Introduction to Renewal
One problem inherent with the process of inquiry is that it may touch the intellect, but it often tends to leave much of the rest of the body out of the process. Of course the idea is to organize our experiences and provide a cohesive framework from which to direct our lives, a seemingly good idea on the surface of it all, but one that has emphasized the role of reason. This emphasis has led, I think, to a massive disconnect between the mind and body, between thoughts and feelings.
I think that the process, if not the realization, of integrating the mind and body, of thoughts and feelings was largely left out of the picture as reason and logic became our Golden Calf in the last 600 or so years. In many quarters, emotional desires became the bane of man and brain stem reactions the representation of a lesser life form. Far from the integration of being, the focus of humanity has turned to control by way of compartmentalization–keeping parts of ourselves from ourselves. Such is our perceived transformation from the world of animals to the world of human beings.
I suppose the compartmentalization was a natural defensive move. By staying connected to the animal kingdom, we reasoned that we risked our humanity. In the 1800s (and even today) Darwinian evolution seemed to tell us this was the right course, nature sloughed off what was not useful. Nevertheless, humans still had to cope with a nature that seemed to move toward increasing complexity despite keeping such shared characteristics with animals as the “old” parts of the brain (they do have their uses).
Attempts to distance ourselves from the animal kingdom by embracing reason and controlling emotions and brain-stem reactions have not seemed to fare so well. Certainly within the last 100 years the human ability to engage in war and terror has escalated in its complexity as well as its reach. Somehow the frequency and increasing horror of warfare seem hardly reasonable.
Perhaps compartmentalization as a regular strategy is not such a good plan. With the proliferation of the information and the global network, with the reach and killing power of terrorists, with the continued greed and lack of ethics exhibited by many holding the public trust, it should be patently obvious that there is nowhere to hide, there is no compartment in which we can remain insulated and separated from ourselves or the rest of the world–we are globally and individually connected. And it should be clear that we each play a part in that connection, biologically, individually, culturally, and environmentally.
The art of renewal is about reviewing and evaluating how we create and organize the components that constitute our reality. It is about the reciprocity and the relationships inherent in those connective links. Whatever the relationship tree is for an individual or a culture, we all have one, there is no one that is relationship-free–all things exist in some connective link.
Renewal is also the art of becoming re-energized, to complete one circle or one path and have the necessary energy to make the jump across the space between circles or paths to the next level. Failure to renew traps one on their present plane of existence. The irony is that these separate planes of existence are not separate at all, but inclusive. This inclusive view, however, is not clear from “below.”
Essentially, renewal is about finding our way home, to that place in which our awareness is not contaminated by our experiences or our interpretations, but is instead set free by them. This is our true heritage I think, and the true gift of having consciousness.
I’m certainly risking a banal journalistic journey by attempting to write about something that needs to be experienced beyond a two-dimensional page. In taking the liberty to write about my experiences, my relationships, and my attempts at renewal, I’m making some assumption about parallel connections–that my journey, though unique in its own way, is not unique in many other ways.
What follows is drawn from a journal of my thoughts and feelings, largely written between April and July of 2002 (chapter 70, the postscript, was written in January of 2003), as I attempted to reconcile loss and find renewal and connection, a journey familiar to us all.
As such, it is a journey of feelings, uneven in many cases, as such a journey is likely to be. It is rhythmic as well, punctuated by moments of healing only to find days when the wounds seemed to reopen. It is not about finding the solution, the keys to the kingdom, or about panaceas. It is about process.
It is also a journey of words, an interesting medium for creating and organizing experiences. But language, I think, is one of our great selective agents, the real Darwinian selective agent in human beings, I would argue. It is often language that triggers experiences and feelings, that keys our cellular membranes, that activates our genetic predispositions, that directs our proteins, all of which guide our biological vehicle, and all of which are the precursors to human deeds and behaviors.
Yes, the body exists and has its own guide without language, but that does not mean that we cannot assume the helm. But the act of taking the helm is a great responsibility, one that humans have assumed, but have yet to consistently realize.
Milan Kundera, a displaced Czechoslovakian writer, wrote something along the lines that humans spend their entire lives trying to get someone to listen. Part of that, I’m sure, involves listening to ourselves. Perhaps with a little deeper infusion of both kinds of listening, of refining our use of language, and of giving voice to our paradoxical experiences, we will complete this cycle of evolution–the integration of being and mind, of thoughts and feelings, and deepen our understanding about the art and the process of creation. In that magical place, I believe we will be forever touched by renewal.