A Life With Heart

What does it mean to live fully?  To live a life with heart? The lesson from the power outage is still with me.  Even as I go about living my ordinary, electrically illuminated, computer active life, I find myself remembering there can be a deeper quality to life.  In the darkness and stillness, my sleep had a different quality, and so did my dreams.  As I mentioned in this space before, I have embarked on a book project I am tentatively calling “How Jane Eyre Can Change Your Life,” so I read Jane Eyre by firelight and candlelight, noting with a new awareness the role that fires and candlelight played in this masterpiece.   I went to sleep at night full of the insight that much of human life was—and still is, in much of the world—a struggle to survive in the most elemental sense —to build fires and have fresh, clean water and good food.   And this elemental  physical quest to get all the right elements in the right relation resonates with our quest for inner harmony—for expression, love, and connection in this world.

One night, buried under nine blankets and still cold, I dreamed I was wandering through a dark, northern place searching for shelter and food.  This is possibly the influence of Jane Eyre, although it had a very ancient, Nordic feel about it—I was marching through snow afraid of a wolf-like creature that dragged off children, a creature which could change shape and become a raven or even a black insect that devoured from within (Creepy!).  I woke up realizing that our bodies and minds carry the memory of being tiny, vulnerable things surrounded by unknown forces.   And the unknown had teeth.  A Christian missionary once asked some Viking thanes how they saw life.  They told him (I paraphrase) that we are like birds that fly out of the darkness into the light and warmth of the meade hall.  After a brief time we fly out into the unknown again.   If we really knew that life is brief and our future uncertain, dependent on mysterious forces, how would we live?

I came out of my brief time in the dark and the cold realizing (along with so many others) that we really do need to shift to a different kind of economy, a sustainable economy.   And this includes our inner economy.   We need to learn to use all we are given—even the seemingly painful stuff.  From my time reading by firelight, I began to appreciate that Jane Eyre can be read as quest to love and find love and more: she had to use her own light.  As Jane is about to be shipped off to boarding school, her nurse Bessie calls her “a little roving, solitary thing” ….and tells her, “You should be bolder.”

“I don’t think I shall ever be afraid of you again, Bessie, because I have got used to you; and I shall soon have another set of people to dread.”

“If you dread, they’ll dislike you.”

In the course of this story Jane Eyre learns to go beyond bursts to rebellion and vengeance—to claim her own inner fire and use it meet the unknown (and not to give it away, but it is full of scary things).   Before Rochester professes love for her, she expresses love—and not just for Rochester but for her own life, for what she is in essence.

“ Do you think because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless?  You think wrong! –I have as much soul as you—and full as much heart!  And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.  I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal—as we are!”

I wish to remember what I learned during the power outage about what it means to live a different, sustainable life, a life with heart.

Comments

  1. The best lines in this writing are the last.:
    we stood at God’s feet, equal—as we are!”

    (This is to me ): ” what it means to live a different, sustainable life, a life with heart.”

    You’ve finally convinced me, Tracy, I’ve got to go the library and get out “Jayne Eyre” to read again, with a different “light” and “heart”.
    Best wishes for a good day. Keep up the great writing. It is always worth my time! xxxx

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    • Thanks, Elizabeth! It is a wonderful novel, well worth re-reading. And it can definitely be read in a new light.

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  2. You may appreciate this Tracy. It is an expression of a different quality and direction of love.

    From Waiting for God, by Simone Weil

    The infinity of space and time separates us from God. How are we to seek for him? How are we to go towards him? Even if we were to walk for hundreds of years, we should do no more than go round and round the world. Even in an airplane we could not do anything else. We are incapable of progressing vertically. We cannot take a step toward the heavens. God crosses the universe and comes to us.

    Over the infinity of space and time, the infinitely more infinite love of God comes to possess us. He comes at his own time. We have the power to consent to receive him or to refuse. If we remain deaf, he comes back again and again like a beggar, but also, like a beggar, one day he stops coming. If we consent, God puts a little seed in us and he goes away again. From that moment God has no more to do; neither have we, except to wait. We only have not to regret the consent we gave him, the nuptial yes. It is not as easy as it seems, for the growth of the seed within us is painful. Moreover, from the very fact that we accept this growth, we cannot avoid destroying whatever gets in its way, pulling up the weeds, cutting the good grass, and unfortunately the good grass is part of our very flesh, so that this gardening amounts to a violent operation. On the whole, however, the seed grows of itself. A day comes when the soul belongs to God, when it not only consents to love but when truly and effectively it loves. Then in its turn it must cross the universe to go to God. The soul does not love like a creature with created love. The love within it is divine, uncreated; for it is the love of God for God that is passing through it. God alone is capable of loving God. We can only consent to give up our own feelings so as to allow free passage in our soul for this love. That is the meaning of denying oneself. We are created for this consent, and for this alone.

