Touch 4 Love…

No man, unless he has died and learned to be alone, will ever come into the mystery of touch.

D.H. Lawrence

Ariadne’s Thread

As a child I had many Ladybird books; quite a few of them were Sunday school prizes for Bible exams; others bought by my parents. I don’t remember where the two I had about Greek myths came from but they were amongst my favourites.

One told the tale of Perseus beheading the Gorgon Medusa; the other told of Theseus battling with the Minotaur. I read and re-read these a million times but the heroes’ exploits were not as fascinating to me as the key female characters.

I felt a real kinship with Ariadne and her golden thread because of my name: Weaving. The idea of being lost in a labyrinth – the confusion of endless walls and a darkness that is home to something unknown and terrifying – was and still is a frightening thought to me; the thread that helps to retrace steps, to make sense of the complex layout of a world designed to baffle and unnerve, felt to my childish self an invaluable gift, one I longed to possess.

As an adult, I still long to posses it. For me, Ariadne’s thread is now very much linked to writing as a process of ‘making sense’ of life. I have certainly used my Blog to work through thoughts and feelings, quite often at times when I feel confused, upset or curious to discover more about my actions or reactions. Writing is a mysterious process, one that seems to uncover hidden depths and motives. When we think or ponder on an issue, we are aware of a singular voice or even a dialogue. This voice or these inner conversations might meander around our minds, uncovering insights or posing yet more questions but when we write, we quite often meet the shadow of our thoughts, a soundless being that emerges from between the words. Ariadne’s thread is not just about the sense and meaning that language can give to our world – after all, the thread, like language, can bind or liberate – it is also about the unnamed possibilities that lurk beneath language, hiding in the darkened corners; an instinctual energy that hums in the spaces between words and is as important as anything that is said or written.

Quite often when I begin to write my initial certainties fall away; I try to reach for the words that will elaborate or clarify and, eventually, with much crafting and stitching together endeavour to come to a place of understanding. It is not until I read back, quite often after some time, that I begin to see that this understanding is actually superficial and that thoughts and feelings barely formed in my conscious expression of language will have seeped through the page and suddenly become glaringly obvious to me. We might try to lie when we write; we might try to hide ourselves behind our language but we are always there, exposing ourselves even when we feel we are at our most veiled and controlled.

Writing takes guts because we can so easily reveal ourselves, our vulnerabilities, our deepest and most forbidden longings; all that we might strive to contain within the boundaries of the words we carefully choose can rise up between the sentences, heard with alarming clarity, echoing in the cavities of paragraph breaks and pauses.

i carry your heart with me

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                        i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)

e.e cummings

Love Makes Sense…

The scenes of Japan’s recent earthquake and tsunami have been shocking and distressing. It is hard to take in that level of devastation and death, even more so when we are one step removed and witnessing such appalling tragedy through a lens.

For those of us who feel drawn to spiritual exploration, it can be difficult to find a comfortable place for this level of suffering, whilst continuing to believe in the benevolence of deity/life. I have wrestled with this issue over the last year or so, my spiritual beliefs rather shaken by it.

Paganism drew me because it allowed a more complex (perhaps to human eyes even ambiguous) view of the Divine. If you embrace the idea that the Divine resides within creation, pretty soon you have to acknowledge the fact that a solely all loving and benevolent Divine is a tricky concept. Nature is magical, beautiful and miraculous; it provides and sustains but it is also darkly violent, destructive, and even cruel. It is easy to embrace a loving God who protects from all harm, and yet, if we live long enough, to varying degrees we will all find out that pain, loss and tragedy are as much a part of the deal, regardless of how we choose to portray our deities.

I have come to realise that although I might feel drawn to the deities that personify creativity, love, abundance and peace (who wouldn’t), the gods of shadow and painful transformation cannot be avoided or ignored by any of us. We don’t necessarily have to set up shrines to them but it seems psychologically healthy to honour their presence in life.

When I witness the horror in Japan, my thoughts are drawn to the Hindu Goddess Kali. Her iconography is challenging: she looks terrifyingly fierce and merciless, wearing her necklace of human skulls and her skirt of severed human hands. It is not a comforting image of the Divine but it has a psychic truth about it that is hard to ignore. Our heads and hands are those parts of us that we use to shape our world; our hands used to actualise our thoughts, to build our visions, and enable our plans. These parts of us allow us to feel that we are in control of our destiny; with our intelligence and our skills of materialisation, we move through the world and time with the notion that we are steering our own ship.

When Kali – the energies of dissolution and destruction – arrives in our lives, either through natural disasters or more personal and individual loss and tragedy, it soon becomes apparent that our notions of being in control crumble. The image of a Goddess who wears severed human hands and heads speaks brilliantly of how impotent we can we feel in the midst of such immense crisis. We are stripped to our core and from this place of powerlessness we are confronted with our most vulnerable and broken selves. It can be a living hell but nature is nothing if not balanced. Hindu thought tells us that destruction, creation and preservation balance themselves in favour of the continuation of life; that life couldn’t possible thrive on preservation alone.

It is not a totally comforting thought to the human mind but when we stand back far enough we see a different take coming into view. The earthquake, from this view, is merely the earth stretching herself, that she might stay healthy and fully functioning for the continuation of life on this planet. It can be so difficult to accept this when the result is such a massive loss of human potential. We can feel incredibly small and insignificant and a loving Divine presence can feel rather absent.

Buddhists advise us to first accept that suffering is a central part of life and from that standpoint, transcend this suffering through compassionate detachment. Paganism encourages us to engage with both the joy and the pain with as much connection as possible, viewing both as valuable life experiences. Both of these approaches have value I think.

I am still trying to work out my own spiritual approach to suffering – it is a work in progress. I have written before about how Hindu devotees of Kali believe that when you have the courage to stare into her terrifying face you will then see a face of immense compassion; that all fear of death and suffering vanishes. Perhaps when we are forced to dig into our own brokenness and vulnerability, we too find a deeper compassion and understanding of life.

I am always deeply touched by how humans risk their own well-being to save others in distress; every natural disaster has story after story of people’s courage in rescuing and caring for others. Kali may confront us with our worst fears; she may almost break us but she also draws from us the deepest empathy and shows us that in the darkest moments there is always love.

There is a path of sorrow; there is a path of joy – we each have one foot on both all  our lives and when reason struggles to bridge the gap, love makes sense of both.