Knowing nothing about the people we love is what allows us to really love them

Dear quarter lives,

Have you ever known someone for so long and felt like you knew nothing about them? And the more time passes, you realise how little of them you really know. Take our parents for example, we don’t really know them at all and yet they are probably the people we’ve spent the most cumulative time with. We know nothing about the people we love and that’s precisely why we can love them so deeply. Can you imagine if we really knew the people in our lives, could we bring ourselves to love them, to really love them without conditions or biases. It is because we are safe from each other’s thoughts that we can bring ourselves to love one another. Have you any idea what your mother went through at the age of 5, or how your grandfather felt like as a little boy? Do you really know if they almost died or killed another? Do you know if they lied, stole or used their bodies for power to negotiate with another or with god? Do you know how ugly or beautiful they really feel, or how sick or healthy their minds really are? We don’t really know anyone for certain, even our own selves. And what great news that is, to not know, to be free of a certainty that brings judgment along with it. If we knew for certain we were good people, we would judge others based on that certainty of goodness, and condemn those who fell outside of that box of goodness we carved so precisely around ourselves. What a relief it is that we do not know what goodness exactly is, and what a relief it is to be free to ascribe it to everyone. What a relief it is not to know another and to be unable to judge them accordingly. But yet we go around judging all the time. And it is because we seek to know ourselves and in turn others so precisely. We go on seeking to know who we really are, prescribing identities onto ourselves and onto others. But you see, the certainty that knowledge illudes, the security it might make you feel to know another, the price of safety in knowing is judgment. And judgement is a hefty price to pay. It is taxing not only on us but on others. It is unfair and limits our experience of everything within us and around us.

I invite you to take a moment and try to feel yourself without judgement. It is very difficult. Now, take another moment, and remember all the people you came into contact with today, and try to feel them without judgement. It is very difficult. Let me clarify here that judgement does not only include negative statements but it could be positive or even neutral ones. For example, the clerk at a shop you bought something from recently, your interaction with them was based on the fact that they were a shop clerk, so your feelings of them were tainted by that identity you gave them. It is a very difficult exercise to feel another without any preconceived notions, to really listen to someone when they speak without projecting our own prejudices onto them. How long can you hold your gaze with another, eye to eye, pupil to pupil, soul to soul? There is a reason it is uncomfortable, and it’s not just because we’re afraid of what they’ll see but we are afraid of what we will see. To see without judgement does not mean we’ll see rainbows in each other’s eyes. We all have shadows, we all have secrets, some darker than others, but all complex, all because of things that happened to us, and all our own fault too. So you see, feeling one another, gazing into another’s eyes aren’t easy tasks. They are an exchange of information between two parties, whether they are aware of it or not, and so these moments of human connection can be very uncomfortable at first but only because we are judging what we see, and we think that whatever we might see will stick to us like some contagious disease, but it is true only if you choose to hold on to whatever you see. The thing is the world is filled with both joy and pain, most of us find it much easier to receive joy and really hard to let go of it. Pain, on the other hand, is very difficult to receive and much easier to pass on. But it all passes anyway, from one human to another, one interaction to the next, we pass it all around and around. A smile can travel the same route, though with smiles, we embrace them thinking that it is our embrace that brought the smile our way but it would’ve passed through us anyway whether we greet it or not. The same goes for anger, fear, doubt and hope. Around and around they all go until we have no idea where it all began, where it ends, if ever. This circle of information growing and multiplying, circles within circles, with no beginning and never ending. A dizziness falls upon us as we dance within and around these circles, round and round we go, a little here and a little there, but never any where in particular. March, they drum. Dance, they drum louder. Can you hear the echoes of the voices that once were, these voices of the quiet, that were never heard, never received, because they could never be loved by another. They wailed and flailed from the pain of never being loved. They screamed, and I screamed louder, until one day I stopped screaming, and they spoke to me. All this time, they had been speaking to me and I thought they were talking about another. Love me, love us, love you. That’s all I heard. For some reason I didn’t hear the I. They were screaming not for help. They were screaming to help me. I love me. I love us, I love you. I had all the love in the world inside of me. I had all this love but I had to unknow what I thought I knew for certain about myself, it is when I realised I know nothing for certain, nothing about me, nothing about life, that I was able to love myself completely. Without any conditions or biases or expectations. It was love for the sake of nothing, and that’s what I mean when I say we can only really say we love other people when we love them without any prejudices, even our family and friends we are biased with our love towards them because they are family but when we let go of the weight of that relationship and allow these biases to fade we find we are able to love them more completely, regardless of who they are, and regardless of their relationship to us, we love them just because they are here, because they are who they are even when they don’t know who they are and precisely because we don’t know who they are. Sometimes we think Knowledge gives us the power to make better decisions, but knowledge often satisfies a need to be reassured that said decision, said action, said information is the correct one, but knowledge often taints how we really feel. Knowledge suppresses emotions, our rational side often at war with the irrational side. There is purpose to knowledge but not in matters of love. Love itself cannot be accurately described in the language through which we communicate knowledge. Love falls outside of all known things. It resides in an uncertain place between feelings and sensations, a crevice so small, so deep it can hold only something as fluid and as dynamic as love. So love yourself regardless of what you know about yourself. For there is much else you don’t know about it. This lack of knowledge is an invitation to love each other more freely. Embrace the fluidity of love and hold it for a moment until it leaks through you and seeps onto another, but trust there is more to come your way, if you would only let it flow without knowing why. And the next time, you get upset because someone you love doesn’t really know you, celebrate their lack of knowledge of you, for it is an opportunity to be loved unconditionally. And what greater way is there to be loved than unconditionally based on nothing at all. It is love based on no information that is most reliable, most stable. Isn’t it ironic that the thing we thought protects our hearts from love is the thing that breaks it in the first place?