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      • You’re getting your men confused Tracy. Nick of course is a prestigious four letter word with one letter more than Ron. :)

        Getting back to Jane, she seems to be making the transition of opening to external considering by becoming able to deal with her internal considering.

        I’ve found this to be extremely difficult and I have to admit that I am a slave to internal considering. You wrote

        I wish to remember what I learned during the power outage about what it means to live a different, sustainable life, a life with heart.

        It would seem that becoming capable of external considering requires healing and finally revealing the heart. Then perhaps we could be capable of the vertical love Simone refers to and the horizontal love for our fellow man regardless of the human condition that corrupts it.

        Jane’s life can help in raising questions.

        “I don’t think I shall ever be afraid of you again, Bessie, because I have got used to you; and I shall soon have another set of people to dread.”

        “If you dread, they’ll dislike you.”

        For those unaware of the distinction between external and internal considering, I’ll post this passage from Ouspensky’s book: In Search of the miraculous.

        There are several different kinds of ‘considering.’ On the most prevalent occasions a man [note that in the Russian original, this is “human being”] is identified with what others think about him, how they treat him, what attitude they show towards him. He always thinks that people do not value him enough, are not sufficiently polite and courteous. All this torments him, makes him think and suspect and lose an immense amount of energy on guesswork, on suppositions, develops in him a distrustful and hostile attitude towards people. How somebody looked at him, what somebody thought of him, what somebody said of him – all this acquires for him an immense significance.
        And he ‘considers’ not only separate persons but society and historically constituted conditions. Everything that displeases such a man seems to him to be unjust, illegal, wrong, and illogical. And the point of departure for his judgment is always that these things can and should be changed. ‘Injustice’ is one of the words in which very often considering hides itself. When a man has convinced himself that he is indignant with some injustice, then for him to stop considering would mean ‘reconciling himself to injustice.’
        There are people who are able to consider not only injustice or the failure of others to value them enough but who are able to consider for example the weather. This seems ridiculous but it is a fact. People are able to consider climate, heat, cold, snow, rain; they can be irritated by the weather, be indignant and angry with it. A man can take everything in such a personal way as though everything in the world had been specially arranged in order to give him pleasure or on the contrary to cause him inconvenience or unpleasantness.
        All this and much else besides is merely a form of identification. Such considering is wholly based upon ‘requirements.’ A man inwardly ‘requires’ that everyone should see what a remarkable man he is and that they should constantly give expression to their respect, esteem, and admiration for him, for his intellect, his beauty, his cleverness, his wit, his presence of mind, his originality, and all his other qualities. Requirements in their turn are based on a completely fantastic notion about themselves such as very often occurs with people of very modest appearance. Various writers, actors, musicians, artists, and politicians, for instance, are almost without exception sick people. And what are they suffering from? First of all from an extraordinary opinion of themselves, then from requirements, and then from considering, that is, being ready and prepared beforehand to take offense at lack of understanding and lack of appreciation.
        There is still another form of considering which can take a great deal of energy from a man. This form starts with a man beginning to think that he is not considering another person enough, that this other person is offended with him for not considering him sufficiently. And he begins to think himself that perhaps he does not think enough about this other, does not pay him enough attention, does not give way to him enough. All this is simply weakness. People are afraid of one another. But this can lead very far. I have seen many such cases. In this way a man can finally lose his balance, if at any time he had any, and begin to perform entirely senseless actions. He gets angry with himself and feels that it is stupid, and he cannot stop, whereas in such cases the whole point is precisely ‘not to consider.’
        It is the same case, only perhaps worse, when a man considers that in his opinion he ‘ought’ to do something when as a matter of fact he ought not to do so at all. ‘Ought’ and ‘ought not’ is also a difficult subject, that is, difficult to understand when a man really ‘ought’ and when he ‘ought not.’ This can be approached only from the point of view of ‘aim.’ When a man has an aim he ‘ought’ to do only what leads towards his aim and he ‘ought not’ to do anything that hinders him from going towards his aim.
        As I have already said, people very often think that if they begin to struggle with considering within themselves it will make them ‘insincere’ and they are afraid of this because they think that in this event they will be losing something, losing a part of themselves. In this case the same thing takes place as in attempts to struggle against the outward expression of unpleasant emotions. The sole difference is that in one case a man struggles with the outward expression of emotions and in the other case with an inner manifestation of perhaps the same emotions.
