Grant me the faith to believe that Life is stronger than death, and Love deeper than hate. Let me never abdicate my house to the hungry thieves that would rob each room of its particular treasure, and curse the one who lives inside as worthless, no more than an empty purse, a justly abandoned figure on a severed fragment of scorched earth. Let the figure refuse the facile fabrication of an identity based on feelings of uselessness and ugliness, but rather let these feelings pass. Let them move through the physical body like a river, however muddied, moves through a canyon, rather than harden into a dam of mind-made steel. O God, Creator of all that is good and real, without whom there can be no unity, let the faint beginnings of light seep through the cracks of my divided self and thaw the ice congealing in my heart. Bring me back continually to the depths of your peace in the present moment, and do not let your sun come up over the hill to shine through my window while I am lost in a state of war, with myself or with the world. Let me face each state, whether familiar and painful or strange and painless, with courage and compassion. Do not let me act from an unconsidered sense of lack, but let me look directly through that hole, like one whose right eye through the tiny lens of a telescope sees with a jolt the vast sky lit up at night, limitless and unimaginable.
October is half over as I write this, and I am indoors. The change of seasons was abrupt. Last week it was upwards of 90 degrees; today it’s in the thirties. Writing inside, I feel more isolated, less connected with the world outside my skull and skin. I don’t feel the wind through my hair, and I can’t hear if any birds are braving this cold morning, sounding their songs as if in cheerful rebellion to the coming winter. I want to learn how to rebel so cheerfully to my heart’s winter.
But it is not so easy, and perhaps not so valuable, to rebel that way against the heart, for any cheerfulness that is in me comes from my heart, and to rebel against my heart’s tundra is also to rebel against its open sunny plain.
When my heart is snowed-in, I feel like the snow will come down forever, the roads will never be cleared, and all I will ever feel is what the trees in winter might feel. Who am I to say that these oak trees have no emotional presence and feel nothing? Might they like me feel empty, naked, bare? Through the naked branches of the wintered trees, the light shines clearly, unobstructed by lush foliage. Clear and pure and direct. Are these the qualities of the heart in winter, when it knows through experience that sooner or later spring will return?
I can still hear the wind through the closed glass doors. It is strong today, as it has been for the last three days. I want to live like the wind, propelled into motion by invisible forces. I want to move and not to stagnate, not to remain forever in this same languishing place, moving only to run in loops or out and backs, or to walk with apparent purpose from the kitchen into the dining room to bring my customers their medium rare burgers with extra crispy bacon and cheddar cheese and a side of onion rings, their over-easy eggs and over-syruped pancakes, their buffalo wings with blue cheese on the side and their (almost as good as mom’s!) chicken pot pies.
I want to move internally from where I am—feeling wedged into a corner, trapped on the wheel of my internal misery-go-round, lamenting this seemingly intractable position—to where I could be, unrolling the filaments of my fluid being, redoubling my commitment to praise the beauty of these trees that today still shine in the many shades of fire and gold. But even the glory of their vibrancy reminds me of its imminent loss, how the colors will change from the reds and golds of a vital resplendence to the browns and greys of a monotone existence. A monotone existence, a monotone existence…
The days go by and before long I start questioning where my life has gone. Wasn’t I just eight years old, double-bouncing my brother on the trampoline; ten years old, sprinting on the hot sand into the Atlantic Sea; twelve years old, obsessively practicing free throws in the hoop attached to the brick on top of the garage? Am I really twenty-eight years old? Yes, in linear time at least, in that terrifyingly one-pointed line from birth to death. I am 28 years from birth, and an unknown number of years from death. Is that it? Birth and life and death as the final end? What is the end of life? What is the chief end of man? And all the bored children in chilling, joyless voices intone: to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
Except one child, in a voice brimming with vitality, shouts out much louder than the rest, and continues long after their short refrain, exclaiming: To love the fields I run and play in and my friend I love and play with, and to love the one who created the fields and my brother and my friend and myself, and to love too the bluebird I listen to, as we both praise the rising sun: he with his song, and I with mine.
And this patently unacceptable and unorthodox ode to creation immediately provokes the accepted and orthodox wrath of the stern teacher in his charge—she who educates and lives by words alone because the Word itself has died within her, and since she refuses to heed her grief, or admit her need for the Spirit she professes to believe in, she passes on her corroded mode of being to those who still have Being in them, and they too learn how to let the Word die in their hearts and not grieve over its death—and the one mistakenly seen as mature punishes the one mistakenly seen as juvenile, and what is at stake is no less than the tyrannical oppression of an impressionable young soul.