With love for absolutely no reason at all,

S.A.

On the essence of Joy

Dear quarter lives, 

Have you ever wondered what joy is made of? Have you ever wondered what force acts upon us that causes us to feel joy? Have you ever wondered what actions you take that cause someone else to feel joy? For years I contemplated joy, trying to understand how it came, what it felt like when it happened, how could I get more of it. But I just couldn’t figure out anything about it or what made it happen. It was like I was blind to the language of joy. So instead of trying to understand the whole of Joy, I wondered instead about the everyday kind of joy, the everyday moments that no matter how often they happened, they would make me feel like I was having a fabulous day, all the little things that happened moment after moment that made me feel alive. I wondered what these moments felt like, what they smelt like, what I was doing, was I saying anything or not, where was I, who was there, what was there, was it hot or cold, did I have breakfast or not, did I exercise that day or not, and so on. What all this wondering did was help me realise that first a big part of joy came from my senses; and secondly that my senses were allowing me to communicate with my environment and the more I could communicate with my environment, the more joy I felt; and the clearer these communications were, the more joy I felt. I knew that joy had something to do with communicating and connecting but I didn’t know much else. All I knew was joy was happening between things. It may reside inside of us, but it doesn’t happen there. It requires some other force to act upon us, or us to act upon another force. It requires movement. In physics, we know that force causes motion. And so without a force acting upon us, the joy inside of us remains immobile, static. Because we can’t know for sure what force is acting upon us, it is harder to know what causes joy to happen to us. But what we can know is what kind of movement our force causes when we use it. In other words, it is much easier to know how we bring joy to others, then how others bring joy to us. Here others includes anything outside of us, from the room we sleep in to the earth we walk on, the dog we feed, the plants we water, the people we know and the many others we don’t.

