Expectation, Faith, Life, Love, Purpose

Embracing Brokeness & Hiding our Souls Not…

IMG_7106.JPG
“Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.” – Parker Palmer

“Do not despise your inner world,” philosopher Martha Nussbaum admonished in her reflection on what it takes to live a full life.

“Real self-esteem is an integration of an inner value with things in the world around you,” Anna Deavere Smith wrote in her spectacular letters of advice to young artists.

And yet in a culture where we’re devouring one another’s outward selves with accelerating “aesthetic consumerism” as we scroll through social media feeds, we’re increasingly bedeviled by the rift between private person and public persona, inner world and outward projection.

Afraid that our inner light will be extinguished or our inner darkness exposed, we hide our true identities from each other.
In the process, we become separated from our own souls.

IMG_6855.JPG

We end up living divided lives, so far removed from the truth we hold within that we cannot know the “integrity that comes from being what you are.”

Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.

Knowing this gives me hope that human wholeness — mine, yours, ours — need not be a utopian dream,
if we can use devastation as a seedbed for new life.

As teenagers and young adults,
we learned that self-knowledge counts for little on the road to workplace success.

What counts is the “objective” knowledge that empowers us to manipulate the world.
Ethics, taught in this context, becomes one more arm’s-length study of great thinkers and their thoughts, one more exercise in data collection that fails to inform our hearts.

IMG_3446.JPG

I value ethical standards, of course.
But in a culture like ours — which devalues or dismisses the reality and power of the inner life — ethics too often becomes an external code of conduct, an objective set of rules we are told to follow, a moral exoskeleton we put on hoping to prop ourselves up.

The problem with exoskeletons is simple: we can slip them off as easily as we can don them.

When we understand integrity for what it is, we stop obsessing over codes of conduct and embark on the more demanding journey toward being whole.

Not knowing who or what we are dealing with and feeling unsafe, we hunker down in a psychological foxhole and withhold the investment of our energy, commitment, and gifts…
The perceived incongruity of inner and outer-the inauthenticity that we sense in others, or they in us-constantly undermines our morale, our relationships, and our capacity for good work.

We are cursed with the blessing of consciousness and choice, a two-edged sword that both divides us and can help us become whole.

The divided life may be endemic, but wholeness is always a choice.

What we name it matters little to me, since the origins, nature, and destiny of call-it-what-you-will are forever hidden from us, and no one can credibly claim to know its true name. But that we name it matters a great deal.

For “it” is the objective, ontological reality of selfhood that keeps us from reducing ourselves, or each other, to biological mechanisms, psychological projections, sociological constructs, or raw material to be manufactured into whatever society needs — diminishments of our humanity that constantly threaten the quality of our lives.

Here is the ultimate irony of the divided life: live behind a wall long enough, and the true self you tried to hide from the world disappears from your own view…

IMG_3445.JPG

The wall itself and the world outside it become all that you know .

Eventually, you even forget that the wall is there — and that hidden behind it is someone called “you.”

If we want to create spaces that are safe for the soul, we need to understand why the soul so rarely shows up in everyday life.

Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one’s self.

It is not about the absence of other people-it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.

Community does not necessarily mean living face-to-face with others; rather, it means never losing the awareness that we are connected to each other.

It is not about the presence of other people-
it is about being fully open to the reality of relationship, whether or not we are alone.

❤️E.Lyn

IMG_7979.JPG

Expectation, Happiness, Life, Love

Love…Expectations…Bliss…❤️

“What Is Love?”
Famous Definitions from 400 Years of Literary History.

“Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get;
Only with what you are expecting to give;
Which is everything…”

IMG_7391.JPG
After those collections of notable definitions of art, science & philosophy,
what better way to prepare ourselves,
for the coming season of love & thanksgiving,
than with a selection of poetic definitions of a peculiar phenomenon that’s more amorphous than art,
more single-minded than science & more philosophical than philosophy itself…?

Culled from several hundred years of literary history, the following are some of the most memorable and timeless insights on love.❤️

Luxuriate in the read! =)

IMG_7380.JPG
Kurt Vonnegut, who was in some ways an extremist about love but also had a healthy dose of irreverence about it, in The Sirens of Titan:

A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.