And so this one child who had shouted from the rooftops what he believed, perceiving no difference between the original faith behind the words he spoke with all the life in his soul and the original faith behind what the others spoke with all the life drained out of them, begins after repeatedly being scolded and punished for his distinctive and animate words, to feel that he is different from the others, and as he starts to feel different, he starts to lose contact with the rapture he had felt in the fields, the harmony he had felt with the bluebird, the intimacy he had felt with his friend, and the unself-conscious union he had experienced with the Creator of the fields, the bluebird, and the friend, and he begins to create an identity out of the feeling of anguish that comes from these unbearable losses.
And when he first falls to the ground, and lets himself weep, he finds a kind of substitute for what he longs for in the terrible pain of longing for it. The longing feels more real than everything but the actual Reality he longs for. He begins to feel the reality of his own person most acutely when he is in acute distress, for he feels that the deeper he experiences his distress, the deeper he moves toward the initial Source of his unrest—his own estrangement from the Source—and thus the closer he grows toward the Source itself, toward regaining contact, repairing the life-giving thread that had torn between him and his capacity to feel held and loved by his invisible Twin entwined in that creative thread.
“Enneatype IV individuals, as a result of these dynamic factors and also of a basic emotional disposition are not only sensitive, intense, passionate, and romantic, but tend to suffer from loneliness and may harbor a tragic sense of their life or life in general.” (p. 113, Character and Neurosis: An Integrative View, Claudio Naranjo)
Previously on this blog, I wrote two essays on Bob Dylan as an Enneagram 4 with a 5 wing. Recently I came across the writings of another clear 4, Anais Nin, famous primarily for the many published volumes of her diaries, the reading of which would take years. Even more than Dylan perhaps, her writing exhibits all of the qualities of the Enneagram 4, which I will explore in depth here. The diary I am reading now is The Early Diary of Anais Nin: Volume Three. I will stick to this diary in this post for the sake of simplicity, as well as because there is more than enough evidence in the first ten pages of this diary to make the point that Nin was an Enneagram 4. The fact that Nin preferred to express herself in the form of a journal already begins to suggest her 4-ness. Although other types can choose this form of expression, the intensely personal focus of a diary suits well the 4 qualities of self-preoccupation and self-awareness. The self-aware 4 only becomes more self-aware through the keeping of a journal. A journal allows for the 4 to express herself authentically, writing for only herself and not for an audience. Looking back through the journal, the 4 can see the changes she has undergone, and in the writing of a journal the 4 can attempt to find some solid identity, to literally create herself through her words.
Now let’s go into the Diary of Anais Nin. She writes: “Turn these pages and see whether one spirit pervades them all or whether a different mood each time has left the trace of its passage on a soul which sings and weeps by turn and never truly knows itself in this confusion.” Sandra Maitri, in Finding The Way Home: The Enneagram of Passion and Virtues, writes that the 4’s “inner atmosphere is one of turmoil and turbulence,” an atmosphere that leads the 4 to live with a “soul which sings and weeps by turn.” Look again at the last phrase: “never truly knows itself in this confusion.” The 4 desires to know herself. Richard Rohr, in his book Discovering the Enneagram, writes, “FOURs have to catch your eye. It’s as if they thought, ‘I don’t know who I am if I’m like all the others. I have to stand out and in any case be different.’” A diary is a way to be different, a way to express one’s differentness and individuality. That Anais Nin feels she is different from others is unquestionable. About her disappointment in social life, Nin writes, “I am too capricious, too different, I don’t know what, but I tire quickly of insipid talk, or of a lot of talk.”
Nin expresses her disappointment in herself and in others often, and in the depth of that disappointment one perceives the 4 quality of never being satisfied. Sandra Maitri writes in The Spiritual Dimension of the Enneagram: “Unsatisfied, ungratified, and displeased, nothing is ever quite right to a Four. What she has or procures always loses its shine, and the longing shifts to what is just out of reach. Things could always be a little different, a little better, more of this or that, and then perhaps, just perhaps, she could be happy at last.” Nin could have written these lines, though she would have written them in the first person, without knowledge of the Enneagram. Before she writes the lines I just quoted, while on her way from American to France, Nin writes, “Everything disappoints me. I had dreamed of this trip and have many things that are beautiful about it, but today, the social side of it palled on me. I have shut myself up in the cabin, feeling utterly wretched…I had resolved to take part in the social life, but at the first taste of it I felt alone again, and unhappy. I should say rather that I disappoint myself in everything—that is more exact.”
This disappointment the 4 experiences in herself comes from her “vicious superego that is constantly measuring [her] up against an idealized picture of how and what [she] ought to be, and tearing [her] apart for not making the grade.” But the 4 also experiences disappointment in others. In close relationship, the 4 has a tendency to idealize the other, and then to devalue the other when she finds some imperfection in him. Nin goes through this pattern. She writes of her then-husband Hugh, “Once my sight of him is blurred (and I will not look too long), that, to me, the wavering of a perfect thing, is the beginning of the end. No one can show himself in the guise I dislike, even for a moment, without leaving a painful impression, and no one can say to me: ‘Forgive and forget,’ for though I forgive, the disappointment is eternal, it has passed through my spirit, like a false note, and the echo of it never leaves me.” The hyper-sensitivity of the 4 is present here, as well as her difficulty in dealing with imperfection, and her tendency to despair. Nin, at another point and in another mood, writes that she despairs when Hugh, her husband, is not with her: “When I lose myself in despair, as I do sometimes in these pages, it is because he is not here. When he comes home and puts his arms around me, instantly I am soothed and strong again.” (63)
Here 4’s expectation that love will save her is evident. Claudio Naranjo, the originator or the founder of the Enneagram, writes of type 4: “Erotic love lures this type as the supreme fulfillment. Love must and does appear as the ticket to paradise, where all woe ends: no more loneliness, no more feeling lost, guilty or unworthy; no more responsibility for self; no more struggle with a harsh world for which he feels hopelessly unequipped. Instead love seems to promise protection, support, affection, encouragement, sympathy, understanding. It will give him a feeling of worth, it will give meaning to his life, it will be salvation and redemption.” Look again at Nin’s lines: “When he comes home and puts his arms around me, instantly I am soothed and strong again.” Love for Nin promised protection and support, the end of woe, the end of loneliness and despair. She is no longer weak. She is strengthened in embrace. She is no longer isolated; she is connected to another, once and forever. And yet before she had said that seeing some imperfection in her husband was the beginning of the end, and so the extreme moods of the 4 come through here, the idealization and the devaluation.
As I mentioned, the 4 is self-preoccupied, and so the form of the diary suits the 4’s natural state. In My Best Self: Using the Enneagram to Free The Soul, the authors write of how the 4’s “inward idealization causes them to be sensitive to their own feelings and needs first and only then to other people’s.” Nin writes in a similar vein: “There is no one on earth truthfully interested in others’ work if he is himself a creator—no one. I am more interested in my own writing than in other people’s.” She writes that “no one on earth” is interested in another’s work, but in Enneagram terms it would be more accurate to say that it is a rare 4 who is more interested in another creator’s work than in her own, and that the 4 is interested in the other’s work only insofar as it reflects on her own, in order to compare it to her own, or in order to improve her own through careful reading of the other’s. So a 4 attempting to write her own journal might peruse another diarist with a unique writing style in order to create a unique writing style for herself, similar to the other’s only in that it is similarly individual.
And that is enough for the time being. Much more to come. An entire book could be written on Anais Nin as a 4 just as it could be written on Dylan as a 4. Maybe one day down the road, the book will be written. For now, I am content, or not quite content, as befits my nature, with these posts.
Now, a couple songs by Dylan that express the 4’s idealization and subsequent devaluation of a romantic partner: “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” and “Idiot Wind” two songs most likely written about the same woman, Dylan’s one-time wife, Sara Lownds.
No other on earth knows me as I am.
Those who think they know me best
Know me least. Those who know
They don’t know me, at least know that.
No other will ever know me, as a whole, in this world.
This is written not with excess sorrow or pity or pride.
No other needs to know me, and I do not need
To be known by any other. I alone need to know
Myself, that other I am. I do not know
Why I do not know, but I do know it.
The knowledge that I know
Nothing is painful, difficult to bear. But before
Being can be known, Nothingness must be borne.
Only when I know myself do I exist, as myself.
If I have no knowledge, then I have
No being. I am not, for I know not
What I do or why I do it. I know
Nothing. I do not even know
Why I write these words, or
Why I wake up and find life
Only in these hours when the rest of
The world as we know it is lost in dreams,
Or dreamless sleep. I must wake up
At this time, or in time this distance
Between what I once knew and who I could be
Will grow too great for me to bridge.
I am not still, for I still do not know
What I do or why I do it.
Do you know what you do?
Why do you read these words?
What do you need to know?
Are we born not knowing, so we are
Forced to yearn till death make us whole?
Can we ever know? Can we even live
In this world of dreams if we unearth
The shattering reality of who we actually are?
The knowledge that I know
Nothing is painful, difficult to bear;
But if I knew myself, would that knowledge
Bring even more pain? Could I live with it?
I must wake up now, at this time, or in time
This distance will keep me tied down
To dreams, seeing only what seems
To be, forgetting what I need to do,
To remember who I am.
Three and a half months ago I wrote a post on Bob Dylan as an Enneagram type Four (Here’s that link). I said I was going to write a number of posts on this theme, but I ended up only doing the one. Now I have a few days in between my block class and the start of the semester, which I’ll use to go a bit deeper into the topic. If you don’t know about the Enneagram, you can start on my old post. The subject is so vast that I don’t feel nearly competent enough to introduce it fully and all at once, so I’ll be explaining it as I go along. I’ll also include the full names of books whenever I quote or reference a book, and those would be good references to check out from the library.
It would be easy to write a book on Dylan as a Four—the same way someone wrote a book on Thomas Merton, the Catholic monk, as a Four (Merton Enneagram book)—so it’s difficult to know where to start.
Let’s start with identity, a preoccupation of Dylan and of Four’s in general. “All I can do is be me—whoever that is,” said Dylan in an interview. This sentence just about sums up the Four stance. About Four’s, Don Riso in his book Personality Types writes, “Their sense of identity is not solid, dependable, in their own hands. They feel undefined and uncertain of themselves, as if they were a gathering cloud which may produce something of great power or merely dissipate in the next breeze” (1996, p. 139). There is a hint here of what creativity means to a Four, how inspiration cannot be nailed down, or called upon at will. In his biography on Dylan, Time Out of Mind, journalist Ian Bell writes how, for Dylan, “Sometimes songs just come…that kind of claim makes his gift sound like a fragile thing” (2014, p. 341). ‘A fragile thing,’ ‘a gathering cloud’ which may ‘merely dissipate.’
Dylan expresses this lack of definite identity in the first stanza of the song ‘Shelter From The Storm’ from his 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks
‘Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue, the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm.”
He also gives voice to this concept in interviews: “Sometimes you are held back by your name. Sometimes there are advantages to having a certain name. Names are labels so we can refer to one another. But deep inside us we don’t have a name. We have no name” (Essential Interviews, p. 206). We identify each other by name; if deep inside us we have no name, then deep inside us we also have no way to be identified, no identity.
Because the Four’s identity is ‘undefined’ and ‘not solid,’ because he is ‘a creature void of form,’ the Four begins a search for self, or for some place, some home where he can feel himself, where his formlessness will be given shelter, given time to form or allowed space to remain formless. The formlessness feels like the wilderness; the self a mystery, unknown. Dylan gives clearest expression to this search for self in his autobiography Chronicles when he writes, “There was a missing person inside of myself and I needed to find him” (147). And Nora Guthrie, the daughter of folk singer Woody Guthrie, who Dylan first came to New York on a quest to visit, said of Dylan, “I think he’s very much an experimentalist, looking into himself all the time, saying what do I want to do now…he’s experimenting with his own soul” (Ballad of Bob Dylan, p. 74).
Dylan’s quest to visit Woody Guthrie is a uniquely Four-ish endeavor. Richard Rohr writes in Discovering the Enneagram, “The life program of FOURs could be described as an eternal quest for the Holy Grail” (1990, p. 85). Dylan felt something in Guthrie’s music and sought the man himself, went on a quest to meet him. Guthrie’s music was Dylan’s ‘Holy Grail’ at that time in his life. Guthrie was sick, in a hospital, not famous or even known outside the folk music circle. Dylan also was not famous or known at that time in any circle. Yet Dylan would go and sit by his hospital bed, sing Guthrie’s own songs to him.
