This day, Holy Saturday, the day when Christ rested, His work completed, in Sabbath repose, the day when He rested in the feminine earth, in a womb of rock, was the day of my mother’s death, on April 2, 1994. It was an entire lifetime away for my younger daughter, and at this distance I was quite a different person, a seminary student working at the First Presbyterian Church in Far Rockaway, courting my present wife. Yet I am also the same as I was then. One remarkable thing that I discovered from psychoanalysis is our sameness through the years. I am hardly the person today that I was yesterday, and yet I am the same person I was when growing up in Central Islip and Sayville, where of course my mother was very much a part of my life. She was in fact at the center of it, not consciously but unconsciously. It was her constant encouragement of my creativity, artistry, story-telling, and imagination, that formed me, and also her encouragement of experience and her stressing the importance of intimacy, especially that between a man and a woman. She made me realize the importance of sensuality, of touch (especially skin to skin), and visual beauty, and the feel of music and lyrics set to music. She taught me the importance of feeling (even as my father undermined this). She loved theatre and the love story—apparently she especially liked the hopeless love story. Always, though, she encouraged creativity and humanity. Yet she was in an (apparently) loveless marriage. She and my father seemed united by their desire to raise us well, and they did this. Her emotional contribution, though, is really what made me inwardly, in spite of the huge intellectual component contributed by my father (even though my mother was at least as bright).
My father, whose memory I also cherish, probably did love my mother but was overwhelmed—as we all were—by her emotional energy and intensity. (I think even she was! for it left her unhappy and unstable.) He withdrew into a grandiose intellectual fantasy that was at home with the caricature of a Himalayan hermit (who read the New York Times!). He bequeathed to me a love of philosophy and logic and scholasticism, of abstraction and ruthless metaphysical probing, things that he fantasized about more than practiced. Yet he too longed for intimacy—a fantasy that he savored; but the power of real women who could engage the whole person threatened the safety of his artificially constructed self and sanity. He longed to feel deeply, and probably did, but the expression of warm emotions never became more than a fantasy. For years, he scorned emotionality (because of my mother!), even though no intellectual life worth having can be sustained without it.
For all the mental skills that he gave me, however, at this point in my life it is not his influence that has succeeded, but my mother’s, even if it is in this mixed context (I have received so much from both of them: what they have given is heaped so high on my lap that I have to lean sideways to see around it). Outwardly, in most of my life’s major decisions, my father’s influence can be seen, but inwardly there is another story. It was even the art of her Episcopal Church that held me and holds me still (if only I was not stuck in the ministry of the artless Presbyterian Church—that was my father’s “orderly” influence; he came out of a cold Nordic Lutheran background; but even the Episcopal Church has ‘died’ and is no longer what it was once: what it was for us when we were growing up). But the austerity of pure philosophy and meditation does not work for me any longer except as ancillary pleasures and disciplines. It is the power of the narrative, and the love between a man and a woman, and the expression of the heart that matters—even if, even though, my life seems loveless now. (To my dear ones, I say I wish I had so much more of you!) I am in a desert, and all I have is the imagination, and the skill of artisanship—undeveloped—of my eye and hand. In this inner respect, my life too feels like a waste, a huge disappointment, and loveless, without any closeness or anyone to know my heart. Yet the reason for this is that I still hide it, I still protect it (like my father did). What would happen if I removed the veil and just let myself be?
I can’t. There is too much anger, too much regret, too much disappointment. What kind of person would that be for others? Yet somehow, that is the path, I think. I wish my mother were still here, able to have learned the lessons that she needed to learn, and able to teach me …
I mourn your passing, Mom. I mourn the lessons you did not learn. I am grateful that so much of me is you, and I hope that the difference will make a difference. Though, you were also so much more than I ever was or can be, so much more lively, colorful, diverse, public, social and beautiful. I am such a bore in comparison, and—by my own tendencies—friendless and unsocial. I say only “God” can help me, but what is the truth of that? Maybe the god of religion will not and cannot help me. Maybe by my turning to this stone introverted figure I have ruined my life and distorted my personality. I wish you were here for me to talk to—how interesting our conversations would be now!
What is the anger that would drive us to commit murder against—ourselves?
Anger at the whole world … anger at the way we are with the world … anger that we do not have the capacity to free ourselves from the world and its censure, its disappointment with us, its meanness and cruelty … anger that we do not find in the world the love that we were meant to find in someone. (I am well aware of what I am revealing about how Oedipal issues have shaped me. Because of my own history I cannot dismiss Freud as easily as others do!)
I resolve to not commit murder against myself. Was it not my father who first did this, which is why he became so increasingly schizoid? My imagination and my creativity are not gifts to be scorned but to be taken seriously and allowed room for—in spite of how little they may be valued by others—and my desire for intimacy I must not push aside, in spite of my lifelong handicap and lack of development.
This Holy Saturday I reflect on how the Son rested in the womb of the Father, waiting to emerge with the Divine Feminine, the Holy Spirit, with whom He mutually indwells (and always has), Each always and dynamically interpenetrating the Other in the giving and receptivity of Love. Tomorrow He will emerge from the womb of the earth with our skin and flesh, our sight and hearing and smell, in the ubiquitousness of the Holy Spirit. Through the Gospel the Father mysteriously plants Him as a seed within us to germinate through the Holy Spirit as our true self, our most primal face, the original Source of that liveliness and creativity and desire and passion and love that we recognize most truly as our “own”—that we lost, and perhaps can find as we truly gaze in the face of another, and see it also originating there. Hmm.
In the Song of Solomon, we read: “On my bed night after night I sought Him whom my soul loves; I sought Him, but found Him not. I will rise now and go about in the city; in the streets and in the squares I will seek Him whom my soul loves. I sought Him, but I found Him not. The watchmen who go about in the city found me—‘Have you seen Him whom my soul loves?’—scarcely had I passed them when I found Him whom my soul loves; I held Him and would not let go until I had brought Him into my mother’s house and into the chamber of her who conceived me.”