        This fear of losing sincerity is of course self-deception, one of those formulas of lying upon which human weaknesses are based. Man cannot help identifying and considering inwardly and he cannot help expressing his unpleasant emotions, simply because he is weak. Identifying, considering, the expressing of unpleasant emotions, are manifestations of his weakness, his impotence, his inability to control himself. But not wishing to acknowledge this weakness to himself, he calls it ‘sincerity’ or ‘honesty’ and he tells himself that he does not want to struggle against sincerity, whereas in fact he is unable to struggle against his weaknesses.
        Sincerity and honesty are in reality something quite different. What a man calls ‘sincerity’ in this case is in reality simply being unwilling to restrain himself. And deep down inside him a man is aware of this. But he lies to himself when he says that he does not want to lose sincerity.
        So far I have spoken of internal considering. It would be possible to bring forward many more examples. But you must do this yourselves, that is, you must seek these examples in your observations of yourselves and of others.
        The opposite of internal considering and what is in part a means of fighting against it is external considering. External considering is based upon an entirely different relationship towards people than internal considering. It is adaptation towards people, to their understanding, to their requirements. By considering externally a man does that which makes life easy for other people and for himself. External considering requires a knowledge of men, an understanding of their tastes, habits, and prejudices. At the same time external considering requires a great power over oneself, a great control over oneself. Very often a man desires sincerely to express or somehow or other show to another man what he really thinks of him or feels about him. And if he is a weak man he will of course give way to this desire and afterwards justify himself and say that he did not want to lie, did not want to pretend, he wanted to be sincere. Then he convinces himself that it was the other man’s fault. He really wanted to consider him, even to give way to him, not to quarrel, and so on. But the other man did not at all want to consider him so that nothing could be done with him. It very often happens that a man begins with a blessing and ends with a curse. He begins by deciding not to consider and afterwards blames other people for not considering him. This is an example of how external considering passes into internal considering. But if a man really remembers himself he understands that another man is a machine just as he is himself. And then he will enter into his position, he will put himself in his place, and he will be really able to understand and feel what another man thinks and feels. If he can do this his work becomes easier for him. But if he approaches a man with his own requirements nothing except new internal considering can ever be obtained from it.
        Right external considering is very important in the work. It often happens that people who understand very well the necessity of external considering in life do not understand the necessity of external considering in the work; they decide that just because they are in the work they have the right not to consider. Whereas in reality, in the work, that is, for a man’s own successful work, ten times more external considering is necessary than in life, because only external considering on his part shows his valuation of the work and his understanding of the work; and success in the work is always proportional to the valuation and understanding of it.

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      • I AM SO SORRY, NICK!!!!!!! I really need to work on doing one thing at a time and cultivating attention!!!!! I had been thinking about needing to respond to an emali and, well, I won’t give excuses. Nick, Nick, Nick….I hope this won’t drive you away from commenting. I value your comments very much. Please forgive me.

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      • Now that I have my apology posted, I’ll add this: thank you for posting this comment about internal considering. I woke up this morning thinking about something very related. In Buddhism, motivation is key to how an undertaking goes, inwardly or outwardly. I woke up thinking about how people often undertake projects for good and noble reasons, then they get caught in ego, in a quest for praise or power. The passage about external versus internal considering puts this in a new light. So thanks! Tracy

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  3. Hi Tracy

    No apology necessary. You can’t get rid of me so easily. :)
    I’m glad I can contribute to perhaps building your blog into a place of meaningful discussion.

    Where a lot of New Age philosophy and secular Interfatih begins with the idea that we are all ONE, I offer the other side that we are all ONE in Plato’s cave and as such good intentions as a product of internal considering will always lose their direction. So rather than flatter our weakness to internal considering as is the norm for secular Interfaith, I support those that are willing to admit the facts of the human condition as it exists within us and in the world and build from there.

    I will also be sending you some info on Heimdal as associated with the Ninth Wave. Perhaps your Nordic roots can lend some insight.

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