Saturday, December 1, 2007

About Love, Partnership, Family, Community

Here is one of my favorite poems. It is a poem by Adrienne Rich from "Twenty One Love Poems" included in her book The Dream of a Common Language.

The picture, right, is one I took of my ten week old grand daughter Pearl


Your silence today is a pond where drowned things live
I want to see raised dripping and brought into the sun.
It's not my own face I see there, but other faces,
even your face at another age.
Whatever's lost there is needed by both of us --
a watch of old gold, a water-blurred fever chart,
a key. . . . . Even the silt and pebbles of the bottom
deserve their glint of recognition. I fear this silence,
this inarticulate life. I'm waiting
for a wind that will gently open this sheeted water
for once, and show me what I can do
for you, who have often made the unnameable
nameable for others, even for me.


I have been thinking about love, about loving, quite a bit since my visit with my ten-week-old grand daughter, Pearl, over Thanksgiving. Slowly, but simultaneously with astonishing and barely fathomable speed, she has attached to me and I to her.

How does this happen?

This is the magic of living, the supreme magic I believe: for whatever biological or anthropological reason given, or base need satisfied, the way we attach to one another is magical and deeply of us and beyond us. To deny the cosmic and ultimate necessity of such attachment is the ultimate sacrilege. It is to deny the only source of our ability to see beyond ourselves and to feel our place in, and our relationship to, our world. It is, I believe, what makes the species endure, understand and want to preserve, our future on the planet. When loving attachment is irretrievably broken, in a person or a group of people, a family, community, culture, it is the beginning of our downfall as a species and our will to fail the potential of our future.

The poem speaks of silences, of filling them and allowing them to be opened and readable. The poem is not one of the easy romantic love of sexual attraction, but of a greater attraction born beyond the lovers and inside them as well.

The speaker in the poem waits for the things of the world, the wind, the water, to open the silence, the negative space, to make the silence readable; to give the speaker in the poem the instructions about how to show love, how to return love given unselfishly: how to be in a state of love, a union of reciprocal loving action. The speaker does not ask for the silence to break, the speaker waits... patiently if somewhat fearfully... to be informed.

This is not a happy or jubilant poem either. It is quiet. There is a tinge of anxiousness. Of wanting to demonstrate connection, all the while being held, rapt in the knowledge that to want too much, to intrude into the silence and destroy it, somehow would change the nature of the love, of the moment of the realization of love, and the potential for communication through it.

My work as a coach inevitably concerns love. It concerns how to help others connect lovingly with others, and at the same time preserve autonomy, in a space of love with themselves. To preserve self while satisfying the deep undying craving for the mysterious and necessary connection to others in all forms and arrangements: with a lover, with a child, with a parent, with a family, with a community or work group.

We wish to find ways to make our lives meaningful, and we recognize, either consciously or indirectly, that the only way to accomplish that is to find connection, to love. To deny this fact creates war, in ourselves and, quite literally, in the world. To go to war in ourselves, against our innate urge to find the sweet and tidal balance between autonomy and connection, means creating illness. When a community does this, against itself or against other communities, the consequences are dire and deadly. They create the potential for obliteration.

When we allow our denied shadow sides to direct us forward in these inner wars, when we are dishonest with ourselves about our need for this balance, we fall. We become less than human. In the tarot deck this conflict is represented by the Devil card. Unattended to, such failure destroys personality and can also replicate almost like a virus in a family, workplace, community or culture, until we select leaders who make physical that illness and demonstrate it in the most detrimental ways: again, this is how we activate our potential to suicide and homicide... symbolically and in very real terms.

Divorce, family estrangements, workplace conflict, all are ultimately typified by the very healthy urge to find balance between autonomy and connection. Unfortunately, unlike the speaker in the poem, we often fail to allow the silence to be opened on its own terms, or through the naturally occurring events and opportunities the world give us, and how we go about integrating in them and it: "a wind that will gently open this sheeted water" to show us what we can do to love, to connect. This may not preclude asking for what we need, but it might make how we ask, and when we ask, and how we observe what we observe before we ask, necessary considerations.

Finally, when we grieve the naturally occurring separations that our search for balance, and our coming to terms with the ultimate losses represented by death, requires of us, we also are in a process of affirming our connections. Perhaps this is the most painful affirmation we are required to be open to and recognize, but it is not so much about separation and grief as it is about how we must love to live. With ourselves and with others.

Pearl, my little grand daughter, fell asleep several times in my arms. Where did her trust come from? How could she love me so immediately and so securely? I am, at times, overwhelmed with the responsibility of being loved in this manner: How can I best return it, what will I see, and what and how will I be shown "... what I can do/for you, who have often made the unnameable/ nameable for others, even for me."

Oh, if we could only create a world in which everyone regarded each other with some portion of this kind of love.

No comments: