– simple thoughts & writings &c. by Elizabeth Heimbaugh –

Tag: love

If You Forgot You Were Loved

Margherite (Daisies)

When the time is right
…..and you have the eyes to see
you will find that I’ve loved you
…..all this time
……….and even longer

But you weren’t seeking
…..in the places
…..I sought you
……….most intently

For you were waiting on some other
…..to make your path straight
……….and your lamp lit.

When it comes to Love,
…..there is no place
……….one can go
……………and be apart from the Beloved.

Indeed, in the Kingdom of Love,
…..the only direction
……….is told by the star of Light
……….that shines from the eyes of the One
……….you can’t forget.

Why have you been seeking
…..what is not lost?

When you find your way by faith,
…..the impossible becomes possible:

For suddenly you know
…..that you are loved
…..even in the absence
……….of so many things which you long to see—

Beyond such visibilities
…..the heart enters into a knowledge
…..purer and deeper,
…..dipped in the soft waters of truth.

If you could find me
…..by losing your peace,
what kind of love would that be?

No, the way of the heart
…..is gentle and kind,
…..a salve to the soul,
always blessing and wanting to bless.

Live by these words
…..and indeed you shall be
a man or a woman of great wealth:

For you will have won
…..the secret of life
……….which so many have labored to find
……….and failed to see,
…..when in fact the truth is simple and smooth
…..as a stone.

Forget the things
…..that complicate your soul—
there is no room for these
in a house full of light.

Be rather the one
…..who knows that all things
…..belonging to Love
dwell also in your heart—

Waiting there
…..patiently
to set you free.

Sweater from an Old Friend

Sweater

One day last week I decided to wear a sweater given to me by someone I care for a great deal. I hadn’t worn it in a long time, mostly because it’s big and warm and made of alpaca and wool, and the season hadn’t been right for putting it on. But it was a cool day—autumn is really here now—so I took the sweater out of my closet and pulled it on. Anyway, the person who bought me the sweater lives far away, and we’re seldom in touch these days, but he’s still very dear to me. So I felt I should wear the sweater with a sense of reverence—to handle it gently and acknowledge the memories and meanings that came attached to it. It wasn’t even a particularly sentimental day; it just seemed natural, almost a duty, to try, in some tiny way, to honor someone who meant something special to me.

That morning, as I sat praying in the chapel, I took off the sweater and lay it over my lap like a blanket. It made me feel protected, in a warm, nostalgic way, and reminded me of that tender feeling which people so often long for: the sense that you are important to another human being, that you are intimate with a person in a manner that ennobles your heart and makes you feel like you’ve been allowed to share in a precious secret. Even when your time with this person has faded into memory, the love remains in your heart and you are glad—while at the same time you are (perhaps terribly) sad—that there once existed many affectionate moments between the two of you. Because of course this history of love, this recalled fact of shared experience and endearment, is something that can’t be stripped away.

Anne Lamott wrote something on the subject that stirred my emotions. She was talking about people “being alive in our hearts” and as an aside, she said, “—and maybe this is the only way we ever really have anyone.” It’s a touching and poignant thought. And somehow also a comforting one, since there is safety in knowing that the love in our hearts can’t be taken away, no matter what the other person—the object of our affections—does or says or feels about us in the privacy of his own soul, and no matter where he lives, or what he’s doing with his life these days. Naturally, it’s nice to think that the person you loved will continue loving you, too. And it’s heartbreaking to consider the reverse. But luckily, if you’ve found a quality person to love, you can safely assume that you will always have a treasured place in his or her (inner) life. Because these quality people know that, once you care, you always care, even if in different ways; and to them, what has once entered the heart is sacrosanct and will always be guaranteed a home there. They understand that the nature of love is to persist and grow (even if, again, in unexpected or subtle ways), not to be axed off at the root and stunted or thrown to the fire to burn into ashes. At least that’s what I believe.

