Mistaken for Love and …

I’m re-immersing myself in Fromm’s The Art of Loving for many reasons. The following quote has particular meaning for me because it identifies how easily we can settle when truly decent realities exist in our bonds. We can settle for something that feels good enough ‘though perhaps not soulful, not emanating from a personal center alive. And this particular section of Fromm’s chapter on the disintegration of love in western society strips away what we mistake for love and intimacy. A mistake I can live without especially if accepting what is “good enough” means I miss out on the deeper experiences of love…

“The world is one great object for our appetite, a big apple, a big bottle, a big breast; we are the sucklers, the eternally expectant ones, the hopeful ones—and the eternally disappointed ones. Our character is geared to exchange and to receive, to barter and to consume; everything, spiritual as well as material objects, becomes an object of exchange and of consumption.

The situation as far as love is concerned corresponds, as it has to by necessity, to this social character of modern man. Automatons cannot love; they can exchange their ‘personality packages’ and hope for a fair bargain. One of the most significant expressions of love, and especially of marriage with this alienated structure, is the idea of the ‘team.’ In any number of articles on happy marriage, the ideal described is that of the smoothly functioning team. This description is not too different from the idea of a smoothly functioning employee; he should be ‘reasonably independent,’ co-operative, tolerant, and at the same time ambitious and aggressive. Thus, the marriage counselor tells us, the husband should ‘understand’ his wife and be helpful. He should comment favorably on her new dress, and on a tasty dish. She, in turn, should understand when he comes home tired and disgruntled, she should listen attentively when he talks about his business troubles, should not be angry but understanding when he forgets her birthday. All this kind of relationship amounts to is the well-oiled relationship between two persons who remain strangers all their lives, who never arrive at a ‘central relationship,’ but who treat each other with courtesy and who attempt to make each other feel better.

In this concept of love and marriage the main emphasis is on finding a refuge from an otherwise unbearable sense of aloneness. In ‘love’ one has found, at last, a haven from aloneness. One forms an alliance of two against the world, and this egoism à deux is mistaken for love and intimacy.”

And what of love that is not, as Fromm calls it, pathology? Even the socially accepted one detailed above.

“Love is possible only if two persons communicate with each other from the center of their existence, hence if each one of them experiences himself from the center of his existence. Only in this ‘central experience’ is human reality, only here is aliveness, only here is the basis for love. Love, experienced thus, is a constant challenge; it is not a resting place, but a moving, growing, working together; even whether there is harmony or conflict, joy or sadness, is secondary to the fundamental fact that two people experience themselves from the essence of their existence, that they are one with each other by being one with themselves, rather than by fleeing from themselves. There is only one proof for the presence of love: the depth of the relationship, and the aliveness and strength in each person concerned; this is the fruit by which love is recognized.” Erich Fromm – The Art of Loving

Such fruit is grown over decades of being with ourselves, not fleeing from all we are, standing in love and insisting on strengthening every area of our existence as best we can.

j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved



“Communication has been ailing in the human race for a long time and Dialogue is concerned with that. But the primary purpose of Dialogue is not to communicate. It is much deeper. It addresses the blocks in communication, not merely to understand them, but to meet them directly. It is aimed at seeing resistances to communication. In Dialogue we are ready to raise topics serious enough to cause trouble. But while we are talking we are interested in being aware of what’s going on inside us and between us.

The word ‘dialogue’ has many meanings and we are giving it a particular meaning. In this Dialogue we are not trying to make our points prevail or, if we are, we need to look at that. Our challenge is to see when each of us is trying to prevail, because if anybody prevails it means the dialogue has failed.” David Bohm

Dialogue? (Photo by j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved)

Take My Hand…

Take my hand in this field of dreams for I walk blinded by the sun,
feeling the warmth shining each step onward,
fragrances stirring me along a path moist, unknown, calling me home,
a home beyond anything I know now,
a home whose call has always haunted
every footfall,
every dance,
every stumble
across the rubble of loss,

Take my hand so I can feel your substance
and know my own in this field of things not yet seen
but felt from before my life emerged
to express love-as-me-as-all…
take my hand so I can remember what it’s like to be known,
known not by some conceptual vision,
or with mental metallic machinations posing “me,”

known with feltness no words can seize,
and no change can unknow.

Take my hand…

Love’s Mutations

No, not mutants… mutations.

“You understand that you can never own love, right? No matter how much someone adores you today, no matter how much you adore someone, you can’t force that unique state of grace to keep its shape forever. It will inevitably evolve or mutate, perhaps into a different version of tender caring, but maybe not. From there it will continue to change, into either yet another version of interesting affection, or who knows what else?” Rob Brezsny

I love this gem from Brezsny. It challenges us to accept that we cannot control the metamorphosis of love in our relationships and it reminds us that we are sometimes infected by the frenzy of a desperate shapeshifter, wrestling and kicking against what cannot be controlled.

