I don’t know about you, but too many of my waking hours are spent wrapped in diversions of one form or another, succumbing to the enticements of fleeting distractions. I could say I have a short attention span or am prone to procrastinate, but to a degree these activities are all part of a carefully crafted public persona, mostly for my benefit, but also for others.
These diversions are also the substance of social scarring, the continuous formation of connective tissue overlying a much more fragile presence. We all have our version. If the standard diversions don’t satisfy, I might simply go to sleep–which is to say, indulge in proven effective numbing activities. I don’t know anyone who isn’t doing the same thing some of the time.
Recently, and unexpectedly, I became more present to something new, an underlying alone-ness that I have never known or touched, both a longing and a peace that has never been fully explored. Calling it loneliness is a misnomer. I am speaking of an acute awareness of alone-ness which does not present itself as an emptiness that must be filled. This is slightly different from a deep longing inferred by loneliness. This alone-ness has been hidden for decades, if not my whole life. Maybe its relevance and urgency can only now be realized, like meeting an unfamiliar signpost on an untraveled path.
My otherwise carefully constructed and maintained veneer of presence is being filleted from within by a sharp scalpel exposing deeper layers. Finding myself in new territory, every interpretation, every rendition of this fragile moment stands exposed on the shakiest of ground, a crucial cognitive step removed from the immediate experience. A piece of the whole truth must be excised. But I cannot remain silent about it, at least not to myself.
I won’t claim to have special insight into this mystery. It is an emptiness, which-if permitted-can also lean into longing as deep and broad as I have ever experienced. It is not merely a surfacing, not a softening into longing, but a revelation of a deeper, raw, achingly vast landscape of complete emotional nakedness. Even that term barely touches the fragile, bleeding truth of it. Yet there is also a witness, a tenderness in which I hold myself that feels new, welcome and equally unexplored.
This alone-ness is so deep I can easily shift, with subtle deliberation, directly into a fear of it, fear of exposure, an intimate vulnerability to being known this way, a fear of even knowing myself this way. I don’t doubt my capacities. This is not about whether I can enjoy being alone, whether I like myself or whether I am a “good” person. No, this is an entirely different quality of enjoyment, a fearless and fearful satisfaction. This is not a bleeding wound of pedestrian loneliness known to the world of psychology. This is more existential, a deeper, common ground of being human, what’s left after we’re done stripping away garden variety dysthymic loneliness, revealing an underlying third-degree burn on the human soul.
I am as firm about standing in this newly known unknown as I have ever been about similar vulnerabilities or unexplored emotional landscapes.
How does such quiescent yearning make itself known and what is its nature? In this serendipitous case, it is revealed simply by sitting quietly, gently asking for it, waiting for it to declare itself like a reticent child overcoming extreme shyness, coming ever so guardedly into the light. Only by letting go of every impulse to grasp or coax, every agenda, every need to satisfy or obscure, to cover over or to push it away; only by recognizing and releasing every impulse to save myself from it, to change it into something else, to give it any comfort whatsoever, does it gradually, so tentatively come to the surface in its fullness and magnificent purity.
Yes, purity. Being both the playwright, the audience and the actor on stage, I witness the exquisite primal purity of alone-ness so large it is not even mine; I have witnessed it’s beautiful unvarnished, unique and precious truth, it’s central and dynamic place, giving life to other features of my “personality”: my motives to connect, the desire to love, to seek physical intimacy, to be in love and in the carnal shower of authentic appreciation falling upon the being and body of a lover that goes beyond me or the other as persons–straight to a domain of alone-ness which we all inhabit, the heart of love itself.
Ram Dass calls it Being Love, an energetic that transcends the physical dimension entirely. Can Being Love include carnal acts or is it solely a spiritual erotic exchange we are talking about? Are the physical acts an augmentation of the essential motive–or a diversion? I guess it depends on whom you talk to. I wonder whether such motives are valid or whether they represent a crude moral dance, a self-serving rationalization. Is what drives me to such expressions a true desire to express love in the world or is it merely to satisfy (or obscure) an ego that slyly disguises lust as eros? If this alone-ness is empty of ego, maybe the intention to express love beyond the personal can be just as pure. At the very least, it is so alive.
The benefit of striking this vein, which I’ll call the absolute nature of relative reality, extends beyond the personal to the collective, yet to generalize from the personal might merely be a recapitulation of a personal habitual mode of escape. Here I am, completely open and exposed, not quite soft, more like raw, ragged. I become a window, a permeable membrane, even a two-way mirror just as revealing of others as it is of me. I no longer feel separate. This alone-ness connects everything and everyone.
This quality is also endowed with color. It is a strikingly clear shade of blue, almost tropical but deeper, other-worldy, a color I have never seen before, strong, dense, magnetic and immutable. It emanates from my heart with unwavering clarity, unlimited reserve, subsuming all belief, a blue that seeps into and resolves every color of doubt, rendering all habits of thought inert, in museum quality suspension. It is centering, quieting. A calming refuge.
Such a revelation can only be born in a highly discriminating state of absolute neutrality. I did not arrive at this moment simply by extending compassion to myself. I did not wish anything to happen. Yet in that non-wish, a brief state devoid of agenda, true non-meditation, a door opened slowly, quietly. I did not reflexively rush through. I asked permission to enter. Having arrived, simultaneously viewing and directly experiencing, compassion for all arises, whether or not others knowingly live in this state and regardless of how complex or rooted their individual strategies may be for obscuring this same alone-ness from themselves.
The frailty of ego is gently unmasked. As hard, as immutable and automatic as it may seem, as much as ego obscures and blinds us to our true nature and common ground, ego is a Wizard of Oz, a false limitation placed on our own agency and inseparability from all that we meet.
In identifying with ego, I re-create the Stockholm syndrome with myself, identifying with the oppressor. To realize this is a truth-shock. In every moment, seemingly inconsequential or brief, breaking free, there are no ‘others.’ There is only this One Self. In its deconstruction, I become the colonizer and the colonized, the overlord and the underclass, both the victim and the willing participant.
Ego is a tenuous construction that crumbles under this (blue) light: We are each a unique expression of the random play of a divine essence in all things; no amount of wounding, desperation, creative construction or self-deception can extinguish that truth. In exposing the core reality of alone-ness, this exquisite unstained vulnerability, the heart of the primary impulse to love and be loved, a deepening capacity to delight in its expression awakens.