Tuesday, January 27, 2009

That urge to hunker down

This morning I revisited a passage in the second chapter of Laurence Freeman's Jesus the Teacher Within. It has to do with guilt and repentance, with self-recognition, false identities, fear of emptiness -- all the things that an Enneagram 4 struggles with. And there is a line in it that reads: The desperate need for identity can be so great that mere self-expression or an egocentric search for self-fulfilment can get enshrined as the ruling value of life.

As artists, writers, musicians, prophets, what are we to do with a phrase like this? For those of us who are born to sing, called to write, blessed with vision, driven to speak or preach there will always be a tension entangled in the need to express. How can we know when we are expressing the divine and when we are expressing the false self? How can we know when the artist's desire for recognition stems from a god-driven need to be heard or from a selfish need for approval? After all, Freeman himself is a writer. How did he know when it was time to write; how did he know it was important to seek out a publisher?

As I struggled to meditate this morning -- and it was definitely a struggle: though I understand that if I am in touch with the divine center these issues should become moot, I can't seem to get there -- I realized I felt a bit like a ferry, bleating its way across the sound in fog; slowly churning my way across the water, blindly following the compass and sounding my horn in protection and warning.

But when I went to find an image of a ferry in fog, it was this one that popped out at me -- and this ferry isn't going ANYwhere. So what does this say, and where am I in this image? Am I feeling old and worn out? Is it time to pull into the dock for repair? Is this old identity reduced to a useless shell? Or is it time to jump ship: should I hop into that red inflatable and speed off through the fog to some other destination?

Or perhaps I am already home, and this sense of blindly feeling my way is just a recurring nightmare, like the old dog, sleeping on the floor by the fireplace, its legs churning in a momentary remembrance of the chase...

Hmm. I think what I want, this morning, is to tidy up the boat. Perhaps this is because my 60th birthday is looming, but I think it's okay that the boat's engine is dead. She still floats, and would make, with a little work, a wonderful houseboat. I think I'll leave it to the young'uns to flit off into the unknown; I'll just stay here and make this space habitable... or am I just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?


Anonymous said...

I think it is time for you to write a book of your own.

Jan said...


From your picture, I find it hard to believe that you're near 60--I'm close, too, but it'll be two more years. (whew)

Diane Walker said...

Thank you both. (and for the compliment, too!)