Double self-portrait as child and adult from Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project 2012
Mirror, mirror on the wall, do you read me at all?
A man who works as a therapist and couples counselor told me that “we don’t need people, but we do need relationships”. It sounds like a self-defeating statement, until you start to reflect on what relationship means. In a sense, we never truly know another person. This thought struck me when my father died in 2006, and the depth of my sadness lay mostly in the fact that we never really spent that much time together getting to know one another. Before he passed, he was unconscious in intensive care for three weeks – unable to speak or communicate through regular language – spoken or body language. The night before he passed away, he came to me in a dream and told me he wanted everyone to be with him to say good-bye. We were able to gather around his bedside while he passed. He did know we were there, and I knew that this was his wish. Our souls do speak to one another’s – even when we don’t realize this is happening. On the day of my dad’s funeral, the grey sky opened with a beautiful sun dog (perihelion – scientific term), and it shone for hours through that afternoon. I had never seen a sun dog (two horizontal rays coming out of the sun, with on the end of either ray a partial rainbow effect caused by ice crystals in the upper atmosphere). Since that day six years ago, I see sun dogs fairly often, and each time I think of my father and remember him fondly. I suppose one could say that I notice them now because I previously didn’t know anything about the phenomenon, but I prefer to think of them as a spiritual wink from my dad.
I recently read a passage about the definition of animism – the explanation detailing that this primitive belief system entails that every object – alive or inanimate- contains a soul. If you do accept that all matter is energy, and that energy is what brings us life, then I do believe that we are not far from scientifically validating this so-called primitive, magical-thinking idea. In a world where soul and spirituality are often absent or twisted, I think I prefer to acknowledge the archaic in myself and in the world. Getting back to relationship…If I acknowledge the divine and eternal not only in myself, but in every atom that exists, then I can communicate with everything that is. Relationship to me means connection. Maybe the bodies we live in are separate only because we choose to see them as such. On one level, we do need boundaries and personal space, but it is nice to acknowledge that our cells are intelligent matter – that even a roll of tape contains intelligent matter too – and that the world is one glorious soup, spilling, flowing, moving, and not really contained at all by the definitions and limitiations our vision attempts to impose upon it. If the energy in me recognizes the energy in you, we are communicating. The problem is – how to get this awareness to the surface of our minds, where we can really profit from it, in the best sense of the word. I think we all have known intuitive experiences where we have telepathically communicated with other beings. I think it happens all of the time, but we are only aware of it occasionally.
I probably don’t have the best social skills in the world. Basically, I am kind of shy. I do genuinely like people, and I have worked hard to learn to make eye contact and to initiate discussions with people. I do value soul; it is the biggest treasure we have, and I know I will never be bored because there is so much to learn. Do we ever even know a fraction of ourselves? The amazing gift of relationships is that they we are instinctively attracted to individuals who somehow contain fragments of ourselves or who we instinctively know will provoke us, or who remind us of painful, undeveloped hurts that lie deep in our ignored inner oceans. It is funny how our society values romantic love and makes us crave the experience of knowing and meeting another person who will make us feel complete. And when attraction draws this special someone into our inner circle, we start projecting this desire and others like crazy onto that hapless individual. My personal experiences with romantic love have not ended well, but they did teach me a thing or two about my own shadowy recesses. After several encounters with my own shadow mirrored through romantic partners (those teachers you love to hate), I have learned how my past programmed me to seek out the familiar. To me, the familiar was composed of fragile, narcissistic beings who sucked out my energy with the vigorous strength of the most powerful commercial vacuum cleaner. I had to stop and ask myself (the pause has lasted about two years so far) if these were the type of encounters I wanted to continue bringing into my life. I decided that I have learned that lesson as completely as I need. I did read a chapter about the animus (the male inner counterpart of the female person – equivalent of the muse, or anima in the man, according to C.G. Jung). Apparently, the animus enjoys stages of development, and mine was arrested in the brutish, child-man stage – he was burly and attractive, but not much was going on upstairs. I needed to work on my inner masculine if I wanted to attract a more spiritually minded, mature male in the “outside” world. After the muscle man comes the handyman, then the intellectual, and after that, the more spiritually evolved male – if I remember the progression correctly. I had an encouraging dream about a year ago in which I had the key to a man’s house. I knew he was not home, but I felt he would not mind if I went inside. The house was close to a winding rural road. Other people were with me, as I recall. Inside, the house was entirely handfinished. All of the walls were made of real plaster, finely finished, with hand-rubbed wood details. The interior was modern, tasteful, and soulful. Even though the man was not home, his presence and quiet sophistication were. I explored the space, feeling admiration and respect for this man. I feel encouraged by this dream.
Mirror, mirror, help me grow. Friends, teachers, all – thank you for being here so that I may truly see myself as I am. I hope that I can be a reflective surface for you too.