We may meet a person, give them our hand, exchange a few words. A look can give us an impression. We may be cautious because we have had some bad experience in the past. Our heart, however, follows its own ways, and spontaneously, not heeding our experiences, establishes a closeness or a distance, it lets love flare up, or a fierce dislike. After such an encounter we are sometimes embarrassed at how we behaved.
“But we are all linked”, the heart says, “do not be misled. The way you have behaved is you; even the way you gave care, love and friendship is you.” But … our experience teaches us that care may be disappointed, love betrayed and friendships dissolved. Every time this happens, it is painful and we are struck with wounds. We can read in the media almost daily how people’s heart substance is trodden upon and the innermost life of a person is pulled into the media marketplace. Something within us protests. “That cannot be true. Love is love; friendship is friendship”. But the media celebrate it – that is their business. In an unspoken way they imply, “You may imagine high ideals, but human nature is just not there, and this report demonstrates it again”. A spirit of scorn seems to accompany some of the reports, and they derive their fascination from their discrepancy with the values of our innermost being. “This is actually impossible”, we may say to ourselves.
Could it be that an initial event is repeated again and again like a cracked record? The circumstances are always different, but the theme is always the same: it is the breaking up of the oneness, pulling inner values into the outside, and creating an outer world appearance in which the inner beings face each other from the outside, as strangers.
“This is what fate means: to be opposite, and to be that and nothing else, opposite, forever.” (Rilke)
We confront each other – and when we get very close to each other, we suffer in the midst of all the bliss. The same poet asks: “Should not these ancient sufferings be finally fruitful for us?” And he comes to the conclusion that they drive us “to become something more than ourselves”.
What is this, this “more”? Let us have a look at our encounters. They are always connected with some kind of attention. We have openings, doors to each other, for we are not closed beings. And thus, we reach far into each other with our thoughts, feelings, and psyche. In more in-depth encounters, spaces of a psychological kind develop, and the two people form a common atmosphere. Something flows in from both of them and is mixed with the other one. It is like mixing a drink – and each one then drinks some of it. Thus, we absorb each other, transform ourselves by means of the other one, and face ourselves in the reflection of the other. Sometimes it is wonderful, at other times it is awful. But we are always transformed a little. However, in this way, do we really reach this “becoming more” that Rilke speaks about?
We can see ourselves as parts of a puzzle; but we are parts that do not quite fit together. Everyone experiences themselves as a wholeness, and they are right, since each person shapes themselves. But the humanity puzzle cannot be put together in such a way, because in that individual quest, we tend not to take the view-point of the overall whole.
Each encounter with another person contains the potential promise of oneness. But usually it stays an unfulfilled promise because we feel abysses and unknown gulfs between us, from which we shrink back. They are within us, and therefore also in relation to others. We experience ourselves as not powerful enough or not complete enough to fill them up.
Thus, we stay with our fears, our reservations, and our tactics. We sense that it takes a greater being than we are to fill the abysses, to clear the ways. And yet sometimes there is something within us that lights up like an inner flash of light, and which shows us that there is some potential within us that has not yet been realized.
Thus the oneness confronts us in illuminated moments. It is the very simple, invisible, omnipresent stage on which all action takes place, including our encounters. The oneness is the one life in which we take part. It is the wholeness, the one reality, the one we experience as being broken.
We can look more often for the way in which the oneness lights up within ourselves. This all-embracing core that lies within us, can instruct us as to how we can approach it best, in which way we can dissolve inner obstacles, recognize and heal old wounds, and fill the empty places within our soul. If we commit to healing this relationship with ourselves, then our good intentions can be fulfilled, and our greatest dream realized: we can encounter others with a truly open heart.
The Rilke quotations are from the eighth and the first of the Duino Elegies.