and there's a young child in the house. I guess I'd forgotten what that's like, with its many interruptions.
While it does, of course, I feel the confinement of it. I've had to pare back the plans I made with her, in order to focus on what she needs. Somehow, I don't even remember this kind of thing from when my own children were small.
So, with things coming to a halt the past couple of days, I've been stealing moments between playing The Ladybug Game, and reading The Polar Express (my favorite) and The Donkey's Dream (her favorite), for some of Simone Weil's wonderful writing in Waiting for God. With an overheated, sleeping child in my lap, it requires added concentration to wade through the deep swamp of Simone's dense writing. Sometimes I can't figure out what she's saying, and other times I feel only jealousy that she could articulate so much at such a young age. (It's a good thing she did. She died at age 34.) And I pondered this:
We live in a world of unreality and dreams. To give up our imaginary position as the center, to renounce it, not only intellectually, but in the imaginative part of our soul, that means to awaken to what is real and eternal, to see the true light and hear the true silence. A transformation then takes place at the very roots of our sensibility.
To empty ourselves of our false divinity, to deny ourselves, to give up being the center of the world in imagination, to discern that all points in the world are equally centers and that the true center is outside the world, this is to consent to the rule of mechanical necessity in matter and of free choice at the center of each soul. Such consent is love.
And here are some things that I think I know:
Knowing things in my head is helpful, but in reality, it's always better to know things experientially, or, as Simone Weil says, "to know it in the imaginative part of our soul."
Whatever I know must be put into practice in the realm of reality--in the context of real circumstances and relationships--or it never fully takes hold, and awakening and transformation cannot occur. I will never see the true light and hear the true silence.
When I stop seeing myself as the center of the world, it frees me to love and serve. Inner freedom allows me to connect to and see wholeness and integrity in others.
Rachel Naomi Remen puts this in concrete terms when she compares the difference between helping/fixing and serving--that to which, it seems, women sometimes devote their entire lives. I think mostly in terms of relating to adult kids or needy friends--those times when helping/fixing is not serving, for example. Usually when I'm attempting to help/fix, it means only that I'm trying to relieve my own anxiety regarding someone else's life.
Remen points out that "Helping incurs debt, and fixing is a form of judgment. . .which creates distance and disconnection. We can only serve that to which we are profoundly connected. . .we serve life not because it is broken, but because it is holy. Service is an experience of mystery, surrender, and awe."
["In Service of Life", Noetic Sciences Review, Spring 1996]
I will be thinking about all of this for a while, and seeking to live it out.
Meanwhile, I ran Lilia back to Iowa City this afternoon, to her dad. It was a peaceful trip. She's feeling much better, and the drive was beautiful, with snow-covered, rolling hills all the way, deep, pristine drifts, and, thankfully, dry pavement. On the way home at sunset, the sky was awash in gold.
And now for a few days of rest, restoring order, and readying for the New Year!