Dear Inner Circle,
A couple came to see me a few months ago. They’d had a stable marriage and seemed to have found a way to work together, maximizing the opportunities life offered and building a successful life. A sudden revelation brought all of this crashing to the ground in the speed of a text message. I’ll never forget the look on their faces in my office as each one looked at the other as if they were alien. I think the problem was that the two had become one. They seemed to know each other so well that each was utterly predictable to the other. Each could count on the other and there was little, if any, mystery. Oh, the joy of not knowing. Oh, the misery of knowing someone so well that they become invisible. They saw me again this week. Again, the look on their faces rendered me speechless. The change is hard to explain. Wonder and not knowing had returned. They each looked at the other as if waiting for a revelation. I asked how they could explain this turnaround; half-hoping I might have said something wise that might have helped. They told me that the only real change they could observe is that they no longer let the television run in the evenings, and at an agreed time, they turn their phones off. For months now, they listen to the news and then for the rest of the evening they talk to one another. This week, neither one offered me any observations to help me understand the other. The only pronouns they used were, “We, us and our”. Talking is a miracle. By talking they had discovered that there was much they didn’t know about the other and each was relieved of the burden of being the “smart” one in the relationship. I could barely believe I was talking with the same couple. Stability is not always a sign of health or life. Many years ago, I did a placement at a psychiatric hospital and I almost worshipped my supervising psychiatrist. In those days, the prevailing language in that world was Freudian and I lapped it up. At the end of the long placement I had the opportunity to spend an extended time with my hero doctor. I told him that I had enjoyed learning and had a workable understanding of the drugs commonly used and of the language in his world but I was keen to know, “What do you think actually heals people?” To my utter astonishment, shattering all my illusions, he replied, “Oh, I don’t know. Talking, I think.”
At weddings, I never say, “The two shall become one”. If anything, I’d say, “The two shall become two”. It’s a massive trap to let mystery escape. Likewise, all religions offer two great traps. On the one hand, some religions have you so identify with the Divine, that you disappear or on the other hand, the Divine seems to evaporate up your own posterior so that the massive questions of meaning are answered by your own reflections. Run from these traps as fast as you can. To love is to act. Love is not explained by any feeling whatsoever. Certainly, love is accompanied by feeling but never constituted by it. If there is no other, there is no act. No state of being, no heavenly bliss, no euphoria, no experience comes close to explaining the mystery of love. To meet is to act. It is to be in the presence of the other and respond. I don’t care much how anyone would explain love provided the explanation began with the phrase, “That activity which…” Every act of love creates community. Someone will write in and say, “What about when I love my cat or a tree or the ocean?” Even so, you can experience the ocean; it will allow you to extract any amount of experience from it. You can analyse it if you like, measure it, weigh it, surf it, use it. You can relate in this way to other people or to a tree or a cat. Yet I would say that even the ocean can give itself to you as if it was truly the other and you by being in its presence, are captured by the awesome. All real living is meeting.
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