Self-Love: A Radical Political Act
Raised as the son of fundamentalist preacher who carried and propagated a belief in the belt as an instrument of God’s salvation, I also inherited a strong sense of ‘never being enough.’ Not only was the world itself contaminated by evil, so was I; and it was my father’s religious obligation to beat it out of me.
The ‘self’ that I constructed around that sense of ‘I’ was a fragmented one, a wounded one. It/I carried that sense of self as if it/I were an object, something that stood and existed independently alone in the world, something that was in continuous need of self-improvement, and in need of the gift of Salvation from a God in Heaven if I were to avoid an eternity of Hell-Fire and Brimstone.
Long after I left that God in Heaven to live in his own self-constructed Hell (hungry for converts to avoid his own loneliness), I continued to work at ‘making myself better.’ At long last, approaching my 59th birthday, I am slowly releasing the need to make anything of myself: Life increasingly becomes about ‘Being.’ More than ever, Life for me is about simply ‘showing up.’ Being ‘present.’
This sense of ‘presence,’ not so much as an object but as… as spirit? as relationship? as a constellation of energy? as pure consciousness? this is a gift that has come with age. It is also a gift that comes out of my relationship with nature-as-teacher. This existence as a Human Being vs. a Human Doing, of being a spirit having a human experience, as it is often expressed, is something the Aspens return me to.
The Aspens remind me: I can identify with the smallness of my self, with my incompleteness and woundedness and insufficiencies… or I can identify with the Wholeness, the holiness, the Breath-of-Life that moves within and is not separate from…
Juan Ramon Jiménez captures the sense of this beautifully in his poem, “I am not I”, translated here by Robert Bly.
I am not I.
I am this one
walking beside me whom I do not see;
whom at times I manage to visit,
and whom at other times I forget;
who remains calm and silent while I talk,
and forgives, gently, when I hate,
who walks where I am not,
who will remain standing when I die.
It is this Self, I know now, who has access to all the intelligence, wisdom and resources I require, to the thrive-ability that lives innately within. It is this ‘depth of being’ that has access to the collective intelligence and wild wisdom we require to ease our journey through the birth canal during this time of dying—so the new can be born.
This Self seeking birth is, I believe, the experience and knowledge of our Wholeness. We are not separate. We belong. To gift our selves with such love as this? This is the most radical political or spiritual act any of us can commit!
Marc Choyt11/03/2007 at 4:23 pm
To me, the issue is what my Apache teacher taught me as “right to exist.” Culture, materialism, family, religion, all these elements can make my believe that my right to exist is contingent upon something outside of myself.
My teacher told me many years ago, go outside and walk in the woods and ask everything around you if you have the right to be who you are. How we experience the universe is a mirror, a mandela of our own internal states.
About fifteen years ago, when I was beginning my studies with her, I did this circle ritual where I walked around the circle with my alliances and confirmed my right to exist. I did this steadily for a long time, every day to build a new foundation inside my cells. It takes many years to really change the cellular structure around this issue.
Here’s a question that you answer with the aspen: when you are a child and you are hurt, where do you go for comfort? When you are a man and you hurt, where do you go for comfort?
The whole universe– but particularly the natural world, echoes that we have a right to be as much as anything else. It also says that everything else has the right to exist as much as we do. This is the underlying principal of circle and it is extremely difficult to live out. It means that if I take or kill, which I do every day, I have a debt to my existence.
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