Many 4’s, including Dylan, express this ‘eternal quest’ in art:
In the creative moment, healthy Fours harness their emotions without getting lost in them, not only producing something beautiful but discovering who they are. In the moment of inspiration they are, paradoxically, both most themselves and most liberated from themselves. This is why all forms of creativity are so valued by Fours, and why, in its inspired state, creativity is so hard to sustain. Fours can be inspired only if they have first transcended themselves, something which is extremely threatening to their self-image. In a sense, then, only by learning not to look for themselves will they find themselves and renew themselves in the process. (Personality Types).
This is Riso again, who writes mainly about the Four’s search for self. I quoted Rohr above who said the Four is searching for the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail is not the ‘self,’ but Fours have an intuition that the Holy Grail could be found within themselves, yet they also find something when they are ‘liberated from themselves.’ As Riso makes clear, Fours feel most themselves when liberated from themselves. But this experience is transient, it doesn’t last, it keeps the Four on a continual quest to experience this liberation again. Permanent liberation, even if feasible, often doesn’t seem like a worthy goal. In Ballad of Bob Dylan, author Mark Epstein expresses this predicament well, writing of what may have been Dylan’s happiest time in the late 60’s, spent with his wife and children:
The problem with paradise on earth, as one might expect, is the day-to-day sameness. There is little variety in perfection and one might find it boring—particularly an artist who thrives on the tension between the real and the ideal, the knowledge of suffering and longing, his own and other people’s (214).
If the Four were in a state of permanent liberation, a ‘paradise on earth,’ what would there be to search for? Since the Four feels his identity is based on this ‘eternal quest,’ what would his identity be if the quest were completed, if liberation were lasting and unending? Yet Dylan sings in “Ain’t Talking”, “The suffering is unending.” Better the unending suffering of the quest or the unending liberation that may lie at the quest’s completion? Will the quest ever be complete? And is liberation ever without end? The quest is full of questions.
Thus, as the identity of Fours is based on being on the ‘eternal quest,’ Riso writes that self-transcendence is ‘extremely threatening’ to the Fours’ self-image.
In most of the songs Dylan writes, this quest—whatever it is for, whether the self or the Holy Grail or heaven—this seeking quality, is present. Let’s look again and a bit closer at the song off his 2006 album Modern Times called “Ain’t Talkin’. The last stanza to that song goes,
Ain’t talkin’, just walkin’
Up the road around the bend
Heart burnin’, still yearnin’
In the last outback, at the world’s end.
When I hear the phrase, “quest for the Holy Grail,” I think of a pilgrim walking, a vagabond, perhaps in vagabondage, chained to the road, pursuing salvation. The lyrics above could be the words of a pilgrim, walking, questing, still yearning at age 67. Going to ‘world’s end,’ if necessary, or as Dylan sings in “Dignity”:
Searching high, searching low
Searching everywhere I know
Dylan is always ‘walking’ in his songs. Take “Love Sick,” the first song on Time Out of Mind, released in 1997. The first line in that song goes, “I’m walking through streets that are dead.” And the second track on that album, “Dirt Road Blues,” has a line: “Gon’ walk down that dirt road until my eyes begin to bleed.” I could pick out a line from each song on the album that is an apt expression of the walker on some sort of pilgrimage, but perhaps no song is as apt as “Trying to Get to Heaven.” Each stanza in that song ends with the refrain, “I’m trying to get to heaven before they close the door.” The first stanza ends with:
I’ve been walking through the middle of nowhere
Trying to get to heaven before they close the door
What could be a better expression of the pilgrim’s purpose? Heaven, salvation, redemption, self-transcendence, liberation—all words used to describe the Holy Grail the Enneagram Four is seeking on the pilgrimage through life. Walking through the middle of nowhere, looking for the everything that exists in the midst of that nowhere, perhaps in the middle of it, in the center, at its heart.
I’ll end this post here. In the next post, because I ended this one with ‘heart,’ I’ll go into how type Four fits in to the Heart Triad, which is also referred to as the Image Triad, and how Dylan gives form to some of the common conundrums that Triad is faced with.
Those of you who read the last post will remember that I began with a quote by John Keats. He said that the poet has no identity, that he is the least poetical of creatures. This is the case when he first begins to write poetry. His task is to be what he is not yet but could become. His task is to become the invisible that he can express but cannot yet be. Expression can lead to Being. He must be what he is not now; He must be what he really is. When he is that, there will be no need to express it. The greatest poet does not write a word. Other people take down what he says, for he has lost the need to record that he is and who he is. He only needs to record it when he is not yet it and writes as a means to become it, and to record the distance between how he is at present and who he could become, which is who he truly is.
