“Gratitude is inseparable from love. It is what a well-adjusted person feels in response to the love of others. The capacity to acknowledge and accept their love awakens a longing to offer one’s own in return. This capacity may be compromised or lost. A person may become so resentful of her reliance on the love of others that she recoils and looks for ways to make do without it. A certain degree of resentfulness at our dependence on what lies outside us, including the love of the human being on whose care we depend completely in the first phase of life, is a permanent feature of the human condition. We all wish to be more independent than we ever are. But if this wish reaches a pathological intensity, it expresses itself as envy, the poisonous and self-destructive antithesis of gratitude, and puts an obstacle in the way of making an adequate return for the love one has received. The inability to do this is a source of disappointment and despair.”
- p. 20, Confessional of a Born-Again Pagan, Anthony T. Kronman
Melancholia and vigor brace the minimum and maximum limits of a person’s human energy. In an effort to optimize the human condition psychiatry evolved in the West, defining the middle zone between melancholia and vigor as “normal.” Normal implies functional, capable of holding down a job, earning money, having a wife or husband and 2.5 kids, a home with a white picket fence, and a dog. For many, this middle zone can be likened to the no man’s land in a World War I style trench war – melancholia the Allies and vigor the Central Powers or vice versa. This metaphor for the psyche can be generalized, for me melancholia takes on the character of the Judeo-Christians and vigor the character of the Muslims in our present War on Terror. For me, how did this middle zone become a place of conflict and what are the steps I can take to restore my psyche to such a place as to be centered and balanced. To redefine the middle zone not as a no man’s land but rather as a place of fluid balance. To see balance not as negative but rather something positive or even holy. To seek this center point in each moment of the day, to walk Buddha’s Middle Way.
“Gratitude is inseparable from love,” Kronman says above. To be centered, at peace, and balanced to me seems to mean to be at inner peace, not at inner war. The hardest thing in life I have found is to love myself, not in any cerebral sense but rather in a deep embodied love of my own entire being. To love oneself in our world today is honestly, hard. We are constantly flooded with words and images that provoke anxiety. Images of war in the Middle East, my father’s home stream to us constantly. To me the “terrorists” are not some foreign enemy, they are my family. Superimposed on the normal day to day flux of life, if one actually feels the zeitgeist of our times it becomes overwhelming and at times incapacitating. The wheels of capitalism and sheer speed of technological change drives an ever more chaotic flux in the job market. A some point I snapped. My friend’s suicide memorialized by her funeral on 9/11/2009 was the breaking point. I have written an entire book of poetry about the why behind this psychic break. If you wish to read it it’s on Amazon for $5.99 and is entitled “AK-47 Poetry: How I Learned to Be Okay Watching the World Burn.”
Now that work is done, I feel a sense of closure. I don’t want to say I have worked out the exact solution to reaching a centered state of moment to moment balance, but I feel I have an algorithm for how to reach it. Kronman states:
It is what a well-adjusted person feels in response to the love of others. The capacity to acknowledge and accept their love awakens a longing to offer one’s own in return. This capacity may be compromised or lost.
Enter an at first glance odd practice to be mentioned in this tiny essay, tango. Scattered across social media these past few days have been psychological analyses of the Trumps’ and the Obamas’ marriages via visual analysis of the body language in the First Couples’ first dances. The Obamas dance with a relaxed fluidity, arms and hands embracing moving and flowing with the music. They both hear the music together and it is clearly evident from their smiles as they float across the floor that there is a mutual sense of respect and an equal flow of love between the two. What is most interesting to me about their first dance is that it is as much a dance of mutual gratitude as it is a dance of self-love. Gratitude to each other, clearly both are centered beings who love themselves. They appear self-content and at inner peace. Their dance in close embrace is a nonverbal conversation. One that, to me, speaks about them as people more than anything either has said or done. In other words, their bodies speak more about the mind than words or writing. Not wishing to dwell on the negative, I will leave it as an exercise to you the reader to watch the Trumps’ first dance to decide if similar things can be said.
“This capacity may be compromised or lost. A person may become so resentful of her reliance on the love of others that she recoils and looks for ways to make do without it. A certain degree of resentfulness at our dependence on what lies outside us, including the love of the human being on whose care we depend completely in the first phase of life, is a permanent feature of the human condition. We all wish to be more independent than we ever are.”
…to be continued…