That’s not to say that it’s always a pleasant experience to witness the changing shapes of love. There are moments when you will badly wish for love to look a certain way, when in fact life wills it to take another form. How do you reach a place of greater acceptance in these moments? I’m not the expert on such matters, but I suppose some tried-and-true remedies include patience, breathing, and surrender. It also makes sense to avoid dwelling on your painful thoughts too long, or in too much detail, because then you will start to feel nauseated and unhappy. But if you can come to a basic acceptance of the general facts, and realize that the rest is not your business to worry about, then you might be able to redirect your attention, send your love, and move forward with what you’re supposed to do. And if you find that the sweater becomes a little too warm or a little too scratchy to wear, then take it off—lovingly, of course—and return it to the closet whence it came.

Love Poured Out

Stanford Memorial Church, Interior

Poems written while sitting in Memorial Church (California) and St. Bernard Church (Ohio).

Love poured out
upon the forehead of my chosen one
made the room dance with light
and expanded into the consciousness
of a million solitary souls.
It was the kiss, indeed,
that saved the world–
simple, pure, undivided,
free.

When the rest of your belongings fell away,
you were finally free
to say what you wanted to say
in the clear, clean tones
of absolute truth.

My candle was the last to burn
but the fire was so bright and intense,
the other candles flickered in surprise–
for now there was no darkness they could not illumine
with their great chorus of flame.

What do I see when I look at You?
A boulder of light
A crown of flames
A window into the purest soul
That ever walked the Earth.
But if my longing
Were a thing that could be put into words,
I’d have spent all my tears
And half the night
Composing You a letter
Which would be sent by way of the heart
And postmarked with a kiss
To end all kisses–
A pouring out of life
With a simple name
More rapturous than any other.
But as it is,
My words will fail
In the face of such incomprehensible Love.
So I am left with one choice:
To forget what has come before,
Allowing the peace of Your Spirit
To write the story I could not tell
And bring me to places I have never been,
So as to purify our love
In unrestrained surrenders
Of life and soul and being.

Old Poems about Love

Enjoy these quiet little love poems (mostly) written when I was younger. Don’t forget that “juvenilia” can be (as the word implies) juvenile (and not very good)!

O, my love, a little star
is blinking in the wild pass –
I would it were with me!
But, alack, the night is done
and you are gone away.
If I but had fairer face
I wonder, would it stay?

St. Valentine

It was the mid-afternoon
and, being distraught,
I stomached the evidence
of a compassionate soul
and gave myself
an uncomfortable gut
and the knowledge that
the mind inhabits a
cloistered brain
and hardly looks down
from its tower,
where it lives to think
and to sleep.

Good-night good-night
my paupered prince
may slumbers bring you rest –
I’ll speak ten thousand words today!
but these ones I mean best.

If I forget thy name, what of my heart?
The colder could not be the frost of wind
That shook the eaves and blew our souls apart;
And rue the day I have so idly sinned!
For scarcely can I think so fine
A name so sweetly sung as thine.

Read the rest of this entry »

Childlike Virtues, Byronic Heroes, Nice Guys, and More

The following is from an email I sent to a professor several years ago (in 2009). The professor taught a literature class on Charles Dickens and Lewis Carroll; imagining a “childlike woman” was an ideal (and perhaps an obsession) for both authors. Here, I shared some reflections on childlike virtues, love and infatuation, the Byronic hero, and why the nice guy finishes last. I’m not sure I would still agree with everything I said then, but for the record-books, here’s my (slightly disorganized) collection of thoughts:

