Several years ago, one of my mentors, Andrew Feldmar, shared a story about his mentor, R.D. Laing. Laing was an innovative Psychiatrist—who encouraged his patients living in insane asylums to instead go and live communally, in a house, or even with him and his family. He had the good sense to acknowledge that people who had so-called, “mental illnesses”, were not ill, but were simply having a normal response to extraordinary circumstances. These “circumstances” ranged from never-before-talked-about sexual and physical abuse, neglect, and in the case of schizophrenia, a cold and unavailable mother. Laing believed his patients needed to live in a family-type atmosphere where they could assert themselves and “fight it out” for what they wanted. It was a curative for having not been able to do that as children. It turned out he was right as many patients symptoms dissipated while they simultaneously began making nurturing choices like studying musical instruments and falling in love. Around the same time, Psychologist, Robert Firestone, was coming to the same conclusions, which he wrote about in his book, The Fantasy Bond.
The occasion giving rise to this conversation between Andrew was I was having questions about how to find deep fulfilment in the world. I was somewhere on the continuum with so-called mentally-ill people in that I was suffering the unsuccesses of looking to my love relationships, my friends, and society to deliver—and turns out most erroneously—to sustain me in a kind of ecstasy—be it of belonging or simply love. My life experiences were showing me there was nothing I could “secure” from the outside world and the idea that my life might proceed to its end without this birthright of ecstatic connection terrified me.
Andrew suggested a reframe: “You know Ronnie (Laing) thought about this his whole life. He said, “humans are bound to hurt you. They’re sure to fuck things up. It’s your spiritual relationships that would never let you down. Better to make a secure connection there.” According to Andrew, Laing was saying, better to let humans be fallible. Let them be.
Which brings us to today’s Sahius. “You don’t have a soul, you are a soul.” #WatchTheSahius miakalef.com
To say it yet another way, I’d like to hand the reigns over to one of the great articulators of soul-imbued wonderings, Rainier Maria Rilke, as he presents what we might keep in mind as we navigate the “beauty and terror” being human brings.
God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand. ~from The Book of a Monastic Life, Rilke’s Book of Hours