In recent reading and reflection, the word “energy” has come up. It has done so in two distinct but actually related senses. One is the pervasive sense of prolonged weariness, the loss and lack of energy occasioned by the seemingly endless pandemic. It is sometimes referred to as lassitude and languishing. The other sense is the notion that underlying all reality is energy in its various forms. It is found, for example, in the writings of Teilhard de Chardin and in the teaching of the seven chakras. What has struck me is that, despite the differences here, the notion of energy can be a unifying idea, a lens through which to look at life.
Many years ago, I had a sense of the wrongness of dividing a person into body and soul as somehow two unrelated things, yanked together but not really fitting. Within this view came a model of relating to oneself in terms of self-mastery or self-control. This approach tied in with the idea that everything can be divided into polar opposites: mind and matter, soul and body, male and female, master and servant. In each case one side was regarded as superior and the other inferior, and the relationship was to be such that the superior ruled over the inferior. This view has been played out, even tragically, in racism, sexism, asceticism, and colonialism.
While attending a workshop on spontaneous writing, along with other studies, reflection, and an attempt to be attuned to actual experience, a different perspective emerged for me. It came in the image of a whole number of children within, joyful and sad, caring and angry, tense and free, playful and reserved, and the like. There was also a sense that each inner child had to be given its voice and welcomed with a hug, but that none was to be a soloist. The image was one of integration of these many voices rather than domination by one or the other. They were to be part of a chorus which blends all the voices, with no overriding loud voice or soloist.
Another image that has long emerged is that, of the many voices within us, there is the voice that calls us beloved daughter or son, the voice of our own sacred worth. It is this beloved child that most needs listening to and that is to be the conductor of the whole chorus. This thought eventually leads to the conviction of love as the underlying energy that at once supports and draws all things.
What is implied here, as well, is the need to attend to our own inner experience and to try to find images, words, stories, in poetry and prose, or in the many art forms, that can express and interpret this experience truthfully and in depth. The poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, says: “ Go into yourself and see how deep is the place from which your life flows.” Dag Hammarskjold, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, writes in Markings: “The longest journey is the journey inwards … of one who has started upon their quest for the source of their being.” The challenge is then to find some way to express this inner life, which can be described as energy.
One approach is to look at words as life energy. I once attended a play, Inherit the Wind, and had a seat very close to the stage. I remember watching the actor who played the part of lawyer, Clarence Darrow. At one point he spoke his lines almost quietly, but with a forceful intensity that was reflected in his face. It seemed to me that the words were not so much the sounds in the air, but the energy that informed and inhabited these words. I also recall a screen actor mentioning how he and his acting counterpart were preparing for a scene, in which there were constant delays before the actual shooting. The level of anticipation and intensity built up within them so that when they were finally able to enact the scene, it required only one take. Again the level of inner energy made their words real and impactful.
In these days of weariness, and even of an unstilled longing that yet remains, is there any way we can describe an all-encompassing and unifying energy that courses through all that is?
Philosopher/Scientist, Teilhard de Chardin, speaks of the unfolding univerrse as a process of differentiation and reintegration that moves in the direction of an ever greater consciousness. Within and fuelling this incredible process is the energy of love.
Albert Einstein expressed a similar view in a letter that he wrote to his daughter. I would like to quote a few sentences from this letter
There is an extremely powerful force that, so far, science has not found a formal explanation to. It is a force that includes and governs all others, and is even behind any phenomenon operating in the universe and has not yet been identified by us. This universal force is LOVE. … This force explains everything and gives meaning to life.
If we want our species to survive, if we are to find meaning in life, if we want to save the world and every sentient being that inhabits it, love is the one and only answer.
When we learn to give and receive this universal energy, …we will have affirmed that love conquers all, is able to transcend everything and anything, because love is the quintessence of life
The most valuable study on love with which I am familiar is that by Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving.
The central theme is that in its essence love is an underlying capacity, attitude, and action, that is brought to every situation and every relationship. In his words:
Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one ‘object’ of love. If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to the rest of their fellow humans, their love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism.
To use a related image, we might say that to become a great painter is not a matter of finding the right object to paint, but both acquiring the skill as well as a depth of humanity.
We may write more about love and love energy, but for the moment we might suggest a simple understanding along the lines of the above authors. Love is an underlying attitude, a mature development of the person, which implies a recognition, acknowledgement, and response to the sacred worth of the person–in oneself, in others, and with regard to the various life situations encountered.
May any underlying weariness you now feel also uncover an immense longing within you. And may you discern that this is a longing for love–to be lovable, to be loved, and to love. May you also recognize that there will always be a felt incompleteness here, but that fragments of this experience may be found in the persons and events that permeate our lives. And may these be sufficient to instill in us an underlying hope in the lasting meaning of our own and others’ lives.
Norman King, May 23, 2021