Anaïs Nin, whose wisdom on love knew no bounds, in A Literate Passion: Letters of Anaïs Nin &
Henry Miller, 1932-1953:

What is love but acceptance of the other, whatever he is.

Stendhal in his fantastic 1822 treatise on love:

Love is like a fever which comes and goes quite independently of the will. … there are no age limits for love.

IMG_7388.JPG
C. S. Lewis, who was a very wise man, in The Four Loves:

There is no safe investment.
To love at all is to be vulnerable.

Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.

If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.
Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.
But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change.

It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

Lemony Snicket in Horseradish:
Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid:

Love can change a person the way a parent can change a baby — awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess.

Susan Sontag, whose illustrated insights on love were among last year’s most read and shared articles, in As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980:

Nothing is mysterious,
no human relation… Except love.

IMG_7387.JPG
Charles Bukowski, who also famously deemed love “a dog from hell,” in this archival video interview:

Love is kind of like when you see a fog in the morning, when you wake up before the sun comes out.
It’s just a little while, and then it burns away… Love is a fog that burns with the first daylight of reality.

Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.

IMG_7386.JPG
Ambrose Bierce, with the characteristic wryness of The Devil’s Dictionary:

Love, n. A temporary insanity curable by marriage.

Katharine Hepburn in Me : Stories of My Life:

Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get — only with what you are expecting to give — which is everything.

Philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell, he of great wisdom, in The Conquest of Happiness:

Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky puts it even more forcefully in The Brothers Karamazov:

What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.

IMG_7393.JPG
Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in a letter to his ten-year-old daughter explaining the importance of evidence in science and in life:

People sometimes say that you must believe in feelings deep inside, otherwise you’d never be confident of things like ‘My wife loves me’.
But this is a bad argument.
There can be plenty of evidence that somebody loves you.
All through the day when you are with somebody who loves you, you see and hear lots of little tidbits of evidence, and they all add up.
It isn’t purely inside feeling, like the feeling that priests call revelation.

There are outside things to back up the inside feeling: looks in the eye, tender notes in the voice, little favors and kindnesses; this is all real evidence.

Paulo Coelho in The Zahir: A Novel of Obsession:

Love is an untamed force.
When we try to control it,
it destroys us.
When we try to imprison it,
it enslaves us.
When we try to understand it,
it leaves us feeling lost and confused
.

James Baldwin in The Price of the Ticket: Collected Non-fiction, 1948-1985:

Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does.
Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.

Haruki Murakami in Kafka on the Shore:

Anyone who falls in love is searching for the missing pieces of themselves.

So anyone who’s in love gets sad when they think of their lover. It’s like stepping back inside a room you have fond memories of, one you haven’t seen in a long time.

IMG_7394.JPG
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in Airman’s Odyssey: Night Flight / Wind Sand & Stars / Flight to Arras:

Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.

Honoré de Balzac, who knew a thing or two about all-consuming love, in Physiologie Du Mariage:

The more one judges, the less one loves.

Louis de Bernières in Corelli’s Mandolin:

Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides, you have to make a decision…
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part… Because this is what love is.

Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion,
it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body.

No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.

E. M. Forster in A Room with a View:

You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right… Love is eternal.

English novelist Iris Murdoch, cited by the great Milton Glaser in How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer:

Love is the very difficult understanding that something other than yourself is real.

IMG_6179.JPG
But perhaps the truest, if humblest, of them all comes from Agatha Christie, who echoes Anaïs Nin above in her autobiography:

It is a curious thought,
but it is only when you see people looking ridiculous that you realize just how much you love them…. ❤️E.Lyn

IMG_6407.JPG

Expectation, Life

【Life is Ephemeral & Transient…】- Seneca on Busyness and The Art of Living Wide Rather Than Living Long

IMG_6406.JPG
“The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today…
The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.”

“How we spend our days,”
Annie Dillard memorably wrote in her soul-stretching meditation on the life of presence,” is, of course,
how we spend our lives.”

And yet most of us spend our days in what Kierkegaard believed to be our greatest source of unhappiness…

A refusal to recognize that,
“busy is a decision” and that presence is infinitely more rewarding than productivity.