Some say that who we are can only be discerned in the present. I cannot verify this belief in my experience. Who we are at this moment can only be discerned in the present, of course. But is who we are in this moment who we truly are? The poet, at present, is no one. He has no identity, as Keats makes clear. He strives to have an identity, but only if that identity encompasses his whole person, if it is a complete identity. As one who writes poetry, he must go through everything. He must be divided, he must suffer, undergo all sorts of humiliations, but above all he must not accept the designation of ‘Poet,’ for that would give him an identity, which he does not have. People when they look at him or read his work and think ‘Poet’ would be thinking of their own ideas of ‘Poet’ and so would not see him as he is. If he sees this and continues to allow it, he also will begin to see himself as he is not, as they see him. He is the poet; he writes poetry. That is his identity; that is who he is.
But what does this mean? He does not know who he is. Only those who do not know who they are can write poetry. But now he is a poet; that is who they say he is. That is who he is and he knows it. Bob Dylan, who everyone labeled ‘Poet’ from the very beginning said in an interview, “A poet is anybody who wouldn’t call himself a poet.”
It makes little sense for someone who writes poetry to have that poetry published, to have his poems critiqued by people who already know, or at least think they know, who they are. A poem can only be read truly by those who truly do not know who they are. Only the ones who do not know are able to understand another who also does not know. A man who does not know who he is does not necessarily write poetry. Writing becomes necessary according to the intensity of suffering that having no identity and not being whole entails. The more suffering, the more dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, the more necessary it is to write. Colin Wilson writes, “Language is the natural medium for self-analysis; the idea of ‘a way back to himself’ cannot be expressed in any other medium.” Writing is the way back to oneself, to unity, away from self-division. If someone is divided but neither knows nor cares, why should that person be concerned with the search for self and wholeness, a search in which the seeker will remain in a constant state of tension and angst, will feel alienated from others, and will be unable to find peace or rest? But the solitary, the one who knows and cares about his self-division, does not seek peace or rest. He knows that he will find neither as long as he stays divided. Peace may come for a time, but it cannot be sought.
The more the solitary writes, the deeper he goes into the search for self and wholeness, the less present he becomes to the surface. It is almost as if he exists only in solitude. Amongst people he might as well not exist. This is because with others he is especially aware of his lack of identity, since most all communication with others comes from identity, what is called ‘personality.’ For one who knows he has no identity, what can he say? Someone who is perceptive about surfaces may get the distinct impression, “This person does not exist.” Someone who is perceptive to depth may feel there is much more and will be drawn to the unseen in that person.
The unseen in the solitary person is really the whole person, for almost everything about him is unseen. So the one perceptive to depth will intuitively understand the other’s essence, though the personality on the surface appears non-existent. The less false personality, the truer to essence. But there can be a personality type that is proud of its lack of falseness, its lack of false personality. Instead of making a false personality out of his lack of false personality, and having some sort of distorted pride in that, the solitary, the one searching for himself, must undergo the suffering inherent in this non-identified state, the humiliation of having no identity to fall back on. It is most important not to alleviate this tension in any superficial way. The only way out is through.
“A Poet is the most unpoetical of any thing in existence; because he has no Identity – he is continually in for – and filling some other Body – The Sun, the Moon, the Sea and Men and Women who are creatures of impulse are poetical and have about them an unchangeable attribute – the poet has none; no identity – he is certainly the most unpoetical of all God’s Creatures… not one word I ever utter can be taken for granted as an opinion growing out of my identical nature – how can it, when I have no nature?”
There is an expression I sometimes hear: ‘Can you meet my needs?’ I feel this very question is false and cannot be asked. Needs cannot be met by another. Another can only meet transient wants, desires. Others can only meet you where they are, which will leave you wanting. Needs that can be met by others are not true needs.
The single need of the solitary is to become unified in solitude, with the help of all the other solitaries of the ages.
