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Archive for February 26th, 2011

Let Your Eye Be Single

Sometime around 1977, a very special one-of-a-kind best forever friend, Martha,  gave me the wondrous gift of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift From the Sea. Though we have been geographically separated by many states since that time, our friendship has continued — more than continued — it has grown, matured, supported, and celebrated the many stages, challenges and accomplishments of our individual lives.

Our friendship is like the rare gem that grows both in value and brilliance and the appraised value of this friendship keeps rising in each other’s eyesight. Within this friendship, there is mostly a lot of quiet time and solitude, for now we are rarely with each other in person, and we speak only occasionally on the phone.

But when we do share time with each other, we seem to truly share the essence of open, honest and loving communication and each of us feels renewed and replenished by just knowing the other is in this world.

I suspect this value comes from the solitude that is within our friendship….the lasting over time quality through many life change stages, growing and learning. Other friendships where I am free to see the person at will sometimes take this value of quietness for granted. We “talk away” our time, many times missing some of the things we had really hoped to communicate.

I’ve been drawing to quietness in many ways for a very long time now in my own life. But I am not a recluse or an anti-social person. I really enjoy people and I believe other people receive a gift when I am with them.  But being alone is not something I fear, it is something I crave.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh, author and highly educated as a gratuate from Smith College in 1928, led a very full, vibrant, people-filled life. As the daughter of an international diplomat who became the wife of the famous and popular airman Charles Lindbergh, she filled her life with numerous trips abroad, the meeting of high society, her eventual love-affair with learning to pilot herself, and her coming to grips with the demands of motherhood and living life as a famous family. This stripped her, in many ways, of the privacy and quietness she so dearly felt was necessary.

In college, she majored in English and creative writing, so when her life took on this venturesome swirl where the world  actually “was her oyster”, she had all the grist she needed to fill piles of journals and papers to publish, from her own experiences. This was a  rare occurance for a woman in her times.

When the heartbreak of their kidnapped son nearly overcame her physically and emotionally, she wrote in one of her diaries, that it was the act of writing, itself, that kept her sane. Otherwise, she states she would certainly not have been strong enough to withstand the invitation into which her deep, deep grief invited her — to complete and utter insanity

I feel deeply interested in Anne Morrow Lindberg’s continual attempts to forge a union between the individual person she felt herself to be with the public persona and images that were put upon her in her socially elite class.  How she wrestled with the grey areas of the individual and the persona that take on a life of their own.  She constantly struggled and really fretted about her need to “look inward” and settle the score — which is it that I am?

But then being neither socialite nor elite, I find myself breathing in the truth of her words — words that fit me as well. I am probably as different from Anne as a woman could be. But her words and issues of the past fit me in my world today. I would think the world was so different in her time than it is in this present time. Still this theme of being inwardly attentive is the glue that holds both her world in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s together — and mine in 2011.

She finds an incredible need to be alone. “The world today,” (in 1955) she says, “does not understand the need to be alone.”  In Gift From The Sea,  she uses the setting of an island and the symbols of shells to examine the relationship between her need for quietness and the various aspects of life she is contemplating:

                        the restlessness, the unending pressures
                        demands on her personally and professionally,
                        the denial of leisure and silence, the threat
                        to inner peace and integration

Sounds familiar to me. And she doesn’t even have an IPhone, Facebook or electronic planner!

As she examines the Atlantic Moon shell, she finds the circular pattern leading ever inward revealing. She follows the perfect spiral line inward to the pinpoint center of the shell, a tiny dark core of an apex, the pupil of the eye, a mysterious single eye.

She becomes convinced that “we must re-learn how to be alone.” She expands this thought to say we are so frightened of it, we never let it happen. (not even in pre-techno hand-held gadget days).  Instead of planting our solitude with our own dream blossoms, she observes that we fill the space with continuous music, chatter and I would add, nowadays texting,  blogging, and I-podding.

Like Anne, I experience and deal with the centrifugal forces that seem to pull me, sometimes willingly, other times reluctantly, away from this “single eye center” within me; purposeless occupations, possessions I don’t need nor have the will to appreciate, diversions to fill the void.

Feverish pursuit of these lead to fragmentation, not integration and being at one with my purpose.

Her answer was to consciously encourage the pursuits which oppose these centrifugal forces. And when she lists them, I see that, in my experience, I was led to these as well. They truly are no secret. Voices from the past from Plotinus to St. Catherine of Sienna point out the way to self-knowlege and fulfillment is

                                        inward.

Quiet time alone, contemplation, prayer, music, a centering line of thought or reading. It can be something physical or intellectual; some creative life proceding from itself. It need not be enormous. One could arrange a bowl of flowers, giving a sense of quiet to a hectic day.

What matters is ‘one be for a time inwardly attentive’.

Being inwardly attentive happens for me when I am appreciative and grateful in my current conditions. Being inwardly attentive becomes my focal point when I pray for acceptance, change and wisdom. I am inwardly attentive when I feel the joy of another person’s or my own accomplishment that is gift to the world.  I am inwardly attentive as a compassionate person.

It is grace to realize that being  a  solitary being can heighten my ability to be a peaceful, uniting  presence in my world. I can possibly make a positive difference not only in my own world,  but in my family relationships , organizational growth , city, state and world healing. This is made possible from my refusal to fear my “inner space”. 

In the words of Startrek, “to go where no one has gone before” just might not be outerspace.  Discovery lies within.

For her part, Anne Morrow Lindbergh decides she will take her moon shell home, set it on her writing desk where it will fasten its single eye on her. It will remind her of her island solitude and how she desires to be alone for a part of each day back in her own busy, multi-tasking world. She will depend upon the moon shell to help her keep her core — her center– her island quality intact somewhere within her in her day to day life off the island.

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