I am particularly interested in the concepts of love relationships and childlike virtues, and luckily so, as Dickens seemed to be preoccupied with these very ideas to the point of obsession. It is clear that there is a small (or large) glorification of the pure and glowing childlike woman (the “child-wife,” as Dora would have it). This is not singly characteristic of Dickens. In the long course of history, and in other works of literature penned by other hands, there appears some elevation of the moon-faced female, slim and docile and pretty and pure of heart. I wonder at the reasons for this. Perhaps it is an attempt at transfiguring spiritual beauty into a physical manifestation, the latter of which is readily identifiable to most people; in this instance, prettiness acts as a signpost of virtue, and it becomes easy to conflate one with the other. The Bible gives little physical description of the Virgin Mary, but innumerable artistic renderings through the ages show us a woman whose countenance is as immaculate as her spirit. I suppose something similar could be remarked on the prevalence of a pale complexion in beauty standards across time and cultures: a face clean of blemishes hints at an unsullied character beneath. The child’s complexion is almost wholly free of these bothersome spots and boils until the advent of adolescence, when a surge of hormones accompanies the beginnings of many things – rule-breaking and independence and sexual awareness, among them. It is comfortable for us, then, to associate certain childlike physical features with a childlike character, and then a childlike character with a sort of prelapsarian goodness, absent of things like sexual desire. (Note, too, the impression that spiritual advancement comes after a rejection of bodily desires, thereby making physical purity a prerequisite to some higher purity – it is a return to a childlike state.) Hence, perhaps, the inclusion of several childlike features – including clear skin, large eyes, soft lips, rounded contours of the face – in common criteria for feminine beauty. But why does this constellation of traits prove so irresistible? Perhaps there is room for a biological explanation: the appearance of youth suggests a vigor and health that would be advantageous in evolutionary competition. Yet, the picture of an innocent female is frail, more often than not, challenging the connection between youth and vitality, youth and fertility. This is the paradox that arises from the male’s desire to take a waiflike female as his own; he seeks the innocent manners of a youthful girl but, the relationship being fundamentally romantic, he also has a sexual desire – and this latter cannot be satisfied by a prepubescent physicality. The same is true of childbearing desires: recall David Copperfield, who thought his marriage troubles might disappear, if only Dora could bear a child. But Dora is a child-wife rather than a wife proper – and thus unfit, physically and mentally, to enact the role of mother. She is sweet and gentle, but her tenderness is not touched by the maturity that characterizes a mother’s. To have a child would be, for Dora, more to keep likeminded company, than to develop a protector-protected bond.

The innocent girl-figure is good-natured and inoffensive, and it is easy to take a liking to her. But in many ways she is an abstract conception, an archetype, rather than a person of flesh-and-bones (as far as novelistic creations will permit a picture of fleshiness). It is simple and admirable, perhaps, to trumpet a fondness for the little girl, just as it is easy and good to tout the estimation of virtues like love and truth and beauty. But there is a disconnect between the abstract concept and the real-day living. We might even say that interacting with a person as if she were an Ideal Incarnate has something obscene in it; for most likely the Ideal is better called an idealization, and the act of idealizing denies the girl some humanity in the process. Possibly there is something very selfish in the man’s pursuit of the “good girl”: just as the man who is self-consciously humble is not truly humble at all, so too may a man embrace a virtuous girl, not for love of her, but because he feels noble and paternal as a result of the association. According to traditional gender roles, the male has been the strong provider, and perhaps there is something self-gratifying in playing the protector – and surely there is much protecting to be done if one’s wife is a child-wife.

This view suggests that Dickens’s protagonists pursue romance out of self-satisfying motivations, and therefore that their love is impure, subpar, not real (because “Love is patient; love is kind… it is not self-seeking”). But I am not so certain that this is the case. Dickens gives us a portrait of obsessive love, certainly, but we must be careful to remember that obsessive love is separate from infatuation – the former has the word “love” in its name, after all. I do not have a nice way of parsing the two terms, nor a way of justifying my conviction in logical terms; for what it’s worth, I have only some gut impression that what Dickens felt in his own life, and what he allowed his characters to feel, does approach, and sometimes constitute, love proper, even if is a form of love not yet heavy with wisdom. Although love is a pure virtue, and uplifting, I do not know that we can rule out the existence of love in a relationship that is not wholly pure – can we not consider, instead, that love is indeed present, but mingling with some other, more grossly human things?

