I haven’t posted for a while because I’ve been having a very hard time. The usual brain not working, often feeling shaky and weak, feeling burdened by so many unresolved things, unable to think what to do next, finding it VERY hard to do practical things: deal with the scam, get my stuff ready for my tax accountant, and a long list more. I went to a lecture on the Green New Deal, and was disappointed by the small turnout. When the speaker asked how many had heard of Greta Thunberg, only a few raised their hands. I walked out with a sense of doom. I just stayed with it, hoping I would find my hope again as I usually do when I stay with this level of despair, but it didn’t happen. I wanted to scream at the people shopping, playing golf, going to the bank, “Don’t you realize everything is going to die, the planetary life-support system is dying, don’t you care about your children and grandchildren?”
From my journal for August 21
Ran into a lot of trouble with Dulany. She could tell I was upset, so I finally said it was about climate change and watching the earth die. She said all the practical things: the earth will die someday, people have always suffered, people have always feared it was the end of the world, etc. I could agree with everything she said, but none of it helped. I couldn’t say why it was the earth herself that I love and can’t bear the ending of. These maple trees, these goldfinches, these elephants… I think how Nature was my mother, nature held me when nothing else could. I wonder if what I really am is angry. I think about the women in City of Joy learning to fight off an attacker. I wonder if it’s a global sense of helplessness, the baby’s feelings made adult, the dark street and the steam roller made all-encompassing. Yes, the baby thought the world was ending, even though it had no words for such a concept.
I picked up a book I’ve been reading by Elizabeth Goudge for comfort, and came upon this quote which seemed to validate my thoughts.
“She felt a sudden uprush of thankfulness for the comradeship of the earth. It seemed to her at that moment the only friend who never failed. Its beauty was ever renewed and its music unceasing. Death could not touch it or the years estrange.” p258 Towers in the Mist. It’s about Joyeuce, who lost her mother when she was ten, had the responsibility for younger siblings, and her older brother has just died.
3rd cup. The quote about Joyeuce really helped. I did find solace in Nature, back behind our house in Indian Hill, out by the ocean in Maine. It was my foundation, which got ripped away every time mother left me alone.
Then I turned to typing journal, and this was on the page:
I was typing up a session with Erica where she says a baby has no time. Trauma also has no time. “What will happen to me is unlimited and total. — I’m dropped into aloneness and helplessness.”
I’m also dropped into the baby state, have no access to my adult. The adult can agree with Dulany that the earth will die some day, but she can’t use that to reassure the baby. What does the baby need? To be reassured that she’s lovable, that someone will stay with her so she won’t be alone. That the workings of the Universe are far more complex than she can possibly understand, and that something that looks inevitable can be undone by the flap of a butterfly’s wings.
August 22: from Brain Pickings for today: How Van Gogh found his purpose
(The quotes in italics are from a letter to his brother.)
“[Van Gogh] returns to the heart of the matter — the anguish of not having settled into his sense of purpose:
In my unbelief I’m a believer, in a way, and though having changed I am the same, and my torment is none other than this, what could I be good for, couldn’t I serve and be useful in some way, how could I come to know more thoroughly, and go more deeply into this subject or that? Do you see, it continually torments me, and then you feel a prisoner in penury, excluded from participating in this work or that, and such and such necessary things are beyond your reach. Because of that, you’re not without melancholy, and you feel emptiness where there could be friendship and high and serious affections, and you feel a terrible discouragement gnawing at your psychic energy itself, and fate seems able to put a barrier against the instincts for affection, or a tide of revulsion that overcomes you. And then you say, How long, O Lord! Well, then, what can I say; does what goes on inside show on the outside? Someone has a great fire in his soul and nobody ever comes to warm themselves at it, and passers-by see nothing but a little smoke at the top of the chimney and then go on their way. So now what are we to do, keep this fire alive inside, have salt in ourselves, wait patiently, but with how much impatience, await the hour, I say, when whoever wants to, will come and sit down there, will stay there, for all I know?
And yet as cut off from the capacity for affection as he may feel, Van Gogh nonetheless believes that love is the only conduit to connecting with one’s purpose, with divinity itself:
I’m always inclined to believe that the best way of knowing [the divine] is to love a great deal. Love that friend, that person, that thing, whatever you like, you’ll be on the right path to knowing more thoroughly, afterwards; that’s what I say to myself. But you must love with a high, serious intimate sympathy, with a will, with intelligence, and you must always seek to know more thoroughly, better, and more.
There’s the one who’s an idler through laziness and weakness of character, through the baseness of his nature… Then there’s the other idler, the idler truly despite himself, who is gnawed inwardly by a great desire for action, who does nothing because he finds it impossible to do anything since he’s imprisoned in something, so to speak, because he doesn’t have what he would need to be productive, because the inevitability of circumstances is reducing him to this point. Such a person doesn’t’ always know himself what he could do, but he feels by instinct, I’m good for something, even so! I feel I have a raison d’être! I know that I could be a quite different man! For what then could I be of use, for what could I serve! There’s something within me, so what is it! That’s an entirely different idler.
Bleeding from Van Gogh’s words is the hope that his brother would see him not as the first but as the second kind of “idler” — a hope he amplifies with a moving metaphor in closing the lengthy letter, one that speaks with harrowing elegance to the hastiness with which we tend to judge others and to mistake their circumstances for their capabilities:
In the springtime a bird in a cage knows very well that there’s something he’d be good for; he feels very clearly that there’s something to be done but he can’t do it; what it is he can’t clearly remember, he has vague ideas and says to himself, “the others are building their nests and making their little ones and raising the brood,” and he bangs his head against the bars of his cage. And then the cage stays there and the bird is mad with suffering. “Look, there’s an idler,” says another passing bird — that fellow’s a sort of man of leisure. And yet the prisoner lives and doesn’t die; nothing of what’s going on within shows outside, he’s in good health, he’s rather cheerful in the sunshine. But then comes the season of migration. A bout of melancholy — but, say the children who look after him, he’s got everything that he needs in his cage, after all — but he looks at the sky outside, heavy with storm clouds, and within himself feels a rebellion against fate. I’m in a cage, I’m in a cage, and so I lack for nothing, you fools! Me, I have everything I need! Ah, for pity’s sake, freedom, to be a bird like other birds!”
That describes very much how I feel. Over and over again I struggle to believe that my writing, posting on my blog, my work to heal, are not nonsense, an impossible idea that I’m unable to explain to anyone.