I frequently worry that being productive is the surest way to lull ourselves into a trance of passivity and busyness the greatest distraction from living, as we coast through our lives day after day, showing up for our obligations but being absent from our selves, mistaking the doing for the being.

IMG_6291.JPG

Despite a steadily swelling human life expectancy,
these concerns seem more urgent than ever — and yet they are hardly unique to our age.

In fact, they go as far back as the record of human experience and endeavor.
It is unsurprising, then, that the best treatment of the subject is also among the oldest:
Roman philosopher Seneca’s spectacular 2,000-year-old treatise “On the Shortness of Life”— a poignant reminder of what we so deeply intuit yet so easily forget and so chronically fail to put into practice.

Seneca writes:
It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.

Life is long enough,
and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested.

But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing.

So it is:
we are not given a short life but we make it short,
and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it…
Life is long if you know how to use it.

Millennia before the now-tired adage that “time is money,” Seneca cautions that we fail to treat time as a valuable resource,
even though it is arguably our most precious and least renewable one:

People are frugal in guarding their personal property;
but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.

To those who so squander their time, he offers an unambiguous admonition:

You are living as if destined to live for ever;
your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed,
but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply — though all the while that very day which you are devoting to somebody or something may be your last.

You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire…

How late it is to begin really to live just when life must end!

How stupid to forget our mortality, and put off sensible plans to our fiftieth and sixtieth years,
aiming to begin life from a point at which few have arrived!

IMG_5687.JPG

Nineteen centuries later,
Bertrand Russell, another of humanity’s greatest minds,
lamented rhetorically,
“What will be the good of the conquest of leisure and health,
if no one remembers how to use them?”

But even Seneca, writing in the first century,
saw busyness — that dual demon of distraction and preoccupation — as an addiction that stands in the way of mastering the art of living:

No activity can be successfully pursued by an individual who is preoccupied … since the mind when distracted absorbs nothing deeply,
but rejects everything which is,
so to speak, crammed into it.

Living is the least important activity of the preoccupied man;
yet there is nothing which is harder to learn…

Learning how to live takes a whole life, and, which may surprise you more,
it takes a whole life to learn how to die.

In our habitual compulsion to ensure that the next moment contains what this one lacks, Seneca suggests,
“We manage to become,
as another wise man put it, “accomplished fugitives from ourselves.”

Seneca writes:

Everyone hustles his life along, and is troubled by a longing for the future and weariness of the present.

But the man who …
organises every day as though it were his last,
neither longs for nor fears the next day…

Nothing can be taken from this life, and you can only add to it as if giving to a man who is already full and satisfied food which he does not want but can hold.

So you must not think a man has lived long because he has white hair and wrinkles:
he has not lived long,
just existed long.

Suppose you should think that a man had had a long voyage,
who had been caught in a raging storm as he left harbor,
and carried hither and thither,
driven round and round in a circle by the rage of opposing winds?

He did not have a long voyage, just a long tossing about.

Seneca is particularly skeptical of the double-edged sword of achievement and ambition — something David Foster Wallace would later eloquently censure — which causes us to steep in our cesspool of insecurity, dissatisfaction, and clinging:

It is inevitable that life will be not just very short but very miserable for those who acquire by great toil what they must keep by greater toil.

They achieve what they want laboriously;
they possess what they have achieved anxiously;
and meanwhile they take no account of time that will never more return.

New preoccupations take the place of the old,
hope excites more hope and ambition more ambition.
They do not look for an end to their misery,
but simply change the reason for it.

This, Seneca cautions,
is tenfold more toxic for the soul when one is working for the man,
as it were, and toiling away toward goals laid out by another:

Indeed the state of all who are preoccupied is wretched,
but the most wretched are those who are toiling not even at their own preoccupations,
but must regulate their sleep by another’s,
their walk by another’s pace,
and obey orders in those freest of all things, loving and hating.

If such people want to know how short their lives are,
let them reflect how small a portion is their own.

