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

Sunday, 24 November 2013

apples, Eve and selflessness (not)

I've spent the afternoon gathering yet more apples. In moving in with TM I've inherited, in effect, the ten-tree apple orchard he and his ex planted twelve years ago. On the advice of an apple-grower they planted varieties that suit the local conditions, and the genius is that the ripening times are different, so there is still one big tree yet to harvest – though meantime we've more than we can eat, store, press for juice and give away. The migrating thrushes, blackbirds and redwings are sharing our feast, and I've invented a hot Devon apple cake with almonds and marzipan.

I love this little orchard, and apples generally, magical fruit that they are.

As I'm picking this afternoon I'm thinking, still and again, about the differences between the masculine and feminine principles – I don't mean biological genders, but more macro-cosmically, in the psyche, individual and collective, and perhaps in the order of the cosmos, the two great poles between which all existence cycles.

This is based, in the way I'm reflecting on it, in the fundamental Jungian idea that we all have a trans-sexual part, and whichever our biological gender one or other principle will tend to guide the way we view the world. There are many ways of speaking about this, and I've written, and am writing, at length about all this elsewhere, so won't go there now, but a useful way of looking at this is to do with the logos/mythos dyad on which Karen Armstrong has written insightfully in her little book of the same title. We often speak of it as being the difference between the rational mind and the intuitive, or between thinking and feeling, for instance.

I think a lot about what the Judeo-Christian tradition did with Eve, the apple, the serpent and the exile from the Garden. Once again, there's much to say about this, and I shan't; but if we look at the apple as being a symbol of the Great Goddess from the pre-Christian nature-based religions, as it is (cut an apple round the middle horizontally and there is the most beautiful star-pentagram, also a symbol of the Goddess), and the serpent as being the old pagan symbol of wisdom, we can see that Eve was inviting Adam into a necessary journey of consciousness towards the kind of wisdom that leads to and is a result of the union of those two abiding principles. 

In the traditional Christian tradition, Eve got the blame for 'tempting' Adam, as we know. But then, in traditional Christianity, women have fairly proscribed roles, and leading a man to wisdom isn't one of them. Sacrificing herself to a man, now, that's different. Which leads me to...

Picking up on my deep homing theme of the other day, more than one woman has emailed me to say how difficult she finds it to take time out for herself and attend to her creativity. This same dilemma comes up over and over in my courses – and in my own experience – for women. (I imagine men have an equivalent dilemma, but I imagine its parameters are slightly different.)

And therein lies another distortion from the Judeo-Christian legacy: 'to love' means to be endlessly self-sacrificing, acting only selflessly. NO, it doesn't. That's actually not loving, but martyrdom. If you try that too long, an inevitable resentment grows in the shadow; plus too often this kind of selflessness comes across as manipulation – making another feel guilty 'for all I've done for you', or tied to you in dependence. This dynamic is a symptom of co-dependence, not love. 

It would be good to act genuinely from something beyond self-interest, and to have an eye to the greater good – obviously. To be in service to something greater than our petty little egos might well be why we're here. I don't think that's the same thing, however.

Of course there are times when we have to sacrifice what we would like, or need, for another. Of course there are times when, especially as women, we have to put our own needs bottom of the list to take care of dependents. But not routinely, unless one has the very good reason of young children; and with another adult it's often not love that is the motivation, but our own neediness, or our own fear of extending ourselves into all that we might be, or fear of acting independently, or finding we don't 'need' the situation or people we thought we did, or that we're not indispensable after all, and they will find they can manage perfectly well without us. Or, of course, the fear that they can't manage without us – now that's a good fear to be a martyr to!

It's easy to blame the other and their expectations. When I curtail a bout of creativity mid-roll because TM is just home and he's had a long hard day and would perhaps like a welcome, am I doing this because of his expectations of me? Because of my own expectations of me? Because I'd feel hard-hearted to put continuing my creative activity ahead of going into the house and lighting a fire to greet him, even though I shall secretly be disappointed to tear myself away – and subtly blame him and (my perception of) his expectations?

Or am I glad of the excuse because then, if my creative efforts don't bear the fruit I hoped, I can tell myself that they might have worked out if I didn't 'need' to give him so much attention/he didn't 'need' me to give him so much attention – and still secretly blame him?

Do I fear that I'm not being a 'good partner' if I'm not there for him – and do I really believe this, or is that my cultural conditioning? Would it really hurt him if one evening now and then I stayed on late working at something I'm excited and inspired by, which will in turn make me happier and nicer to be around?

Which is the genuinely loving option?

In other words, it's my choice, and the loving thing to both of us is to take responsibility for taking care of myself, learning how to love myself.

When I know how to do that, and commit to doing that, whatever it means for me, regardless of what another/others/the culture expect of me, I'll be able to have a better shot at loving another.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant! And I do like the more compassionate pre-Christian view of Eve and her apple and the serpent. Blame is such a dreadful weapon.
    I must resist coming to this blog before I start work, but it is a very helpful delaying mechanism for all that!

    Miriam again, also full of apples and pears and please – could I have your Devon apple-cake recipe? I made a vegan version of apple cake yesterday and it's ok but a bit too dense.


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