According to the Oxford dictionary, to be joyful literally means to feel or to cause great happiness. So one way to be joyful is to cause great happiness to others. Once we focus on causing happiness to our immediate environments, we become the messengers of joy. And when we deliver joy to others, we feel it too. We are now part of the process by which joy happens. We become an active component of joy. In communicating joy to other people, we get to feel it move inside of us and that movement I believe is what we call the feeling of “feeling alive”. Generating joy is similar to generating electricity; like it is the directional movement (not random) of electrons that generates electricity, it is too the intentional movement of joy that creates the feeling of it. Joy remains quiet and still inside of us until we decide to move it towards something or someone. So I encourage you to move the joy inside of you outside of you. Do not hoard it and keep it to yourself. For joy is a different kind of currency, it is one you accumulate by giving away rather than saving it all for yourself. And the more you exchange joy, the richer and more joyful you feel. And we have many names for this exchange of joy. When we exchange joy with God, we call it Faith. When we exchange joy with another soul, we call it Love. When we exchange joy with another body, we call it Sex (sacred energy exchange). So the essence of all joy is every single communication of joy, from that of a smile between you and someone, to the exchange of a beautiful scent between you and a flower, the communication of a beautiful sight between you and a painting, or some kind words between you and your mother —-these are all expressions of Joy. So dear quarter lives, be intentional communicators of joy, exercise joy, move it, express it, speak it, paint it, eat it, that is how we feel it. 

Joy is a currency of happiness, one we get richer in not by accumulating it all for ourselves but by giving it to others. The more joy you give, the more happiness you receive, the richer and more joyful you become. 

Love, 

S.A.

We can’t prove we exist but we can accept we do

proof.

defined by the Oxford dictionary as 

n. evidence that something is true or exists. 

Dear quarter lives, 

We chase proof for our existence in the same way a child chases its shadow or a dog its tail. They are teased by the misconception that it is chasing them. A child will run as fast as it can, in circles and straight lines, trying so hard to outrun its shadow until they realise they can’t. But they’ll keep on trying again and again because maybe next time they can. This hope that next time will be different than a past experience is what keeps us running until we tire ourselves enough to forget about our shadow for a moment or two, only to rest and start all over again.

And not all children are created the same; some will be so fascinated by their shadow that they will run towards it so fast trying their hardest to catch it, and some who started off running away from their shadow will see their friend running towards it and will feel safe and reassured that it won’t hurt them because it’s not hurting their friend so they begin to chase after it as well. While another child who was chasing their shadow might see a friend running away and question their own assumption that the shadow is safe and begin to copy their friend and run away from their shadow too. But in all scenarios, we are always running. Always chasing or being chased. And until a parent points out that the shadow is actually us, and we stop for a moment to observe the ground and see that mother too has a shadow, and that her shadow is different, bigger just like her. It’s then that we finally relax and accept that the shadow is a part of us. But what about the shadows of our inner world?

During childhood, we overcome both our fear and curiosity of our external shadow and embrace it as forever part of us. But when we begin to exit childhood, during adolescence as we approach adulthood, all these internal shadows begin to pop up left, right and centre. We feel trapped because we can’t get away from all of it. We feel overwhelmed, angry and scared. Again, not all adolescents are made the same. Some of us are overtaken with curiosity and chase after our shadows, while others are overwhelmed with fear and repress their shadows. Some are influenced by their friends into changing their approach. Peer pressure goes both ways; some are shamed out of their sexuality while others are pressured into exploring it. In the end, what we learn from this is that like in our childhood, we find ourselves running either way, chasing or being chased. But the difference is that unlike in our childhood, our parents aren’t telling us, ‘It’s okay. This is a part of you. Just accept who you are.’ because they too are running from their shadows like their parents before them and their parents before them. This culture and history of repression has exhausted our psyches and unleashed our monsters onto each other. Some of us are lucky and get stopped by someone or something and asked to take a moment and sit still and look around until we finally realise that this is just like when we were children, that everyone has shadows, that shadows are completely natural, that they are perfectly normal and a significant part of who we are. A key part of our journey into adulthood is accepting our shadows and integrating them into our being. And that is very different from catching them. We can never catch them, we can never escape them, they will always be with us wherever we go. 

