In our Western, Euro-centric, North American, dominant, competitive, capitalistic culture, feelings have been categorized as weak, contemptable, irrational, uncivilized, etc. The feeling we call love has been relegated to a commercial holiday once a year.
We’ve been taught, in one way or another, not to trust our bodies – our senses, our intuition, our feelings, our innate knowing of truth – since 400 ad when Augustine neatly separated Earth from Heaven and human from divine. Descartes took it a step further in the 1600’s when he declared: I think, therefore I am. But where is our thinking housed if not in this living, breathing, feeling, sensing body? And how does thought have meaning without expression. And what allows expression but lungs and vocal cords, tongue and teeth to breathe that sentence out of the mouth/or hands and fingers holding a marker and the phenomenal nervous system that allows muscle and sinew and bone and vessel to move that marker on a surface to record marks to make that thought readable and available to us today.
And how do we interpret marks without this entire sentient body in which our consciousness lives?
Without our feelings we cannot be fully alive; we cannot fully engage with the miracle of living in an animal body. We call ourselves numb, when we can’t feel in response to experience. Numb suggests rigidity, tiredness, heaviness, dullness, unmoved and unmoveable. Flat affect is what many call depression. And surprise, surprise, depression is a consequence of literally keeping a lid on our feelings. Depressing our feelings, our inner responses to lived experience, takes a great deal of energy and literally robs us of our capacities to flourish, rebound, rekindle optimism, etc. That’s depressing!
Seriously, how can we be fully alive without this whole body that feels feelings?
Though love has been diminished, unwarranted fear has been magnified way out of proportion to its legitimate role as a preserver of lives! None of us humans would be here now if our ancestors hadn’t been alerted to impending life threatening danger so they could live long enough to procreate. But our consumer driven culture has used fear as an anxiety producer, and anxiety is a consequence, similar to depression, not the fear feeling itself. Buying more than we can possibly use, hoarding more money than one lifetime needs, building bigger and better, seeking the latest techno fix, waging war on someone else to protect us from terrorism, all of that acquisitive competition provides no security and denies life its vitality. As a culture, anxiety rules many, if not most, lives, and the young are particularly vulnerable.
I am riveted by the larger significance of love as a feeling force. Could love be an antidote for irrational fears that are used to manipulate our behavior? Of course. Just read Valarie Kaur’s book: See No Stranger- A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love for inspiration. Another source of revolutionary love thinking arose from the painting that layered itself onto my canvas for many days. I finished it last Monday, March 6th. On Wednesday, March 8th, the synchronistic threads of painting, sleeping, reading, and timing birthed a prose/poem, that I was still refining earlier today. But here are both: image first, words below it. I would enjoy hearing how they land in you.
Together We Sanctify Love
Deborah J Milton
What is this love?
Like gravity, love attracts us to “the larger body within whom we live,”*
compels us to do whatever it takes to strengthen
that vital relationship, to nurture belonging.
Like breathing, love animates
awareness, aliveness, and presence.
Like grieving, love opens our hearts to continual emergence.
Like wisdom, love humbles us
before this miracle of Earth’s inclusive abundance
invites us to restrain our urge to exploit.
Like energy, love allows us to
hear the inaudible, to see the invisible,
to heed life’s intelligence, within and without.
Like faith, love enlarges our capacity to live without irrational fears,
to trust Great Mystery,
to protect Creation’s complexity, wholeness and beauty
because we, too, embody that holiness.
When love shows up, everything changes.
*p 206: Being Salmon, Being Human by Martin Lee Mueller