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.
Thursday, 22 August 2013
I think one of the hardest lessons I've had to learn, and keep relearning, it seems, is that there are times and situations and people from which/whom one simply has to walk away. I find that almost impossible to take onboard. But I've been thinking about the two or three friends I've lost over the last 30-odd years, and what precipitated the loss of our friendship, and realising that for me it's been the same issue each time.
I'm naïve sometimes. I tend to think the best of people, which is a good trait; but I hang on in there in situations where it's obvious to others that I'm harming myself, or even another, by doing this, which is a dumb trait. Also, I'm dogged, in the sense of hanging-on like a bull terrier: I'd always prefer to sort something out, way past its sell-by date, than walk away from it without resolution. Perhaps it's arrogant to think everything can be resolved?
And I'm over-responsible; plus I have a strong sense of guilt – due perhaps to my Catholic upbringing – which means that I take far too much responsibility for my part in any exchange which hasn't turned out well: beating myself up, being even more reasonable, trying harder to understand and accept behaviour that, actually, is not OK, making excuses for the other, and over-analysing my part in it. What this means, in turn, is that I try even harder.
I'm starting to realise that that one of the things that I respect and warm to most in another is the ability to see what one's done that's hurtful, and to say 'Sorry, I messed up there'. Taking responsibility for one's stuff. Owning one's shit. Taking back the projections. It takes a kind of humility and self-awareness, it requires looking at what we don't want to see about ourselves, and it makes us vulnerable. Without it, I think deep friendship and real intimacy simply aren't possible.
One of the Buddhist precepts is about doing all one can to resolve a situation. What the precept doesn't speak of is that it's also wise to stop once you feel you've done all you can; to do anything else – like continuing to try to resolve it – might be a form of coercion, of self and/or other, of soul, no matter how positive the original motivation. (I'm reminded of a Buddhist teacher's words, in that case about compassion, but I'm sure there's an analogy here: 'The kind of idiot compassion that helps little old ladies across the road, whether or not they want to go.')
'Know Thyself', enjoins the inscription over the temple of the oracle at Delphi. And I have lately realised that some people simply don't want to go there – and my expectation that they do isn't helpful. (OK, I'm a slow learner.)
When the chips are down, as they say, no matter how lovely the person might be in many ways, or how much one appreciates aspects of the friendship, the importance of self-honesty can't be over-estimated, in friendship, for me, anyway. If we're not willing to be try to be honest with ourselves, how can we be trustworthy with another?
And, too, more fundamentally, there are some personalities and temperaments that simply don't do well together; and some people who simply aren't good for each other. It doesn't make either person wrong, or bad, or lacking; but it might mean that to stay is masochistic. Then, perhaps, there is simply nothing one can do other than just walk away.
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