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.
Wednesday, 12 February 2014
living the question
'Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue... the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.'
Rainer Maria Rilke (from Letters to a Young Artist - I think!)
On my novel-writing course, I suggest that the journey of the protagonist is underpinned by a particular theme, which can be summarised in a key question.
This in turn is a characteristic of the 'quest', or the life-journey. Of course, a novel shows, 'writ large', the dilemmas of a human life, one way or another; pared-down, clearly, so that the architecture is more visible than it is in our own messy lives, in the detail of which we are so immersed that it's not easy to get an overview (this is partly why people seek out mentors, counsellors, coaches, obviously).
Once I mention 'quest', then there's a theme-within-a-theme for me, as – and this belongs in other posts, and my first non-fiction book, not here – then we're in the territory of the Quest for the Grail (yes, ok, and also eg Star Wars and other such popular takes on the quest theme, but expanding on that or those is not my purpose here). I believe that culturally the Grail myths, coming as they did not long after the revolutionary times at the end of the first millennium AD, are relevant to much of our current worldview, whether or not we're conscious of that. The reason it's relevant here is the fact that Parsifal, in some of the stories the main protagonist, was denied access to the Grail Castle the first time he encountered it, because he neglected to ask the question (he was too young, too innocent, to know that there was a question to be asked).
We could call entry into the Grail Castle the meeting with heart, with soul, with the possibility of a full, whole and integrated life that is about more than simply serving our own needs and the tugs of ego.
The first time I realised the importance of asking the question, and asking the right question, it was a major revelation to me that has gone on to inform my own life.
So I now also ask this question of participants in some of my workshops: 'what is the question your life is asking of you right now?'
The questions will change with time. The question/s valid in the first half of one's life, to do with identity, making a living, establishing a home, a place in the world, core relationships (in other words one's outer life) have less traction, less relevance, at mid-life.
Jungian James Hollis says: 'In the second half of life, whether through volition or necessity, we become obliged to read surfaces in order to go beneath surfaces, which is to say, become psychological beings. A psychological being is one who asks, what is going on here, what causes this, from whence in my history, or the history of the other, does this arise? Not to ask such questions is to be at the mercy of the autonomous, affect-laden ideas that Jung called complexes. These are energy-clusters which have a life of their own and, when unchallenged, put one's life on automatic pilot.'
So mid-life is a time when it's good to revisit, review and renew the questions. Now, our focus is more likely to be inward, or at least more inward: what are my core values? How do I want to live for the rest of my life? What is my soul demanding of me? What really matters? What do I have to give back to the collective? – these are all good juicy questions that invite us to live by putting heart and our knowledge of interconnectedness at the centre of our lives.
I shall be offering a workshop and an online course on LIVING THE QUESTIONS later this year; do visit my two websites: www.fire-in-the-head.co.uk and www.thewildways.co.uk
© Roselle Angwin 2014
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