from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

rain, the poem as a bus, & more on love

I wake with a migraine, so lie listening to the storm overhead rather than getting up.

One of my correspondence course participants said in her last assignment: 'I like writing in the mornings, and when it's raining.' I relate to this so well. And right now I can feel an embryonic poem pushing against my skull – rather irritatingly, as a migraine and reading or writing are incompatible. But it's hard to ignore this urge, as you'll understand if you're a writer. Easy to think you'll recall it later; but you don't.

I reach blindly for the notebook in my bedside drawer and pull myself more or less to a sitting position. I get as far as:

storm of rain on the roof
ashes on the hill taking sail
in the apple tree squabble of magpies
one sparrow cheeps on the sill

and The Man comes in with, thoughtfully, a cup of tea (takes a lot to put me off that) and a hot cherrystone pillow. (My sister gave me the pillow one Christmas, and it is the most extraordinary thing – it really does help a migraine, headache, neackache like nothing else.)

TM looks at my pen and notebook in surprise. 'What are you doing? I thought you were ill!'
'Well, when a poem needs to be written it needs to be written...'
He looks at me sideways in exaggerated but also actual incomprehension. 'I thought a poem was like a 73 bus? Miss that one and there'll be another behind it very soon...'
I muster the energy to glare at him in mock scorn. 'It's not like that –'
'Well, OK, it might not have the same numberplate, but it'll still be going to the depot...' he says to wind me up.
And I laugh; and the poem's gone, but it doesn't really matter actually, as it'll make a better haiku than a poem anyway.


Now, later, having walked the dog in heavy rain, the storm is easing and drizzle is blowing around the courtyard in arcs and vortices.

I am still thinking about love, loving, this whole business of relationship. Something's been bugging me in relation to what I wrote about based on Fromm's thinking in one of last week's posts on love. The 'categories' (as if one could really categorise such a huge and encompassing state) have, I know, not gone far enough. Off on the horizon of my mind somewhere there's a memory of a more comprehensive and inclusive approach, but I can't remember who wrote about it in the way I (don't quite) recall.

I pick up Jungian James Hollis' The Eden Project – in search of the magical other. It is a deeply significant book in the field of love relationships, I think, for this is the area in which perhaps there is the greatest projection, confusion and trouble in our personal experience, and the one too where we may make huge leaps in personal growth. (How different things might be if we learned this stuff as adolescents – or at the very least as young adults. But youth too of course needs its illusions and fantasies, to feed the soul.)

(I'm asking myself why it is I want so to untangle the different aspects of love, apart from a personal interest. I think it's because the whole field of human relationship is so fascinating; and I think it's also because it's so easy to confuse states and therefore levels of love; and this confusion causes a lot of trouble and pain. Anyway, that's where my thoughts are going.)

Yes, Hollis here names five 'types' of love, which he attributes to the ancient Greeks: eros, caritas, philos, storgé, agape. He doesn't unpack these, so I stumble through the categories with only a little understanding.

I co-opt TM, an eco-builder, whose outdoor work today has been called off for the moment, to help with definitions as he's a classicist, and like me enjoys etymology and the excuse to get out his Greek dictionary (each to their own!).

'Caritas', TM points out, 'is Latin. But 'charis' in Greek means what we call "charity". But all those words mean "love", really.' 

I refrain – actually that's not true, I don't – from pointing out that I know that, and it's the subtle variations I'm looking for.

Charis or caritas is translated in some versions of the Bible just as 'love'; and I'm struck again by the fact that the word 'cariad' in Welsh (and a similar word in Cornish) is a term of endearment, meaning 'beloved'.

TM, who now realises what I'm after, says that 'charis' also brings with it the sense of 'due tending', almost as one might a shrine, devotionally.

OK so we know about eros – even if in our culture it's seriously demoted to either a cute little fat cherub (yuck) or to mean the purely sexual. Hollis says 'Defined elementally, eros is the desire for connection.' It's deeply intimate, and sits behind any form of intense feeling that brings with it vitality, passion and/or creativity, all of which can be described as means of achieving depth of connectedness. Plato suggests that eros helps the soul remember knowledge of beauty.

Agape is an ideal or high form of love that is founded in personally-disinterested and unconditional love that is not grasping or self-seeking. I believe the ancient Greeks saw that as a kind of recriprocal expression of love to and from the gods (and later, God).

I resort to the internet. And here's C S Lewis – ah yes, he elides charity and agape. He defines agape as 'the love that brings forth caring regardless of circumstance'.

Storgé, it seems, is natural affection, as between parents and children.

And philia is that love shown to close friends and family, 'brotherly love'. Aristotle suggests that it includes loyalty to friends, family, lover and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. It can also include the pull to certain activities and interests,

So is that any clearer? Does it add to Fromm's ideas? No, not really, but it does add a Greek tag to eg 'motherly love'.

And it gave me another excuse to not get on with what I should be getting on with: updating (ha! struggling to try and sort out the mess that is) the website and preparing a mailing for my autumn programme (note to self: must include a day on types of love!).

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