When I was a teenager, I was fortunate to witness the diversity of life outside my culture and receive the benefits of travel at a time when the impression had a deep and lasting impact, obliterating my US-centrism and changing … Continue reading
How surely gravity’s law,
strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world.
each stone, blossom, child–
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.
If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
Instead we tangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.
So, like children, we begin again
to learn from things,
because they are in God’s heart;
they have never left him.
This is what the things can teach us:
to fall, patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.
—Reiner Maria Rilke, Book of Hours, II, 16.
What is the ground? Where is the ground? Is there a ground?
These past few months, more like the past few years, are a slow turning toward Rilke’s elusive essence, shifting circumstances and frame of mind, perpetually straddling multiple worlds.
Disappearing into an deliberate pursuit of an imagined solitary personal salvation is barely conceivable as it is too superficial, though unsteady is the balancing act between pushing forward with an undefined agenda (or no agenda), attending to what appears in front of me, patiently imagining a more obvious emergence will strike me between the eyes….and that I will recognize it.
I will more likely edge tentatively into love than dive, whether it is for a person, an idea, an entire gestalt. Meanwhile, it’s tantalizingly easy, as if having quickly fallen back to sleep after a moment of meditation, to become lost in the conceptual.
I miss not being engaged in a collective effort with its conflicts, dissonance and resolutions. I would feel better furthering tangible benefits on behalf of the whole. But who is to say I am not already doing that, perhaps in a small but no less integral way. I imagine a shorter lag between effort and fruition, a more linear continuum between concept and outcome, like “closure,” resting in the illusory security of active beginnings and definitive endings. My course over the past couple of years may resist definition, but at least it’s been driven by indelible truth.
I care, as if caring itself is the license permitting the softening of personal boundaries, entertaining a profound and limitless permeability, as if caring alone is enough to become transparent and to invite others to do the same, softening into the restless and the sublime tumult of living.
Being a solo traveler has reached the peak of its appeal. It’s difficult to fully accept how much this is true. The primary obstacle to entering a promising relationship is that I am only beginning to trust again being able to recognize one when I see it. Becoming aware of my blindness too late in the last one was a hard blow. So I imagine it is easier to settle for less… for limited companionship without an expectation of anything more substantial. But then what?
The superficial path of least resistance appears easier, as if it frees me from having to confront the main issue. What is it I could not see? What was it I wanted to be true that was not true? Every time I contemplate extending myself into a more substantial alliance, I recoil. I don’t recall ever feeling this way. I don’t know if there is a way through.
I imagine simple refuge, that someone or something will magically make it all clear and easy. I conceive of relationship without attachment, as if commitment implies ownership, or even monogamy. I am free to have any relationship at any time, with anyone, with no obligations, loving fully, equally and without restraint….even if only temporarily. But I am 70 now and the prospect of not progressing beyond this is real. Could I accept such compromise?
Now, after accumulating more than a year’s time in Chiang Mai, I wonder what could be inadequate about remaining in familiar surroundings? Why forego the comforts of an American home, community and convenience, the deepening groove and safety of perennially soothing routines that connect one to a single place, except for the prospect of continuing to be solitary.
Being in one place reinforces the illusion of permanence while attuning one to less obvious change. At “home,” the passage of time is reflected in my surroundings and thus in myself. I’ve come to rely on a change of scenery from time to time to recognize where I’ve been. There is an ongoing urge to explore beyond the familiar. Diversity is the soul of creation. For me, the diversification of life and culture drives conscious creativity in one’s own view and in life. The creative impulse, the drive toward communion, eros, is the evolutionary process itself completely encapsulated in a single word. It is optimism, consciousness and dissolution all rolled into one.
It’s a partial re-boot, a belief in the next moment without having to know what is next. A longer-term encounter with predispositions, personal bias, expectations and habits allows eros to manifest anew, freshening perspective and opening transformative possibilities.