One characteristic of the solitary, and one reason he remains alone, is because he knows how quickly he can attach to others. Do not suppose he always loves his solitude. He experiences both the joys of solitude and the pains of loneliness with greater intensity than the outward directed man. Unlike the outward directed man, who typically attaches to one person and remains with that person, a choice that alleviates loneliness as well as passion, the solitary attaches quickly and detaches just as quickly. He has had past experiences of falling for those who he felt understood him, though he could not know beyond doubt. But the solitary is without fail a deeply intuitive person in the sense that Carl Jung defined it when he wrote,
“In intuition a content presents itself whole and complete, without our being able to explain or discover how this content came into existence. Intuition is a kind of instinctive apprehension, no matter of what contents…Intuitive knowledge possesses an intrinsic certainty and conviction.”
So the solitary has felt understood intuitively, not knowing why he feels this way but knowing it is so. He also intuitively understands that the vast majority of people who he meets do not understand him, and this is why he attaches to those very few who do. However, knowing he is not yet unified and knowing he can only become so in solitude, the detachment comes not long after the attachment, and the solitary keeps within himself the one who is gone. He introjects the other, in psychological jargon.
We had a falling-out, like lovers often will
And to think of how she left that night, it still brings me a chill
And though our separation, it pierced me to the heart
She still lives inside of me, we’ve never been apart
The solitary needs to be intuitive and intellectual, emotional and physical. Only if he is balanced in these ways can he maintain his sanity while being alone. Only by being balanced can he become unified. Having a balanced array of strengths allows the solitary to stave off excessive loneliness and do the necessary work which must be done alone, the work of creation, of ecstatic vigil, of maintaining and strengthening a private love that has the unified strength of being undistorted by object, that is not lost to unloving institutions or diminished by a constant search for someone who will receive it and return it in whole. Love cannot be returned in whole because it cannot be given to another as a whole. To be kept whole it must not be revealed directly. To attempt to reveal it directly is to split it.
At the same time, there is a way of not revealing it that does not leave it whole, when the not revealing is not chosen, when the love is held in out of fear while the person desires to find an object for it. In the solitary poet, this holding in of love can exist with the desire to keep it whole. He understands that his very self, what Keats calls his unpoetical character, his lack of identity, makes a long-term love relationship where he keeps his love whole impossible. He is not nearly consistent enough, not at all certain enough in himself, far too doubtful of any possibility of happiness with another. The solitary would need to be given the opportunity to spend months at a time out of sight of the other. If this is not possible, he will probably make both his and the others’ life a misery. He will look for some way to feel in a more intense way than it’s possible to feel in a day-to-day relationship, at the expense of the relationship itself. In a life of routine where passion must necessarily be deadened in order that work can be done, the solitary feels himself deadened and can do no work, for his work is the work of passion.
The solitary is nothing if not a passionate person. One reason he remains solitary is because his passion is so deep down, so invisible to the eyes of others. The only way he can express it is through nonverbal forms, through music and dance and art. It is not possible through conversation, so he tends to be silent because he desires to be authentic more than he wants to be on good terms with superficial relations, if good terms are synonymous with inauthenticity. What are good terms? Usually terms that lack passion. Unspoken terms that everything will be out on the surface and spoken, except for the terms of course, which remain unspoken. When all is ‘open communication,’ then communication opens no doors to the unseen. Doors remain closed and people remain divided.
Even if the solitary believed in being on good terms, if he could not speak to the other of his terms — that there are things that must remain unspoken — it would not be worth his effort. For one thing, he could not help but become aware that he is going against his own essence by doing so, moving away from unification by attempting to be on good terms with other divided people. Though he does not know who he is, he knows he acts as someone he is not when he tries to be on good terms.
And the solitary draws a line here. In art, it is acceptable to speak out of character, in the voice of another real or created person, for in that case he is empathizing in a deep way with another, he is actually becoming that other — “filling some other Body”— taking the form of another for the sake of expressing a truth beyond himself. But what truth is he expressing by being someone else in everyday relationship? He is only exposing himself to the untruths necessary to be on good terms — unspoken terms of repressed passion — in society. In society, the solitary must be another, as he can only be himself when alone, though who he is remains in a constant state of change and flux. What does not change is this: Who he is only reveals itself when he is alone.
But let the solitary be careful not to create an identity out of his solitariness, for the creation of identity is the work of the social world. In creating an identity out of being solitary, the solitary will not be a solitary — in fact, he will be renouncing who he is by saying he is that — because identity and solitude are opposed. The solitary is such as he is because he lives with the tension of having no identity, of being no one to others, so he can discover who he truly is. Being ‘unpoetical,’ having no ‘unchangeable attribute,’ he writes poetry until he is what he writes and no longer needs to write himself into Being.
