So, this thread of thought has been spinning (pun intended) in me since I wrote about it last week (see Weaving a Life) when it came up and out of my pen like Spiderwoman’s silk, unconsciously given as a means of securing the nurture necessary for survival. I’d had no ‘idea’ when I’d sat down that day to sort out my feelings of disjointed belonging that the image of weaving would come with its message of wholeness.
So, perhaps I should not be surprised, though I continue to be amazed by it, when additional messages surface to be woven into that fabric, thoughts of my own intertwining with conversations with friends or stories I read. Perhaps that is simply what human brains do – process, integrate, make connections – but still it astonishes me.
Last weekend, while scrubbing the camp pots of the soot that accumulates over a season of cooking over a fire, my hands revisiting those memories as my head plugged in to a Ted Talk on “How we Love”, I listened as the researcher expressed two fundamental human needs as divergent and often conflicting threads. On one hand, the human being NEEDS belonging, security, stability, home. We have evolved to need one another. On the other hand, the human being NEEDS mystery, wonder, journey, newness, adventure, curiosity. We are innately seekers of nurture. The researcher spoke of how difficult it can be for one relationship to support both of these needs.
And I thought of the warp and weft.
I heard another researcher, who is using the new brain imaging sciences to look at the chemistry of romantic love…. which is also now being understood as a human NEED, as it helps us attach and form bonds that we need to survive. She was looking at the various chemical responses in the brain and how ,depending upon the predominant neurotransmitter in our own brains, we will be attracted to someone like us (quiet and stable for instance) or someone opposite us (the intuitive drawn to the logical, for instance)
And I thought of warp and weft.
Then, I read an article compiling the studies of university researchers on the dawning understanding of AWE as a human emotion, as vital and real as joy and sorrow, anger and fear, surprise and disgust. Turns out we DO need moments of wonder and awe. Such experiences elicit psychological and physical healing, inspire art and scientific discovery, induce generosity, and create emotional bonds… to one another and to life itself, as we experience both being small in the face of it (needing one another) and being a part of something phenomenal. More and more studies appear, it seems almost daily, that document nature’s impact on the mind, body and relationships. It appears that we need out-of-ordinary experiences as much as we do mundane ones.
And I thought of warp and weft.
You see, sometimes I judge my need for retreating to nature to bask in its beauty the way that I do, as selfish. I label that desire as frivolous. The culture I grew up in tells me it is not productive, not contributory, or perhaps is not even normal. I worry about myself in relationships when I feel discontent in their day-to-day sameness , even as I care deeply for and cherish the belonging and bonds that I have in them. Then, I fear that our different needs and desires… especially this deep longing, which I have for too long diminished as shallow, in me… will drive us apart. And I think that I must be broken somehow.
But these studies validated this human need in me as real.
Despite those who have assured me otherwise, I have been woefully uncertain that “Seer of Beauty” is a necessary and needed vocation. With camera or pen or listening ears, is the desire to see –and to share what I see– a good-enough pursuit for a Human Being to expend one’s life?
You see, I am also a seeker of meaning.
Warp and weft.
I think of the seemingly universal (is it?) human desire for journey, for pilgrimage, that seems to manifest at this stage of life. Is it merely because space opens in a human being’s life as the responsibilities of child-rearing and career depart, an emptiness one seeks to fill? Is it merely a symptom of a ‘life of leisure’, only available to retirees and members of a certain privileged class seeking to fill the void of connection and meaning? In a long marriage, is it a way that seasoned couples seek together a sense of newness and mystery, wonder and discovery in a relationship that has grown comfortable and secure ? Is it the laying down of new layers of color and texture, beauty and meaning, over the stable structure of a life-well-lived?
Warp and weft?
Perhaps it is not a modern dis-ease at all. Perhaps it is the nomad, the hunter gatherer in my genes or my reptilian brain, but perhaps it is also a necessary stage in the human journey.
And now, I am remembering the teachings I was exposed to on the Hindu understanding of the 4 stages of life ( again, this thread of awareness coming forth to be woven into the cloth even as I sit down this morning to write) , which includes the movement into the forest at this time in one’s life (traditionally ages 48-72). After spending the previous stage of life built upon the more concrete realities of getting ‘things’ done in the material world – providing food, structure, support, offspring, engaging in civic responsibilities, contributing ‘wealth’ to society, etc — the forest dwellers leave the householder stage of life (as that identity naturally falls away) , stepping away from the previous external identities that had once been so all-consuming. They withdraw from those pursuits to strengthen their connection with the deeper dimensions of life and of their own being. Their desire is to ‘know’ the true nature of the invisible (mystery, awe) and perhaps to experience the beauty they were too busy to see during their householder stage (to fill up that drainage and be healed), but the purpose of their journey is not to merely accumulate experiences. They are gathering the tools and means to foster awareness of that ‘luminous field’ that is also the core of our being (being moved getting inspired… filled with breath). Eventually, those forest dwellers returned, their perceptions of life opened to the depths of both their own wisdom and the earth’s (its teachings of profound oneness, generosity, and interdependence, for instance, that modern researchers are noting in their studies of wilderness experiences). Detached from society’s judgments (modern psychologists might say they ‘individuated’ from their previous roles during their time away) they are able to bring that wisdom and the ideals revealed and integrated- harmony and justice, beauty and belonging, connection and oneness- back to their communities. There, at last, perhaps is the marriage of the inward and the outward, seeking meaning AND reaching out with compassion, discovering what we are here both to experience AND to give.
That is my hope anyway. That I also might bring beauty back to that rigid structure.
Warp and weft.
Ps. One night this week, I dreamt I was a superheroine, ted cape and all, like wonderwoman, and I had a flying mobile of some sort. But when I landed, I discovered life here on earth was in shambles and the children weren’t being fed. All at once, I realized that feeding the children was the most needed and heroinic act of all.