Last week, I wrote about the possibility that the underlying energy in the universe is love energy, illustrated from a number of sources, from Einstein to Winnie the Pooh. Here are a few other favourite quotations from Winnie the Pooh.
•”A hug is always the right size.”
•”Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. ‘Pooh?’ he whispered. ‘Yes, Piglet? ’‘Nothing,’ said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw, ‘I just wanted to be sure of you.’
•”Sometimes you have to rethink the things you thought you thought through.”
These simple Pooh quotations suggest to me that being in the presence of a caring other is reassuring, but specifically if that is an attentive, personal presence and not an absent-hearted, so to speak, bump on a log presence. To say that a hug is always the right size seems to me to be saying that if the hug comes out of caring presence, it is always “fitting.” I think in light of last week’s reflection that love or love energy is rooted in the experience of this kind of presence. The very word presence comes from the Latin and means literally “being with.” Philosopher, Josef Pieper, says that the experience of love is not merely that it is good that you are this or that, or that you have such and such qualities, but that it is good that you are, and it is good to be with you. Your presence gives meaning to my life. This underlying experience does not of course deny the reality of struggle, doubt, and sorrow that are part of any lasting relationship or friendship.
The other Pooh quotation about rethinking things strikes me as saying that what is most essential in our growth in awareness, understanding, and caring, is not merely the addition of new information. It is rather the deepening and enriching of our angle of vision, the eyes through which we look at life, the horizon within which see the events of our life unfold, the script that interprets our life.
Here there are two related thoughts. One is that we will see more clearly and deeply if we come to see and hear with the eyes and ears of the heart; that is, from the angle not of fear or hostility, but that of compassion for ourselves and others.
The other key thought is the importance of identifying, of being in touch with our own deepest experiences and how they are felt, and then naming them as truthfully as possible. I recall that when my younger brother, Mike, died of a chronic heart disease at the age of 26, it felt as though we had been interrupted in a conversation that we could not now finish. Since that time it has struck me that a central component of grief is a felt incompleteness that remains. There is an incompleteness to every human connection, but when this connection is severed by death or separation, it is profoundly felt.
Another example is how we name grief. Often people are told what they should experience, or told how they should feel or not feel. When the feelings that arise are different from what was expected, they tend to think that something is wrong with them. I was with my mother after my father died and when she herself died 15 months later. A very poignant element I noticed was the calendar my father kept at their bedside. It was of the kind that you could flip the day and month and it would only show the one day. My father used to flip to the next day when they went to bed. He died on July 22, 1986. After that, my mother never changed the date. In later conversations, it came to light that the feeling of being left behind by my father was one among many others that surfaced. She felt badly about that, but as we talked, she realized that it was a normal response, and it seemed then that a weight was lifted.
A totally different kind of experience is that of joy. In the novel, Who Has Seen the Wind, by W. O. Mitchell, a young boy sees the petals of a flower filled with dew slowly open in the morning sunshine. He feels something opening within himself as well. In essence it is a feeling of joy, which he tries to recapture later on. The smile of a small child, his or her excitement at seeing a butterfly emerge from a cocoon, receiving a report that we are free from a dreaded disease–any of these incidents evokes a sense of joy. I recall once going up to Mount Edith Cavell in the Western Rockies, and noticing that the air was thinner and breathing become a shade more laboured. I actually became aware that I was breathing, and had the feeling that it was good to breathe. In effect, the experience was that it was good to be alive. It has since dawned on me that this is the essence of joy–the experience that it is good to be alive. Implicit in this experience is a sense of gratitude, a gratefulness for life itself, and that very gratitude contains a recognition that life itself is a gift and that it is a good gift, even if it does not always feel that way. I recall an interview with an elderly woman who was asked by a rather insensitive announcer if she minded growing old. With a twinkling sense of humour, she replied: “I prefer it to the alternative.”
I think that these examples illustrate that our feelings are layered. If we sit quietly and allow ourselves to feel our feelings, we may find that one feeling, so to speak, melts away, and another feeling rises to the surface. To allow this process helps us to respond authentically rather than merely react on surface impulse.
Besides allowing ourselves to get in touch with our deepest feelings and experiences, the challenge is also to name those experiences deeply and truthfully. It may well be the case that the knowledge and language we have grown up with may have limited our openness to a wider understanding. It is then a matter of finding a language that may better identify and name our actual experience from within. We may try to speak from the experience, to put the experience into words and images, and not to impose previous ideas on that experience. Sometimes allowing ourselves to engage in a new angle of vision will speak to us more deeply, widely, and openly, while preserving the essence of our earlier understanding. In this process, literature, music, painting, and other art form may help us both to enrich our experience and to name it more accurately.
May you learn to know and trust your own experience, to enrich it from story, music, and other arts. And may you learn how to share it with others in compassionate, caring, loving, and healing ways.
Norman King. August 08, 2022
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