So in the same way that we can never catch our shadow, we can never have proof we exist. Proof for our being is perhaps the most difficult and biggest of all our shadows to overcome because it seeps into absolutely everything we do and who we perceive ourselves to be. All of us, all of the work we do, all the children we have, the books we write, the buildings we build, the forests we destroy and oceans we pollute, they are all different ways we try our hardest to leave a footprint. To leave something behind that says we were here. But why and for whom? Why do we need to prove so badly that we exist? Because the possibility of the alternative haunts us. The thought of not existing terrifies us. But isn’t that what death is? Not existing, at least from here, from where we stand now in life. So is all this seeking of proof just a way of running away from the biggest shadow of our lives: death? Can all of this running stem from a fear of death? Can we ever fully rest until we accept death first as a part of us, until we accept that a state of nonexistence, a state of being nothing, a state of non-being is too a part of us? Death is of us in the same way our shadow is. And to find any sliver of peace in this life, one must learn to accept all of life, and that includes death. Because you see there can never be any proof of life except our experience of it. And to be able to relax, let go and fully experience life, we must accept life for what it really is — an experience of dying, of approaching death. 

“If we are to take it as a truth that knows no exception that everything living dies for internal reasons — becomes inorganic once again — then we shall be compelled to say that ‘the aim of all life is death’ and, looking backwards, that ‘inanimate things existed before living ones’.” — Sigmund Freud1

Till next time,

S.A. 

1 Freud, S. (1920). Beyond the Pleasure Principle.

Reconnecting to Your Childhood is Important.

Dear quarter lives,

This is a kind reminder that we in fact never grow out of our childhood. We mature in voice, we grow new teeth, but we do not grow new primary experiences of life. Perhaps this is why childhood remains a significant part of our memories and our present-day reactions to the world. It is how we first received the world, how we were first welcomed by it or terrified by it, it is our introduction into life, and so as all first impressions, it counts a great deal.

Remorse, do not have for your child self. It is an emotion laced with guilt. Steer away from guilt, for it is one laced in fear. And fear is laced in darkness, so do not scare your children, they are still alive and care not for your guilt but would much rather be held out in the light – the bright light of love. It is there that all children thrive, it is there that they would like to live, so take them to love and away from the pains of nostalgia, away from all the memories that happened and the ones that never did. It is dangerous to live in a past that no longer is, a past that cannot be changed but one that hopes so badly it could. A past cannot be different than what it was. It cannot be anything except what it is. As adults with children in pain living inside of us, we fall into this trap when we remember the past, we cannot accept it for what it was, and in turn reject the present for what it is, in hopes to move to a future that cannot be. But what we fail to realise is that when we reject our past, we reject our child self too along with it, we reject their truth, we refuse to recognise them for who they really are. It is us you see that inflict pain on our child selves, it is our rejection that leaves them feeling ashamed, it is our abandonment that leaves them feeling like they are alone in this world. But children you see are most forgiving so let them teach you how to forgive them. They will embrace you with all the love they have if you just allow them to. They too can guide you back to yourself, but only if you trust them. And trust the children we must.

Children are seekers of the light, they are drawn to love and always move towards it so have faith that your child knows the way, they might be your only way back home. Do not burden yourself O adult with the hows, whys and what ifs. Let go of your need to lead the way. Let go of the idea that the adult is supposed to know the way. It is often our inner children that are best suited for leading these journeys. Our adult beings are too tainted by a material reality they have come to believe is real, so they cannot walk past it, they cannot let it go. And to go back home one must be prepared to let go of many attachments including that with reality herself. We must walk through reality, not become it. Unfortunately, most adults have become the reality they have lived in for so long, they have become the identities and labels they were given only as glasses to experience the world through, but instead these glasses stayed on their faces for too long, and they forgot they were even wearing them. Now confused that their glasses are their eyes, they are so afraid to let go of them because they think they are sacrificing their eyes.

If one is to return to being the camera man rather than the camera itself, one needs to reconnect to their child self to find that faith again to trust. Trust allows us to hand over our reigns of control. To give in our power. Trust allows us to accept our lack of knowledge. And who better to teach us about trust and navigating through the unknown than children who are born to people they know nothing of yet they trust these people with all their hearts to love them and keep them safe. So dearest quarter lives, reconnect with your child selves, it might be the most valuable thing you do for yourself. And remember it is like approaching any child, you must smile, be kind and ready to play a little.

Love,

S.A.