It was asked in class, as around the world: Why does the nice guy finish last? The question further points to the incongruity of falling in love. We often become enamored of someone we would not count as a friend (“I don’t like you, but I love you”/“I don’t want you, but I need you,” as The Beatles sing) – perhaps because the act of befriending is a largely conscious one, a decision based on sound observations (“we have similar values,” “we enjoy the same pastimes,” “she is smart and makes good conversation,” “he is kind and generous”); whereas falling in love has much illogic and instinctive emotionality in it. There are theories about why “the nice guy finishes last,” and though they must be a far cry from being complete, they are nonetheless worthwhile to examine. As an example, let us look at the immense attractiveness of the Byronic hero, established as an archetype in literature by Lord Byron in the 19th century. The Byronic hero, in brief, is desperately handsome, cynical, rebellious, brooding, navel-gazing, shrewd, arrogant, domineering, self-destructive. A relationship with him is likely to be tempestuous, tossed between extremes of passion and dejection; he may be physically or emotionally abusive, and prone to intense changeability of mood. From a place of distance, we can remark, “Oh, it is a very unwise idea, getting into a relationship with this man. It is bound to end up badly.” But logic alone does not govern our minds (and hardly our hearts), so we end up with an enduring and unexceptionable attraction to the Byronic figure. I admit that I myself am hopelessly in love with this very ideal, and sometimes I feel rotten at the thought: instead of rebuking a flaw in the Byronic-type (a flaw I would find reprehensible in myself or considered in the abstract), I almost delight in it. It makes for a terrible predicament of self-questioning: am I a hypocrite? am I, at the core, a bad person? am I elevating senseless love over principled and long-cultivated friendship? I wonder at the reasons for this. Some say a girl is convinced that a heart of gold resides deep down in the under-layers of the Byronic hero, and it becomes her mission to exhume it. Some say a girl derives pleasure at the thought that she could be “the chosen one” to a man so highly selective in his affinities: it is a sensation of feeling rare and pursuing the hard-to-acquire. Then there is the law of attraction of opposites, easy to verify in chemistry, but complicated to decipher in human relations. Perhaps a good girl, so called, lives vicariously through a Byronic-type, who trades stability for imbalance and seeks adventure and reaches dark insights inside a dark and brooding mind. Perhaps there is a perverse pleasure in being spurned – there is a spirit of competition (“Can I prove myself worthy of regaining his affections?”) and of piety (“I will be steadfast and quietly keep my devotion, even if he is erratic”); is the root feeling narcissism? Why does everything seem to return to the self? Friendship transpires often among likeminded, like-tempered people; whereas love seems to favor a relationship in which basic similarities exist in company with a few very salient differences. The volatility of strong emotion might help to explain the dipole phenomenon of “opposites attract.”

In these scattered thoughts, I haven’t much more to say, but for a few words on curiosity. I think the childlike character that Dickens has developed and extolled is remarkable for the code of virtues it implies. Chief among the childlike virtues is Curiosity. Dickens thinks it is good, and I think it is good, to preserve a childlike wonder at the world: curiosity takes away the dullness of life and increases the compassion of the person who protects it. It is appropriate to remember how distinct Dickens is for (1) the poesy of his prose and (2) the precision with which he gets at a character’s fundamental being. These are evidence of a poet’s soul. Curiosity marks the poet, and makes him attentive and understanding of the world; this is why he can communicate the essential tenets and experiences of human life with a sincerity that gives us pause. It is good to be like the child even as we age, if we learn to assimilate the goodness of childhood with the goodness of maturity – a yoking of the Songs of Innocence and Experience. If we forgo the latter, we are childish, not childlike, and what have we left to learn? We are keeping ourselves in the past and denying our nature, rather than bringing along a past (and pure) perspective, so useful in framing experiences that lie ahead. To which Carroll, or Alice, might remark: “Curiouser and curiouser!”

The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.

G. K. Chesterton

Take care, take…

Take care, take care never to shut your heart against anyone.

Bl. Peter Favre, S.J. 

Nothing is more…

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.

Pedro Arrupe, S. J. 

To a great exte…

To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood. When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen