relationships

Inhabited Simplicity

Inhabited Simplicity

"Holiness is reached not through effort or will, but by stopping; by an inward coming to rest; a place from which we can embody the spirit of all our holy days, a radical, inhabited simplicity, where we live in a kind of ongoing surprise and with some wonder and appreciation."

~ David Whyte

Get Caught Up in Minutiae or See the Texture

Get Caught Up in Minutiae or See the Texture

"When we get caught up in the minutiae, the details that make us all different, there's two ways of seeing that. You can see the texture of that person, the qualities that make them unique. Or you can go to war about it – say, That person is different from me, I don't like you, so let's battle."

~ Mahershala Ali

If You Embrace It, It Will Teach You

If You Embrace It, It Will Teach You

"Healing comes in many guises. We're healed by just the touch of a friend. We're healed by the hug of a child. And healing does not imply that your life is suddenly going to lose all of the struggle, all of the challenge. What it does instead is it strengthens us for what is next. But to be open to healing means to be vulnerable. And I think if you look at me, you know I'm what they would call a vulnerable adult. The cat doesn't even listen to me here. I have no real sense of control anymore."

~ Bruce Kramer

The Only Calibration that Counts

The Only Calibration that Counts

"That's the paradox: the only time most people feel alive is when they're suffering, when something overwhelms their ordinary, careful armour, and the naked child is flung out onto the world. That's why the things that are worst to undergo are best to remember."

~ Ted Hughes

Coming Home

"Coming home to someone is many things. It is a literal action, an abstract idea, a physical feeling. It is more than the sound of the key turning in the door and the voice that calls from the porch. It is a choice, a promise, a declaration. It is a return, not as a person to a place, but as oneself to another. It is one individual saying to another: ‘You are the one I choose’."

~ source unknown

For No Good Reason

For No Good Reason

"One of the most difficult things to say to another person is, I hope that you will love me for no good reason. But it is what we all want and rarely dare to say to one another – to our children, to our parents and mates, to our friends, and to strangers. Especially to strangers, who have neither good nor bad reasons to love us."

~ Russell Banks, from The Angel on the Roof

Aging Well

Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study

"At a time when many people around the world are living into their tenth decade, the longest longitudinal study of human development ever undertaken offers some welcome news for the new old age: our lives continue to evolve in our later years, and often become more fulfilling than before.

Begun in 1938, the Grant Study of Adult Development charted the physical and emotional health of over 200 men, starting with their undergraduate days. The now-classic Adaptation to Lifereported on the men’s lives up to age 55 and helped us understand adult maturation. Now George Vaillant follows the men into their nineties, documenting for the first time what it is like to flourish far beyond conventional retirement.

Reporting on all aspects of male life, including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies, and alcohol use (its abuse being by far the greatest disruptor of health and happiness for the study’s subjects), Triumphs of Experience shares a number of surprising findings. For example, the people who do well in old age did not necessarily do so well in midlife, and vice versa. While the study confirms that recovery from a lousy childhood is possible, memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength. Marriages bring much more contentment after age 70, and physical aging after 80 is determined less by heredity than by habits formed prior to age 50. The credit for growing old with grace and vitality, it seems, goes more to ourselves than to our stellar genetic makeup."

Passing through Light and Into Shadow

"While writing and recording Past Life, we worked to lift layers away, strip down and distill the core elements of the songs, which is reflected in the video. I want to create a world with as little as possible and the video speaks to these minimal aspects of the album. Visually, I was really drawn to the image of individuals passing through light and into shadow, this kind of fleeting glimpse." 

~ Ari Picker, Lost in the Trees

See also: Lost in the Trees Tiny Desk Concert

Worse or Better

"The Bed Song": from Amanda Palmer & The Grand Theft Orchestra's album, 'Theatre Is Evil,' get the track FOR FREE / NAME YOUR PRICE at AmandaPalmer.net: http://bit.ly/AFPshop

video script/concept written by amanda palmer. 
directed by Michael McQuilken http://www.qmotionpictures.com
produced by Jennifer Harrison Newman. Filmed on location at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College on August 22-24, 2012 as part of a Live Arts Bard residency. 

A Battle of Arguments

 

Excerpt from "What Can You Learn about Persuasion from Hostage Negotiation?" a Barking Up the Wrong Tree interview with Chris Voss:

What are the most common mistakes people make when negotiating?

They neglect to pay attention to emotional factors, and they really neglect to listen.

I compare a lot of negotiations to dealing with a schizophrenic, because a schizophrenic’s always got a voice in his head talking to him which makes it very hard for him to listen to you.

Now most people in business negotiations, they approach the negotiation, and they’ve got firmly in their mind all of the arguments that support their position. So when they’re not talking, they’re thinking about their arguments, and when they are talking, they’re making their arguments. They view negotiation as a battle of arguments.

If while you’re making your argument, the only time the other side is silent is because they’re thinking about their own argument, they’ve got a voice in their head that’s talking to them. They’re not listening to you. When they’re making their argument to you, you’re thinking about your argument, that’s the voice in your head that’s talking to you. So it’s very much like dealing with a schizophrenic.

If your first objective in the negotiation, instead of making your argument, is to hear the other side out, that’s the only way you can quiet the voice in the other guy’s mind. But most people don’t do that. They don’t walk into a negotiation wanting to hear what the other side has to say. They walk into a negotiation wanting to make an argument. They don’t pay attention to emotions and they don’t listen.


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What It Means To Love You After You Are Dead

From Letters of Note, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012:

In June of 1945, Arline Feynman — high-school sweetheart and wife of the hugely influential physicist, Richard Feynman — passed away after succumbing to tuberculosis. She was 25-years-old. 16 months later, in October of 1946, Richard wrote his late wife the following love letter and sealed it in an envelope. It remained unopened until after his death in 1988. 

(Source: Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman)

October 17, 1946

D’Arline,

I adore you, sweetheart. 

I know how much you like to hear that — but I don't only write it because you like it — I write it because it makes me warm all over inside to write it to you. 

It is such a terribly long time since I last wrote to you — almost two years but I know you'll excuse me because you understand how I am, stubborn and realistic; and I thought there was no sense to writing. 

But now I know my darling wife that it is right to do what I have delayed in doing, and that I have done so much in the past. I want to tell you I love you. I want to love you. I always will love you.

I find it hard to understand in my mind what it means to love you after you are dead — but I still want to comfort and take care of you — and I want you to love me and care for me. I want to have problems to discuss with you — I want to do little projects with you. I never thought until just now that we can do that. What should we do. We started to learn to make clothes together — or learn Chinese — or getting a movie projector. Can't I do something now? No. I am alone without you and you were the "idea-woman" and general instigator of all our wild adventures.

When you were sick you worried because you could not give me something that you wanted to and thought I needed. You needn’t have worried. Just as I told you then there was no real need because I loved you in so many ways so much. And now it is clearly even more true — you can give me nothing now yet I love you so that you stand in my way of loving anyone else — but I want you to stand there. You, dead, are so much better than anyone else alive.

I know you will assure me that I am foolish and that you want me to have full happiness and don't want to be in my way. I'll bet you are surprised that I don't even have a girlfriend (except you, sweetheart) after two years. But you can't help it, darling, nor can I — I don't understand it, for I have met many girls and very nice ones and I don't want to remain alone — but in two or three meetings they all seem ashes. You only are left to me. You are real.

My darling wife, I do adore you. 

I love my wife. My wife is dead.

Rich.

PS Please excuse my not mailing this — but I don't know your new address.

Pre-order the Letters of Note book, out May 2013. 

The Myth of Spontaneity

Excerpt from "The Secret to Desire in a Long-Term Relationship," by Esther Perel, TED Talks, Feb. 2013:

Marriage was an economic institution in which you were given a partnership for life in terms of children and social status and succession and companionship. But now we want our partner to still give us all these things, but in addition I want you to be my best friend and my trusted confidant and my passionate lover to boot, and we live twice as long. (Laughter) So we come to one person, and we basically are asking them to give us what once an entire village used to provide: Give me belonging, give me identity, give me continuity, but give me transcendence and mystery and awe all in one. Give me comfort, give me edge. Give me novelty, give me familiarity. Give me predictability, give me surprise. And we think it's a given, and toys and lingerie are going to save us with that...

Erotic couples...understand that passion waxes and wanes. It's pretty much like the moon. It has intermittent eclipses. But what they know is they know how to resurrect it. They know how to bring it back, and they know how to bring it back because they have demystified one big myth, which is the myth of spontaneity, which is that it's just going to fall from heaven while you're folding the laundry like a deus ex machina, and in fact they understand that whatever is going to just happen in a long-term relationship already has.

Committed sex is premeditated sex. It's willful. It's intentional. It's focus and presence." 

Fully Open to the Reality of Relationship

Parque del Retiro, Madrid, August 2012

If we are to hold solitude and community together as a true paradox, we need to deepen our understanding of both poles.

Solitude does not necessarily mean living apart from others; rather, it means never living apart from one's self. It is not about the absence of other people — it is about being fully present to ourselves, whether or not we are with others.

Community does not necessarily mean living face-to-face with others; rather, it means never losing the awareness that we are connected to each other. It is not about the presence of other people — it is about being fully open to the reality of relationship, whether or not we are alone.

~ Parker J. Palmer, from A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life


[Thanks, Pat!]

A Marriage of Marriages

Un mundo (A World), Ángeles Santos Torroella, 1911

The current understanding of work-life balance is too simplistic. People find it hard to balance work with family, family with self, because it might not be a question of balance. Some other dynamic is in play, something to do with a very human attempt at happiness that does not quantify different parts of life and then set them against one another. We are collectively exhausted because of our inability to hold competing parts of ourselves together in a more integrated way. These hidden human dynamics of integration are more of a conversation, more of a synthesis and more of an almost religious and sometimes almost delirious quest for meaning than a simple attempt at daily ease and contentment.

