As I schedule a post or two in advance to cover my absence for the Silent Eye’s workshop weekend, there are few things I can predict with any certainty. You never know what is going to happen or how things are going to work out. One thing I do know, though, is that barring unforeseeable disaster, I will get to spend some time with the friends and people I love. And we will talk… a lot… and when we start talking, we can cover a lot of ground, from the ridiculous to the sublime, the mundane to the mystical.
I often think of Lewis Carroll’s poem, “The Walrus and the Carpenter” when these conversations get going. Though to be fair, the subjects of our discussions are generally weirder and further reaching than that of the oyster-eating conversationalists thus described. And “Through the Looking Glass” would be an equally good title for the friendship we share.
But, like them, we speak of many things; along with talk of snowballs and poetry, statistics and magic, parenting and the nature of a bishop’s smile, we will speak of love. It is, in fact, the common, if invisible, thread that binds most of our exchanges together and can be felt, weaving its way through the apparent disparities as we talk our way from the gutter to the very gates of heaven.
Friendship itself is one manifestation of love. Some begin with one of those instant moments of recognition, when something, somewhere clicks into place and into purpose. Others grow slowly, unfolding their petals and taking time to reveal their inner hearts. We all share parallels within our lives’ journeys, and we slide down the latter half of life, some with great elegance, others with a less graceful, yet gleeful, abandon, towards a not dissimilar conclusion and in a shared inner joy.
Most of the people I will meet again over the weekend have spent very little time together eye to eye, yet heart to heart we have shared so much and we hold up a mirror to each other in which we are reflected as One. It is the kind of fraternity of the soul that we are seldom blessed with and is to be treasured as a rare and precious thing.
Yet were you to take a peek into our conversations, you would be as likely to find us talking of steam railways and the seedier side of humanity, laughing over risqué puns and gently poking fun at the cussed stubbornness of northerners, as you would be to find us speaking of the deeper questions of Life, the Universe and Everything. For they too are all one and a common thread of meaning is woven through them.
Amongst the cabbages and kings, we have spoken of love and how our relationship with it changes as we grow. We have spoken of the differences and misunderstandings between detachment and non-attachment. Most religious and spiritual traditions, as well as the Mystery schools, teach the need for non-attachment in some form or another, particularly with regard to the ego, and it can be a frightening thing to even contemplate letting go of the self to that extent. There is an underlying fear of ‘who will I be, if I am not I? If I cannot feel, think, love as myself then who will I become?’
No matter how painful loving can be, no matter how joyful or tender, how heart-aching or blissful, it is love in some form or another that fuels all our relationships from our parents to our friends, from our children to our partners. It is behind all the richest experiences of our lives… why would we want to become ‘detached’ from that?
It became clear to me at some point, that it is the ego that, through its own fear of dissolution, misunderstands. We do not need to detach ourselves from love, but from its dependencies. When we can lay those dependencies, those needs, on the altar with a clear heart, Love opens up to us in a way that we have not understood before.
When we can see a person clearly, ‘warts and all’ as the saying goes, and love them because of who they are, when we can love without needing them to love us back, without agonising over how they feel about us, and shedding useless tears when they do not give what we would like… When we can allow them to be themselves wholly and freely and simply love them anyway, without expectation or trying to mould them to our desire… Or when we can look into the mirror of the soul and see our own Self reflected in that greater Love, then perhaps we begin to know what non-attachment means. It does not take love away from us, it gives us the freedom to Love with a whole soul.
And, this weekend, I will be with people I love.