  I don’t know.  I think the spark could be transmitted through such media to an already receptive student.  But I would guess it would be something attached to the teaching that would be the source of ignition — some passion born of the teacher’s own faith — not the intellectual content.

But maybe I’m just generalizing from my own spot in the universe.  What I do know, is that just as advising others on their romances is a dangerous business, so, too, is teaching spirituality.  It’s not that the teachings are wrong, though sometimes they are or are slightly off, it’s more about how they will be understood or used by the audience — that, too, has to be taken into account.  To my mind, the name of the game is to get everybody to participate, to see for themselves, not to get everybody to see our own souvenirs from our experience and be able to describe them back.

How do I think we get others to participate?  “Attraction rather than promotion.”  (I’m quoting from Al-Anon’s 11th Tradition.)  And then, I think, we share as equals, regardless of how many merit badges we may have.  That’s the humility that keeps us open and receptive to hearing clearly, I think.

I get a lot out of hearing what spiritual teachers teach.  But it is confirmation and/or clarification of what I already know through some other means.  How I came to know was by following the bread crumbs in my life.

Love, without romance or caretaking

September 12, 2012

We experience a lot of our most intense love in the context of parent-child and sexual-partner relationships, I think.  I think it is a challenge to disentangle the caretaking aspects or romantic aspects of the emotional exchange within those relationships from the love component, so that what love per se really feels like can be revealed.  I also think we as a culture tend to get stuck in these small-bore relationships and their baggage of attachments.  I’d guess this is because of human needs for association through ties of alliance in order to survive (and then prosper) in the material world.  I don’t think “true love” includes either other feature, either caretaking or romance.

I think it’s important for people generally, and not just mystics or clerics or random individuals, to locate true love within themselves.  I think this is important because I think it allows us to function within mainstream society as a whole not only as resources of light and fresh air, but also as human beings who have realized their potential as the spiritual creatures that human beings are meant to be — we are not (just) social animals who survive in the material world.

I don’t think even other animals are just animals that survive (or not) in the physical world, I think they, too, blend in with the spiritual world in their own way.

Part of this experience of “true love,” I think, is giving to others without thinking of return.  Within parent-child and spousal relationships, we may learn to give deeply out of love, but we also have some expectations of the other.  I think once we strip off the caretaking (including the helicoptering aspect, not just the being-cared-for aspect) and the romance (the yearning, the desire, the loneliness, enabling, or neediness), we can still give from that deep place, but we give more freely and without looking for some thing to meet a need of ours back.  Then we can also start giving this love more generally to everyone, not just to people with whom we are in relationship formally.

Boys and men and emotions

April 7, 2012

I was reading about a smaller percentage of teenage boys reporting they’ve had sex and about men’s attitude towards sex and intimacy in some entertainment, after just having had a discussion of related issues over the fence with a neighbor.  She has two sons, too, and we were talking about what happens when boy-likes-girl and girl-likes-boy but girl is ready for a closer relationship sooner (whether that closeness is physical or emotional).  An older friend of mine with older children once warned me that it happens, and that helped me support one of my son’s need to disentangle himself from relationships that became too overwhelming for him, and helped me listen to a girlfriend of my other son when she told me how “young” he is.  My neighbor’s story had elements of both these patterns, with her son not being ready but in his case then the girl finding someone else instead, to his dismay.  It’s so hard.  The story of Romeo and Juliet is about a different kind of timing issue, but still, it is a reminder that timing in romance is a factor.  Maybe the image shouldn’t be Cupid shooting an arrow into one heart but of his lining up the openings in two hearts and somehow finding the moment when they are aligned enough with each other to slip a link through both of them and join them together.  Maybe it doesn’t always happen on the first try.

Hat trick

February 8, 2012

I think it was my older son who suggested I listen to Train’s “Marry Me.”  He gave me a longer list of songs he thought I might like (he’s been doing this for years, I think beginning with Norah Jones’s first album, which I love) some time ago, and I think this one was on it.  Anyway, I love the song’s gentleness, both melodically and lyrically.  And the video I enjoy, too.

But the hat thing bothers me.  I don’t think it’s there when the waitress first notices that he has left.  But it’s there later.  What am I to make of that?  That it’s the vehicle for reconnecting actually reminds me of the version of the Frosty the Snowman story I remember — somehow the hat means something about coming back and reconnecting.  If I combine the two storylines, I could come up with something really interesting, like the heart that thaws and pulls the pair back together, the warmth that reunites them.

If I take the Train video as it is, I guess I’d say it’s the universe giving them an issue over which to connect, this business of his having left his hat behind.  I’ve had plenty of stuff seemingly disappear, usually old letters or memorabilia, occasionally an article of clothing or something I don’t remember giving away or otherwise getting rid of, a necklace or prayer beads I’ve put away too well (or put away in a new place from usual).  I’ve also had stuff disappear because it was stolen, but that’s a different issue, I think.  But I don’t usually get things re-appearing that I had no sense were lost in the first place.

That’s what the hat thing seems like to me.  She’s wistful that he’s gone, but she’s not focusing on his hat, I don’t think, not thinking about it as lost, not thinking, “Oh, if only he had left his hat behind he would come back.”  Or maybe she is.  Maybe what happens in the video gives visual voice to an (her) interior life.  It could reflect how she would like to conjure him back, but instead of doing that directly, she creates in her mind a scenario in which he has more free will — his hat on the seat provides him with an opportunity, and they can negotiate from there.

Yes, I know, it’s (just) a music video.  But that hat thing seems to me to want an interpretation.  Maybe a better interpretation than I’ve come up with here will come to me later.