Human beings are creatures of belonging, though they may come to that sense of belonging only through long periods of exile and loneliness. Interestingly, we belong to life as much through our sense that it is all impossible, as we do through the sense that we will accomplish everything we set out to do. This sense of belonging and not belonging is lived out by most people through three principal dynamics: first, through relationship to other people and other living things (particularly and very personally, to one other living, breathing person in relationship or marriage); second, through work; and third, through an understanding of what it means to be themselves, discrete individuals alive and seemingly separate from everyone and everything else.

These are the three marriages, of Work, Self, and Other. 

A word about this word marriage: Despite our use of the word only for a committed relationship between two people, in reality this book looks at the way everyone is committed, consciously or unconsciously, to three marriages. There is that first marriage, the one we usually mean, to another; that second marriage, which can so often seem like a burden, to a work or vocation; and that third and most likely hidden marriage to a core conversation inside ourselves. We can call these three separate commitments marriages because at their core they are usually lifelong commitments and, as I wish to illustrate, they involve vows made either consciously or unconsciously. 

Why put them together? To neglect any one of the three marriages is to impoverish them all, because they are not actually separate commitments but different expressions of the way each individual belongs to the world.

This book looks at the dynamics common to all three marriages: first the recognition of what an individual wants, then a pursuit, then the hope to circumvent the difficult but necessary disappointments, and ultimately, in the face of that disappointment, the full recommitment to the vows we have made in each of the three areas, spoken or unspoken.

The Three Marriages looks at the way each marriage involves a separate form of courtship and commitment, each almost a world unto itself that then must be rejoined together. The end goal: In these pages I am looking for a marriage of marriages.

The main premise of the book becomes also its final conclusion: We should stop thinking in terms of work-life balance. Work-life balance is a concept that has us simply lashing ourselves on the back and working too hard in each of the three commitments. In the ensuing exhaustion we ultimately give up on one or more of them to gain an easier life.

I especially want to look at the way that each of these marriages is, at its heart, nonnegotiable; that we should give up the attempt to balance one marriage against another, of, for instance, taking away from work to give more time to a partner, or vice versa, and start thinking of each marriage conversing with, questioning or emboldening the other two. As we discover, through the lives and biographies I follow in this book, how each one of the three marriages is nonnegotiable at its core, we can start to realign our understanding and our efforts away from trading and bartering parts of ourselves as if they were salable commodities and more toward finding a central conversation that can hold all of these three marriages together.

The understanding of this book is that the deeper, unspoken realms of the human psyche, work and life are not separate things and therefore cannot be balanced against each other except to create further trouble. The book most especially tries to dispel the myth that we are predominantly thinking creatures, who can, if we put our feet in all the right places, develop strategies that will make us the paragon of perfection we want to be, and instead, looks to a deeper, almost poetic perspective, a moving, more untouchable identity, a slightly more dangerous but more satisfying sense of self than one defined by ideas of balance.

The Three Marriages looks at the way we actually seem to function – as a kind of movable conversational frontier, an edge between what we think is us and what we think is not us…it tries to illustrate the way we can still make a real life even when crowded by other identities, or even when unbalanced and intoxicated with desire, or even when we are disappointed in work or love, and perhaps the way, at the center of all this deep love of belonging and this deep exhaustion of belonging, we may have waiting for us, at the end of the tunnel, a marriage of marriages, a life worth living, and one we can call, despite all the difficulties and imperfections, our very own.

~ David Whyte, from The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self, and Relationship

See also:

The Art of Letting Pass

El Parque del Retiro, Madrid, August 3, 2012

All That We Have
by Stephen Dunn, from Local Time 

            to John Jay Osborn, Jr.

It's on ordinary days, isn't it,
     when they happen,
those silent slippages,

a man mowing the lawn, a woman
     reading a magazine,
each thinking it can't go on like this,

then the raking, the turning
     of a page.
The art of letting pass

what must not be spoken, the art
     of tirade, explosion,
are the marital arts, and we

their poor practitioners, are never
     more than apprentices.
At night in bed the day visits us,

happily or otherwise.  In the morning
     the words good morning
have a history of tones; pray to say them

evenly.  It's so easy, those moments
     when affection is what
the hand and voice naturally coordinate.

But it's that little invisible cloud
     in the livingroom,
floating like boredom, it's the odor

of disappointment mixing with
     kitchen smells,
which ask of us all that we have.

The man coming in now
     to the woman.
The woman going out to the man.

 

[Thanks, Whiskey River!]

The Best Thing I Can Do for You

Lake George 1929 -nd After two months in Taos, Georgia O'Keeffe explains her time away in a letter to Alfred Stieglitz dated July 9, 1929:

 

There is much life in me — when it was always checked in moving toward you — I realized it would die if it could not move toward something ... I chose coming away because here at least I feel good — and it makes me feel I am growing very tall and straight inside — and very still — Maybe you will not love me for it — but for me it seems to be the best thing I can do for you — I hope this letter carries no hurt to you — It is the last thing I want to do in the world.

Today it rains —

From My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz edited by Sarah Greenough

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