I am sharing something that I am excited about, and something vitally important to me, with someone I know.
He listens. Then, he says, “What you are saying is so abstract.” “What does this mean?” “What are the practical implications of this?” “How do we do this?”
None of his questions are wrong. He is seeing what I am saying from a practical viewpoint, a viewpoint that is about putting things into action. Yet, alongside his questions comes a feeling of frustration within me. I know this feeling well. His words take me back decades, back to when I was very young…
I am excited and want to share what I’m excited about with my parents. I try to say it in words. I try to share what I see and feel, and the complete joy of it all. And when I do, I am met with a look of tightness and almost a kind of disapproval. I can see they want me to calm down. They want me to package all of this joy into words and sentences that ‘make sense’, ways that are logical.
Then I hear these words, “That’s not logical.” and my heart drops to the ground.
The effect of these words on this little psyche is profound: the little voice dries up, the throat quivers, and the tongue becomes tied in knots. I’ve shut myself up tight and there’s no getting me to say another word. I go silent. There is a giving up that happens, a giving up because it feels, emphasis on feels, impossible to take this young one’s heart and soul’s fire and put it into logical words that adult people will get.
It is amazing how we can be taken back to old times so quickly, how the stories stuck in our bodies are coded with the time and place where the story unfolded.
As I sit with his questions, an ages-old fear comes up that there is someone on the other side of what I am going to share and they do not get it. They want me to put what I am saying in terms they understand, terms that are about doing, about how, about it being practical. They want me to take this abstract and make it practical. It feels like I come up against this hard wall on the other side, a very literal, very rational mind that doesn’t get it.
It’s like there is this big beautiful fullness and I fear that I don’t know how to get people to understand. Just feeling this makes me go mute and want to turn away.
I see images and visions. I see them often. They are beautiful. Beautiful images, and deeply intense feelings fill my heart. And yet, this world seems to have this logical, rational mindset that wants me to fit all of ‘this’ into a ‘how to do it in 10 easy steps’ world. And then I see it…
The rational mind cannot fathom the irrational. It cannot understand that which is beyond the scope of what cannot be explained with reason and logic. It is like trying to fit the vastness of the heart into the tight structure of the rational mind. It cannot be done. The mind tries to know in the only terms it can grasp. It does this all the time, especially with the vastness that is the divine.
And, I see my own internal struggle with this same translation process. The heart is vast. It sees and feels things that cannot be proven, and cannot be put into words without losing the qualities of what we experience. I see the relationship. I see the richness on one side, then the strict structure on the other – the desire to take something multi-layered and condense it down to one.
The feminine, or yin, is multi-layered. It is feeling and knowing. It is rich and mysterious, dark and watery. It is intuitive. The masculine, or yang, relative to yin is straight and clearly defined. It is angular. It is logical. It is linear.
These are actually distinctions to try to help the rational mind understand the relationship between yin and yang…because it’s always about relationship. We can’t know one without the other. Something is only mysterious in relation to something that is clearly known and defined.
As I write this, I can feel, literally feel, life pulsing through my cells, images and visions in my mind’s eye, and emotions fluttering through me. None of this can be put into words without losing richness, texture, and fullness.
Words themselves are definitive. They define.
As a young one, I learned to shut down the feminine mystery, the vast symbolic realm where so many layers exist that it can only be represented through images, poetry, and symbols. I shut my own voice down. I knew the spigot well, and when things got tough, when I felt that old familiar feeling that I must turn something so profoundly beautiful into something logical and practical, I felt this familiar frustration and shut the spigot off. I became quiet. I squelched my voice. And, I gave up trying to paint when it became clear from teachers that they wanted something representational. They wanted things to look like ‘real life’ – whatever that is.
What is so remarkable about this moment, though, is feeling the spigot in my throat, feeling the place where I shut down because I’m feeling a sense that it’s not in terms the man will understand. I haven’t felt this so clearly before. I feel frustration at having to translate to get him to understand what I am saying and fear he will not understand.
In going back to this early experience, I see something clearly. I see old patterns, old beliefs, old messages that tell me I must make things ‘make sense’, must take the vastness that is my heart, take the multi-layered awareness that is my soul, and pare it all down to logical steps.
The struggle I feel within myself is the same struggle I see in the outer world. This finding our way to balance, a balance that brings the masculine tendencies so woven into our cultural institutions together with the under-represented feminine nature I share above, isn’t easy. What we struggle with within our own psyches, are the same things we struggle with as a collective.
Then I realize that perhaps that is why I am feeling such an urge to reclaim the artist in me. Sometimes things must be created with something other than words, with media that lends itself to many layers, rich textures, feeling states and mystery. So many people I know are trying to reclaim the artist within.
I have a sense many of us are seeing things in symbols and images, visions of a new way of being in the world, and perhaps even visions of a new world.
A new way is coming into being. It is being born, and many of us can see images of this new way. Many of us can feel this new way. Many of us know something in our bones that is not at all, or at least not yet, linear or logical.
Birthing isn’t logical or reasonable, nor is it necessarily practical.
It is time to fully re-member the artist within, to share what we see and feel, in whatever way we can. Yes, others may question it, but I also know that we all long to know the mystery, we all long to feel the depth of our humanity, and on some level perhaps we don’t want ten steps to this, or five reasons why.
Perhaps we just create and speak what we know, regardless of whether anyone listens or understands. Perhaps creation simply wants to happen, perhaps it is simply trusting the vision and putting it into form, regardless of the reception it receives.
So many women are writing, writing, and writing. So many are painting and dancing. So many are expressing their voices in ways that aren’t even close to logical and practical.
New worlds come into being through creative acts. The tender shoots of the new world come up through dark rich soil that’s been tilled and fed. Creation rises up out of the void in the belly. Creation comes into form by way of a dark, moist birth canal. It comes in contractions – messy contractions.
It is good for me to remember this when my voice feels tight, when I shy away from speaking because I don’t quite know how it will come out. Something does know what is longing to be created and voiced.
Maybe we say to each other, “Show me what you see. I am listening.”