It is also crucial that the solitary not avoid others solely because it is with them that he feels most alone. In that way he would be like the other-directed or outer-directed man who does not want to be alone because that is when he feels most alone. Whereas the solitary feels least alone when alone, in solitude.
Either the solitary will make an identity out of his solitariness, which is actually a renunciation — though it may be meant to be a celebration — of true solitariness, or he will renounce being a solitary with the knowledge he is doing so, go against his identity-less nature to try and find some niche where he can be someone, using some talent or other he might possess and being rewarded for that talent. But that talent will only come from what solitariness remains in his compromise. There can be no compromise in the solitary. Having an identity as a part of the social world is a compromise, and compromise itself belongs to the social world. Therefore, the solitary cannot compromise. He can write as long as he does not call himself a writer. He can dance as long as he does not call himself a dancer. He can teach as long as he does not call himself a teacher.
Instead, he must aim to accept his own solitariness. One way to do this is to learn to be comfortable with his silence, to refrain from speaking unless he feels compelled from within to do so. There have been and will continue to be many times when others try to compel him to speak, or gently push him to do so. That others will feel uncomfortable with his silence cannot be denied, and whether their approach is forceful or gentle is due to their own personality and makes no real difference. It is still an effort to coerce no matter how gentle.
The solitary must maintain his silence until the words are compelled out of him from within rather than from without. Maintaining his silence will also increase the tension in him. What is in him will strive with more desperation to find its way out. Unable or unwilling to turn to relations, he will be forced to find another outlet. His creative work will begin to take on the aspects of the solitary — passionate, intense longings unable to be communicated in any other way.
Those who feel the most confusion are typically also those who are able to express their souls’ struggle most clearly, while those who are without much confusion have little need or desire to express their own relative lack of struggle. If the latter group, the larger one, were to express their lack of confusion or struggle in a work of art, would-be appreciators would perhaps struggle not to be confused by it; the piece of art would likely lack the clarity the artist feels in life. Creative work is borne more from confusion than from clarity. It is the need to find clarity, to make sense of things, which spurs people to create. If someone is already sure of his life, if he already has a clear and well-constructed identity, then attempting to create will perhaps bring him face-to-face with the confusion he had heretofore avoided, could if he is lucky make him question whether his life is really as clear as he thought, whether looking in the unclear waters might be more in line with his no longer easily discernible purpose.
But that wouldn’t be lucky at all.
Does nothing satisfy?
I begin the day already frustrated.
My first thought?
Whatever I do today will only leave me empty.
Nothing I do can give me what I need.
It is because I need that I stay frustrated.
Finally I ask myself:
What do I need?
I need to do something to relieve this emptiness.
If I do nothing, will this emptiness leave me?
No, whether I do something or nothing,
The emptiness remains.
It remains whether it is hidden or apparent.
Nothing relieves it.
Everything I do either hides it better or makes it clearer,
But nothing takes it away.
I cannot be relieved of it simply by leaving it behind.
What is there to leave behind?
It can’t be left behind because
It’s not even here.
It’s an absence,
One that I feel
More than I feel anyone else’s presence.
It’s a not-here
That makes me feel not-here
And everyone else seem not-there.
Would I need to be someone else to not feel it?
Is who I am formed from what I lack?
If I were not me,
Would I feel less not-here?
If I were not here,
Would I feel more like me?
If I am not even here,
What can my purpose be?
I can do nothing unless I am here,
But nothing I do can take away who I am,
And who I am is not separate from what is not-here.
Who I am is more than what is here,
But what I say means less than what I hear.
I speak of what is not-here,
But I listen for what is here.
I feel an absence,
But I listen for a presence.
What is present here is more than who I am,
It means more than what I feel,
But what can it mean if I can’t hear it?
What do I need?
I need to hear what is here;
I am frustrated when I feel only what is not.
Is there anything here
That can relieve me
Of what is not?
Is there anything not-here
That can help me
Perceive what is?
I begin the day already frustrated,
And I admit that I do not know why.
I also cannot say why
The not-here feeling always seems to linger here.
But here is the not-here.
I feel it now as I do most every day.
The not-here will be here whether I let it or not,
But this once I do not deny it or fight it.
I am here and so is the not-here.
I do nothing.
I can’t think of a single thing I could do
To take away what is not even here.