Throughout history, those afraid of the life of feelings have undermined their power and dismissed their rightful role in experiencing truth. For much of my life, I’ve been called a Romantic, which is true, but not complete. It’s like defining the sea by its surface. Romantic is a term that has been diminished through the years. Today, it denotes a sentimental outlook on life fueled by unwarranted optimism. At heart, though, it has always been an outlook that assumes there’s something larger than the individual. All the energy surrounding such a view arises from a belief in the interconnectedness of all Life and the experience of Wholeness.
At its core, Romanticism suggests that we can become whole through inwardness, by feeling and inhabiting our “inscape,” as Gerard Manley Hopkins calls it. “Feeling is all,” as the German poet Goethe says.
I would suggest that a mature Romantic is someone who accepts the hard realities of life as well as the unseen connections that knit those hard realities together. The great Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz, was, in my view, a mature Romantic. He was accurate and realistic about the terrible hardships he experienced and witnessed growing up during the Holocaust. Yet, from under all that, even in his darkest poems, there is a light emanating, informed by something larger than what any one individual can go through or bear witness to. This is what a mature Romantic commits to: a devotion to the truth of living while never diminishing or giving up on the majesty of life that holds that messy turbulence of truth.
I am deeply Romantic in that I believe feelings are the threshold of Spirit. I also believe deeply in the act of expressing, that it helps us move toward being complete and whole. Perceiving, feeling, thinking, and expressing are all parts of a lifelong process that is equivalent to inhaling and exhaling.
A Question to Walk With: Describe someone you admire for how they look at reality. Then, describe someone you admire for how they see the connections in life. What can you learn from each of them?
This excerpt is from my book, Drinking from the River of Light (Sounds True).
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