We want reliability. We want what we experienced in the beginning. We want the rush. We want the comfort. We want not to have to adjust to what is, well, mutating.

The mutations of love in a marriage immediately come to mind ‘though mine ended years ago. I still love the man who made it possible for me to grow without fear, the father of my children. But that love morphed into something no longer capable of sustaining a growing marital bond. We’re both able to live with that truth, apart from each other, but together in parenting. The whole “’til death do us part” thing doesn’t always honor what love becomes, in spite of our best intentions. But commitment is a beautiful cauldron for love’s mutations, keeping us standing in love regardless of the shifting nature of those bonds we thought we had all figured out.

And then there is parenting and the mutations surreal, the growth witnessed on levels incomprehensible at times. We fall in love with newborn, newborn begins to crawl, our love expands, deepens; toddler calls to the sweetest memories and hopes and sometimes the worst pain too. Our love shifts, taking on hues far fiercer than we imagined possible. And on it goes. We turn around and there is this mini-adult who doesn’t agree and laughs and scoffs and well, challenges what we had known of the sweet lil creature in the beginning. But the truth is, as much as that infant was the future mini-adult, the difference is akin to welcoming a new person. Yes, these changes are gradual but can evoke an unnameable grief. We cannot go back to the 16 month old and cuddle, hold the essence so unique to babies. Or the 5 year old with the inquisitive wonder. I have come to believe that many parenting woes originate in the inability of the parent to accept that the cutie pie was always going to be someone to stand shoulder to shoulder with, to concede in argument with and look up to many times. We aren’t prepared for the changes, the introduction of so many phases of one person’s development evoking such a confusing variety of response. And we feel the quality of that love shift, taking on new shapes, subsiding in some ways, expanding in others.

Then there are the downright ugly moments.

Love bears the marks of teeth-gnashing agony at times. Resistance to these precious and sometimes wildly dramatic shifts threatens the best of love’s growth and is such a common reaction. The inner seize siege for damage control begins: “Brace yourself, close up, close off, resist, run. Turn away.” But. What we need is a willingness to nurture a vibrant resilience and receptivity, a tender kind of toughness in the face of the more daunting roundy rounds of relating, knowing we’re giving room for the mystery of love to unfold in some of the most unbelievably demanding ways.

But sometimes, we just have to walk away,

sometimes for a season, sometimes for always.

And how beautiful it all is, made more precious by the challenge and more rewarding by the tenacity.

Diplomatic Immunity?

The wisdom of Anais Nin keeps tossing itself into my line of vision these days without my soliciting it.

“Respect for the vulnerability of human beings is a necessary part of telling the truth, because no truth will be wrested from a callous vision or callous handling.” — Anais Nin

How do we provide access to the truth in a given situation, not necessarily THE truth? How do we do that simply and with grace without alienating those who don’t want to hear it but need to in order for things to progress? As it turns out, some folks just don’t want to hear it. They possess a sort of diplomatic immunity from being held accountable and sit with arms crossed and legs crossed and chin high. And their poses hum the tune of insecurity and over-compensation for vulnerability. It’s quite a tangle, working through the layers, discovering “who’s most vulnerable here?” And asking “how do I respect every person involved when so much opposition exists in one room?”

I’m amazed when someone has volunteered their involvement or their time and then assume because they have done so, they are not to be called out even if they’ve stomped on another in their line of charitable work. This is what brings to mind a twisted daily reality of “diplomatic immunity.” Their generosity or help becomes a sort of embassy in their minds where they take refuge against accountability in the land of heartful relating. “But…all these hours, all this work!” Right, but you smashed someone. Why?

Some folks will run howling from the room if you simply say “This really hurt.” Why? Because they’ve never been asked to see beyond their own sphere. Or. Because they’ve been trying so hard to prevent any disasters they’ve forgotten they’re attempts may create disaster. Why? Because control or fear-based actions tend to do that after a while. And so this business of deciding what is “callous” in a situation can appear to be subjective. But it’s safe to say a callous vision is one that doesn’t regard the needs, concerns or desires of another. (And there are vital pre-requisites to being able to even do that.)

It eventually boils down to this main question: Who, in this room of opposing views, am I most responsible for, besides myself? Loyalties, relationships, kindred souls in agreement with furthering a vision. Sometimes you have to storm the gates because there are so many gates around so many insecure sequestered “embassies” of fear any movement would be exactly that, a storm of collisions swirling. But I like this too…

“Equally, we may cast the spells of appreciation, gratitude and love – with every breath and word we utter, poetically.” Jim Fry

It’s something to aim for, anyway.

Constellations Colliding

Previously quoted, posted, appreciated, re-stated and applicable always and especially today:

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” Anaïs Nin

My world has roiled lately with backlash (my back gave out, a regular event in my life for over 2 decades now, fortunately only every 2 years) and more backlash (constellations colliding). I’m amazed, in spite of 45 years of living, at the seeming contradiction of realities residing in one individual, including myself. And multiplied across the planet almost exponentially: Loving, giving, punitive, manipulative. Unable to see it as such. Wait. Whiplash. My back hurts. Not that I’m perfect. (Shhh) Not that there’s any such thing.

