Falling in Desire, Landing Whole
The Hopis...have a grammatical tense with which to speak of this process of becoming. It is called tunatya, and refers to the rounding of something into its own fullness...
Date: 3/16/2006 9:28:27 PM ( 14 y ) ... viewed 2585 times
We call it falling in love.
When you think of it, though, love is actually the place we land in—if we’re lucky. What we fall through, in the first wild, sweet flush of a romance is desire, and it’s a thrilling ride with ups and downs of fascination, curiosity, joy, and passion. It is possible to resist this exhilarating plunge, but few choose to do to.
Desire itself is desirable. When we fall in love—or fall through desire—we become like geodes, those nuggets of rock that are rough and drab on the outside, but which, broken open and buffed, reveal a jeweled core. Suddenly we have the opportunity to lavish upon another all the wondrous aspects of ourselves that we feel have remained untapped till now: creativity, sexiness, tenderness, an adventurous spirit. Believing that the other will somehow make us more of who we were destined to be, we behave in ways that fulfill the very prophecy we imagine. We sparkle. We carry light inside us and shine on the world as we go.
Eventually, of course, the fall must end, whether in a long, loving marriage, a quick and tumultuous break-up, or anything in between. We hit ground. We see that the other person is no magician come to transform us, but simply another human in search of his or her own jeweled core—who just happened to believe for a time that it could be found in us. We are cast back to our old selves again, dull and unpolished. It feels like a terrible betrayal.
But something even better can arise at the end of the free fall—or any other time we choose to take it on. If we dare to keep our breached heart open and to experiment with a different kind of desire, one that is open-ended, unpredictable, and full of potential, we not only discover endless new facets of that jeweled core, but take control of it, so we can move into a world of our own choosing, our own delight. This transformed desire is not directed at just one person. It does not fade. It powers us through good times and bad, constantly replenishing us with an ever greater capacity to love and to act from love.
The great German poet, Goethe, called it “soulful yearning,” a longing to be part of something that is both inconceivably mysterious and utterly familiar to our deepest being. I myself discovered it a few years ago when, at the age of fifty, happily married and immersed in work I loved, I plummeted into fascination for a younger man. I was determined not to jeopardize my marriage, yet also unwilling to turn my back on what felt like a dynamiting of my whole being.
I had to begin by recognizing that the man who upturned me was not the answer to my soul’s yearning, but a vital escort to my higher self. Such is often the case. The new person perceives us in some way we cannot yet see ourselves. Or he possesses certain qualities—discipline, a sense of play—that we need to develop. Defining dormant, desirable qualities in ourselves, we can strive to cultivate them. This is no easy process. We are likely to face a mighty resistance from our old habit patterns, fear of change, or stubborn conviction that it is more important to be likeable and polite than bold and authentic. It’s a process that, thankfully, never ends, though every step brings us closer to reconciliation between who we are and who we choose to become.
The Hopis of northeastern Arizona have a grammatical tense with which to speak of this process of becoming. It is called tunatya, and refers to the rounding of something into its own fullness: seeds into corn, clouds into life-giving rain, words that form on the tongue before they are spoken. We can usher forth our own becoming by paying closer attention to what allures us, what our soul desires. This doesn’t mean indulging unwisely in material gratifications. Rather we seek to follow what beckons the essential self: new intellectual, creative, and spiritual pursuits; the song of a redwing blackbird on a spring morning; a longtime wish to learn Italian; the decision to volunteer with a local charity. It means taking bold steps every day that we fear to take and that our life depends upon.
How different is such a movement, graceful and deliberate, from the crazy free fall of romantic desire. Now, instead of a dive without discipline, a rag doll drop to the depths, we move confidently toward a coalescing image of the sacred self. Instead of “falling” in love and hoping to land without pain, we traverse ground that gains new meaning from the very way we cover it. We choose the direction we move toward, whether the immediate destination is a stranger in trouble, a blank canvas, a mountain trail, the hospital bed of a friend, or a refugee camp in Sudan. Any place that calls us forth into a desire to be more of ourselves is a blessed place and on the journey toward it, the void before each new step is filled with potential. We walk into the world, as into the arms of a waiting lover.
TREBBE JOHNSON is the director of Vision Arrow, an organization offering journeys to explore wildness and allurement in nature and self. She is the author of The World is a Waiting Lover: Desire and the Quest for the Beloved.
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