IMG_6337.JPG

In one particularly prescient aside, Seneca makes a remark that crystallizes what is really at stake when a person asks,
not to mention demands, another’s time — an admonition that applies with poignant precision to the modern malady of incessant meeting requests and the rather violating barrage of People Wanting Things:

All those who call you to themselves draw you away from yourself.

I am always surprised to see some people demanding the time of others and meeting a most obliging response.

Both sides have in view the reason for which the time is asked and neither regards the time itself — as if nothing there is being asked for and nothing given.

They are trifling with life’s most precious commodity,
being deceived because it is an intangible thing,
not open to inspection and therefore reckoned very cheap — in fact, almost without any value.

He suggests that protecting our time is essential self-care,
and the opposite a dangerous form of self-neglect.

Nobody works out the value of time: men use it lavishly as if it cost nothing…

He captures what a perilous form of self-hypnosis our trance of busyness is….

No one will bring back the years; no one will restore you to yourself.

Life will follow the path it began to take, and will neither reverse nor check its course.

It will cause no commotion to remind you of its swiftness,
but glide on quietly.

It will not lengthen itself for a king’s command or a people’s favor.

As it started out on its first day,
so it will run on, nowhere pausing or turning aside.

What will be the outcome?
You have been preoccupied while life hastens on.
Meanwhile death will arrive,
and you have no choice in making yourself available for that.

But even “more idiotic,” to use his unambiguous language,
than keeping ourselves busy is indulging the vice of procrastination — not the productivity-related kind,
but the existential kind,
that limiting longing for certainty and guarantees,
which causes us to obsessively plan and chronically put off pursuing our greatest aspirations and living our greatest truths on the pretext that the future will somehow provide a more favorable backdrop:

Putting things off is the biggest waste of life:
it snatches away each day as it comes, and denies us the present by promising the future.

The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy,
which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today.

You are arranging what lies in Fortune’s control,
and abandoning what lies in yours.

What are you looking at?
To what goal are you straining?

The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.

Seneca reframes this with an apt metaphor:

You must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it,
and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow…

Just as travelers are beguiled by conversation or reading or some profound meditation,
and find they have arrived at their destination before they knew they were approaching it;
so it is with this unceasing and extremely fast-moving journey of life, which waking or sleeping we make at the same pace — the preoccupied become aware of it only when it is over.

Perhaps unsurprisingly,
given his own occupation,
Seneca points to the study of philosophy as the only worthwhile occupation of the mind and spirit — an invaluable teacher that helps us learn how to inhabit ourselves fully in this “brief and transient spell” of existence and expands our short lives sideways,
so that we may live wide rather than long.

He writes:

Of all people only those are at leisure who make time for philosophy,
only those are really alive.

IMG_5685.JPG

For they not only keep a good watch over their own lifetimes,
but they annex every age to theirs.

All the years that have passed before them are added to their own.

Unless we are very ungrateful,
all those distinguished founders of holy creeds were born for us and prepared for us a way of life.

By the toil of others we are led into the presence of things which have been brought from darkness into light.

IMG_7357.JPG

From them you can take whatever you wish:
it will not be their fault if you do not take your fill from them.

What happiness,
what a fine old age awaits the man who has made himself a client of these!

He will have friends whose advice he can ask on the most important or the most trivial matters,
whom he can consult daily about himself,
who will tell him the truth without insulting him and praise him without flattery,
who will offer him a pattern on which to model himself.

Perhaps most poignantly, however, Seneca suggests that philosophy offers a kind of spiritual reparenting to those of us who didn’t win the lottery of existence and didn’t benefit from the kind of nurturing, sound, fully present parenting that is so essential to the cultivation of inner wholeness:

We are in the habit of saying that it was not in our power to choose the parents who were allotted to us,
that they were given to us by chance.

But we can choose whose children we would like to be.

There are households of the noblest intellects: choose the one into which you wish to be adopted, and you will inherit not only their name but their property too.

Nor will this property need to be guarded meanly or grudgingly:
the more it is shared out, the greater it will become.

These will offer you a path to immortality and raise you to a point from which no one is cast down.

This is the only way to prolong mortality — even to convert it to immortality…. ♥️E.Lyn

IMG_6857.PNG