But why? Why do people feel it acceptable to push others into a corner and call it motivation? Frown on anything not rigid, not controlled by fear of judgement, not bending to narrow-minded perspectives and, as they frown, self-justified, turn and declare the one-not-cowed “immature,” why? It’s not only heartless. It’s illogical. (I see this in the media everyday. I roll my eyes. But when it knocks on my door. WAAH!)

( And as I analyze and deal with this fact in some situations, if I continue to go after all that’s wrong about it I refuse the truth I’m embracing in this quote. o.O )

We had an event in my home this week. Not directly. But definitely involving a huge victory for my oldest and youngest children’s robotics team followed by this smashing crash with bits and parts flying everywhere as constellations collided in a pile of relationship flotsam. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t love. It was ridiculously confusing. (And still is.) It amounted to a refusal to see the acceptable humanity in another and a sad, rigid perspective of behavior with resulting punitive elements thrown in for good measure.

After a crazy scramble to salvage what can be salvaged, I land on this Anaïs Nin gem and can only comfort myself with the fact that some things can’t and won’t be reconciled. Not logically. But heartfully…

the heart is another matter, residing on planes and resting in soil refusing sometimes to ruthlessly record the wrongdoings and unjust goings on but deciding instead to remember the love (not that this is always the best approach, mind you!), growing a harvest hopefully nourishing soul. We know we won’t be able to fathom the motivations or stated justifications since we don’t live on whatever planet some live on but we do fathom the love regardless. The love we feel in spite of it. The investment made and the hopes nurtured. Somehow smashed bits of relationship flotsam can be pieced back together. For now.

I’m left with a deeper appreciation for the fact that one facet (or say, 20!) of any one person is not all there is to know and what we choose to embrace in our challenging experiences with those less desirable layers will reveal and deepen our capacity for love. If we allow it…but the backlash can be challenging.

As it turns out, we all know each other as well as we know outer space and the mechanisms and multitudinous intricacies of mitochondrial function and the core of the earth. And. Ad Infinitum. And the certainty of uncertainty. As much as I’m able to accept that anything is possible from person to person, that some people suddenly change their pattern of behavior (without doing drugs or having a psychotic break) because this is the way it is, there are still times when I’m blown away by the sudden turn of events. And the backlash is surreal.

The point of maturity reveals itself in how skillfully we discern which situation calls for a broader vision of tolerance and which scenario simply cannot allow us to continue the dance. And even then. We don’t always know what we think we know until the songs are over (or until the metaphors are finished roiling in the oven of transformation, threatening to stink up the post in a confusion of impressions!).

So, we shall see.


There are times when life pushes us so rapidly forward everything in the surrounding landscape seems suspended in a freeze frame of such deep meaning. All we can do is strap on the seat belt and hope to not come out of it feeling like hammered refuse. (Ref yoose)

It’s so much and all at once and doesn’t fall on hard soil here, so much to sink in. So…

I feel like hammered um. Yes. But the pound has definitely driven home (deeper/truer) the preciousness of it all and the impossibility of ever really affirming value. We can only live, only flow, only hold and then release, only note the images frozen temporarily as their gold is branded deeply into our hearts, a realization of the depth of treasure at once fleeting and forever.

Like a daughter’s prom details thrown together at the last minute as our relationship continues to morph in the setting sun of her childhood (and I swallow huge lump in throat, grin and grab one more hug, so proud beyond measure of all she is becoming, unfolding) as she expands her horizons, and continues to teach her little brothers great things… the continued meaningful silences from a son who still has few words but a brain alive, a soul running deep and an ability to convey with his body language and eyes beyond what is so often for far too many a flip use of verbal language (nothing flip about this one), as he wields violin and climbs trees, creating maps and adventures within the stillness… and the son with hair afire and heart running fast forward into comprehension and expression, so far beyond his years, holding tight to bonds while learning who his real friends are and how amazing is music, is the outpouring of heart…

Like a body slowly healing and then stumbling and then back up again and pounds gained, then lost, muscles diminished and then trying again, a fine science to this tightrope walk with chronic illness and fitness (insert ironic laughter here), friendships new and renewing, insisting on stretching my mind, my self-perception, my limitations, my pride, my walls, preconceived ideas and notions stripped away as the imagination begins to slowly re-emerge and…

All of this richness of living suspends my writing and pauses my outpourings because of what stews in the cauldron of heart and mind, growing me more deeply settled (and stirred!) but with so much less to say. For now, living is all…further bulletins as life allows…

Beauty, Minstrel teaches her bros guitar-pickin’ and…
Long-haired, “Jesus” plays soccer too…
Red, Rockin’ Blackbird beautifully…