Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

It is actually difficult to edit life. Especially in regard to feelings. Not being open to anger or sadness usually means being unable to be open to love and joy.
Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom, 203

Psychoanalysis is a psychology of pain.
Michael Eigen, The Electrified Tightrope, 259

This Thanksgiving I am grateful for many things: my wife Julie, my children: David, Beth and Sarah, my wider family, friends and acquaintances, food, home, music (I’ve been listening in recent days to Paul McCartney Good Evening New York City), movies, poetry, books, the ability to make some positive difference in the world, exercise. I am also grateful for those who help keep me open to myself and the world.
Rachel Naomi Remen reminds us of our need to be open to our own experience. The past year or so some of my favorite conversation partners in this journey of trying to stay open to experience and learn from it – all of it, even the painful stuff, have been writers who are psychoanalysts or who themselves are in significant conversation with the psychoanalytic tradition. Two writers, in particular, have been insightful dialogue partners – Michael Eigen and Ernest Becker.

Becker, writing about why growth and change are so difficult writes about the going through hell of a lonely and racking rebirth where on throws off the lendings of culture, the costumes that fit us for life’s roles, the masks and panoplies of our standardized heroisms, to stand alone and nude facing the howling elements as oneself – a trembling animal element. (The Death and Rebirth of Meaning, 146)

There is a hunger for nuance, for psychic taste.
Michael Eigen, Feeling Matters, 153

It takes a lifetime to grow into oneself, to become a home on can say yes to.
Michael Eigen, Flames from the Unconscious, 103

I am grateful for the journey and for these companions.

With Faith and With Feathers,


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Adult Children

Pain teaches love. Joy teaches love. Which is the better teacher?
>Michael Eigen, Flames from the Unconscious, 119

Today our youngest daughter, Sarah, turned 18. My wife Julie and I now have three adult children – David (whose middle name is “Lloyd” – different from mine, and why I often use my middle initial “A”) who is 26, and Elizabeth (Beth), age 24. We have brought three children to adulthood, and in the process I have learned a lot about being an adult human being.
Eigen’s words ring true – pain and joy can teach love, and parenting children to adulthood involves both pain and joy. For me, the pain has most often been watching the pain of my children as they have grown – physical pain like David’s lacerated wrist or Beth’s broken hip (both in the fifth grade – and we were so glad when Sarah made it through the fifth grade without serious injury), but also the sorrows of friends who turn away, the hurt of relationships that have ended, the difficulties of moving and having to start again, the disappointments of dreams that have come up short. In other ways, parenting has not been particularly painful. Our disagreements have been few and far between, and we find our way to reconciliation well. I am so grateful for this.
The joys are as numerous as the stars that shine on this cold, clear Duluth night – laughter shared, hugs and smiles, good meals enjoyed, games played, family movie nights with popcorn or chips and salsa, vacations, watching as my children discover the joys of music and reading, Christmas Eve – even when we all attended four church services together – stopping for supper at a convenience store because everything else was closed…..
The joys and pain of parenting have taught me a lot about love, and even though all our children are now adults, I know the lessons continue. Love is a life-long learning process.

With Faith and With Feathers,


Friday, November 6, 2009

Book Group Again

This past Monday, my interfaith book group met again. The book for the day was Oscar Hijuelos’ book, Mr. Ives' Christmas. I had read this book a few years ago, and felt it was worth suggesting to the group. It was, and it was well worth a second read. I got most of my reading done on airplanes or in airports.
This well-written story takes us into the life of Edward Ives – adopted child, ad man, husband, father, person of faith. We come to know this man in his lonlinesses, in his joys, in his tragedies. We follow his journey of faith, which includes a mystical experience as well as years where his faith has lost heart. Whether caught in the throes of a deeply moving experience or just showing up to do what he needs to do, Ives never abandons the practice of his faith. The title of a Eugene Peterson book came to mind as I was reading the book, “a long obedience in the same direction.” This is a fully-embodied life (loneliness, art, love, sex, parenthood, the tragic death of a son, staying true to principles even when it is difficult, friendship, loyalty, struggle, forgiveness – it’s there) formed quietly by faith.
In a delightful serendipity, we discussed this book seated around a table in a local restaurant, and on the wall behind the table were photographs taken by a local artist. I could not help but look again and again at one in particular. It was a photo of a manhole over which were locked intersecting iron bars. The two bars looked very much like a cross, and underneath the picture were these words: “religious truths go deeper than we are allowed to know.”
Religious truths go deep, very deep, and they are often buried beneath the ground, seemingly locked away. I cannot say we are not allowed to go there. I do think many of us choose to keep the cover locked over some of the deep areas of our lives where we also discover deep religious truths. Michael Eigen has written, “I do think we are more afraid of ourselves than of death…. The taboo against getting deeper into oneself, learning about oneself, is more severe than sex” (Conversations, 60).
A book like Mr. Ives Christmas has the capacity to take us deeper. It took me deeper. It was an early “Christmas gift.”

With Faith and With Feathers,