My Secret Life: A Brief Meditation on The Way Into Depth

My Secret Life: A Brief Meditation on The Way Into Depth August 28, 2020




The other day someone cited something Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote in his novella, “Chronicle of a Death Foretold.” “Everyone has three lives: a public life, a private life, and a secret life.”

I found it sticking in my head. Now I am cautious about categorical assertions. But. Well. We have three lives. The public one is obvious. Nearly everyone can talk about the difference between it and one’s private life. Those who assert otherwise, frankly, I find them bragging. And, while there are degrees of success, of integration. I think bringing our public and private lives together is a wonderful project. And it is continuously aspirational.

And then there’s the secret life.

I googled the phrase “secret life,” and was mildly surprised how the first link was to an article on, “My Secret life,” the title of a supposed memoir of a Victorian Englishman’s sexual adventures published at the tail end of the Nineteenth century. Which I find more than interesting. No doubt if we’re going to talk secret life, sex is likely to have a big part of it. Acted on, or, simply part of the background noise of one’s inner life.

True. But. I have no doubt, and looking at my own heart, sex is not the end of the matter. Not by a long shot.

The other principal reference that popped up in that google search was to Leonard Cohen’s song.

In my secret life
In my secret life
In my secret life
In my secret life

I saw you this morning
You were moving so fast
Can’t seem to loosen my grip
Well on the past
And I miss you so much
There’s no one in sight
And we’re still making love
In my secret life
In my secret life

I smile when I’m angry
I cheat and I lie
I do what I have to do
To get by
But I know what is wrong
And I know what is right
And I’d die for the truth
In my secret life
In my secret life

Hold on, hold on, my brother
My sister, hold on tight
I finally got my orders
I’ll be marching through the morning
Marching through the night
Moving cross the borders
Of my secret life

As is so often the case when one hears our brother on the intimate way, Leonard Cohen, one quickly finds the mess and the beauty of the mess.

Me I have two great projects in my life. One is the spiritual quest. I’ve followed it as a winding path through shade and darkness. For me the direction has never, well not as I can recall, been upward, up that mountain. Rather it has been downward. Into the dark. The principal lamp guiding my path has been Zen’s meditation disciplines, along with a lifetime of retreats starting with a couple of years in a monastery in my youth. Framed in many ways by my naturally critical disposition and with that a bias toward what is sometimes called Rational Religion and elsewhere as Religious Liberalism. Technical terms I’ll let you look up, if you’re interested. But taken all together, my path.

Practicing with and leading Zen groups is an enormous thing for me. Writing some books, maintaining a blog (a bit spotty of late. I apologize), writing articles. Oh, there’s also that thirty years as a Unitarian Universalist minister, twenty-five in parish life. Public life. Marriage. Family life. I think those last things, personal relationships, family especially, are what most people think of as the private part of their lives.

And the dreams. Like Leonard’s poem. In addition to, and intersecting at times, there is my inner psychological life. Some elements of this have been compartmentalized. Probably because the psychological is where the secret life lives. Acted on, or just dreamed.

There’s that.

All that stuff.

And for the last couple of decades plus a few more years I’ve been focused on integration. That aspirational thing bringing my public and private lives together.

But what about the secret life? The messy thing? The thing I don’t feel necessary to share with any random person I encounter on the street. But it is critical to know as much about as I can.

That, too.

And. I believe that “I can” is also important to note. We are mysterious beings. Our minds are often described as conscious and unconscious. And I think that’s a useful demarcation. But reality is more complex, what we think of consciousness is some mysterious thing related to our place in the universe. Our awareness is a sparky thing, flashes and intimations, and symbols, most mysterious of all as words. And sentences. And paragraphs.

And feelings. Waves of feeling. Oceans of feeling.

And it all swirling into the depths.

Spiraling downward. Into the dark.

Bottomless. Boundless. And so appropriate words I use to point toward it tend to cluster around darkness and not knowing.

And this path, the path I’ve found is intimacy.

integration, that path of integration is simply opening ourselves to ourselves.

And with that to the universe itself.

At least so it seems.

So it seems…

At least in my secret life…



"James, thank you for this fresh breeze of truth. On Holy Saturday, all pretense is ..."

The Zen of Holy Saturday: A ..."
"Thanks for this. Putting Amato and O'Brien in my queue. And so glad you included ..."

The Short Course in Zen: Five ..."
"The Ten Ox-Herding Pictures are fascinating and have everything in them that anyone needs to ..."

The Fat Man and the Ox

Browse Our Archives

error: Content is protected !!