On Holy Relationships and Love

. . . in the relational domain of love the other is not asked and is not expected to justify his or her existence . . . love is unidirectional, and occurs as a spontaneous happening of accepting the legitimacy of the other as a matter of course . . .

~ Humberto Maturana

In general, I find it more helpful to think of “holy relationship” and “special relationship” as perspectives rather than fixed objects; that is, they are a way of seeing, rather than a thing seen.

bee_balm
Bee balm, one of my favorite flowers, struggling a little bit in the shady side garden . . .

This is helpful in two ways.

First, it shifts my focus away from the thing seen and back to my own mind, my own perspective, my own seeing. Thus, it places responsibility (response-ability) for love and healing where it belongs – in the mind, rather than in the separate object or image that the self perceives.

In doing so, it renders cause (and thus creation) an interior rather than an exterior process. It reinforces the critical ACIM concept that we cannot be affected by what it apparently outside; only the mind is causative. Only the mind heals; only the mind can be healed.

Taking this approach also means that rather than try to figure out whether an external relationship is right or wrong (or real or not real) I can focus on the helpfulness of a given perspective, and adopt it accordingly. As Francisco Varela points out, what is true is what is helpful. This is such as an important insight!

And what is helpful is what makes us happy, in the deep sense of meaningful work, fructive community, and healthy holistic relationships. Critically, it includes – indeed, is most usefully measured by – the happiness that we bring forth in others.

If one adopts this approach, then there are no holy or special relationships “out there.” Any relationship can be either special or holy depending on how one looks at it, how one perceives its function, what one asks of it, what one is ready and willing to bring to it and so forth.

Further, a relationship that is special at 7 a.m. can be holy at 7:05; and a relationship that was holy last night can become special as soon as the morning alarm goes off.

As well, what you perceive as a holy relationship may easily be perceived as special by me, and vice-versa. Really, what matters is the interior perspective in which the relationship is seen, not what an external observer sees, or how they describe what they see.

This leads to the second helpful aspect of seeing “holy relationship” and “special relationship” as perspectives.

If you and I both look at X and you see “holy” and I see “special,” what does that say about X? And, just as importantly, what does that say about our seeing?

These are important questions, and it worth giving sustained attention to them. They can be doors through which nonduality can be clearly perceived.

It took me years to satisfactorily respond to those questions. When that learning process was finished, I found a new way of thinking about questions like these.

Ever since Aristotle, it has been a staple of western thought that a statement cannot be both true and false. The classic example is “I am a liar.” If it is true, then it is false. But if it is false, then it is true. This is an impossible state of affairs!

However, Chris Fields among other thinkers has argued persuasively – incorporating fairly rigorous logical analysis and the quantum that, in fact, the universe does allow for a statement to be both true and false; that, in fact, this may even be a preferred – or actual, if you like – state of being (the formal name for this is dialetheism; I speak to it . . . humbly).

Even so, a human observers in the ordinary course of their observing cannot see it this way. We can appreciate the concept, but our minds don’t naturally adopt and hold all perspectives; they hold one. And that’s okay so long as we don’t confuse the one we hold for the truth (and, by extension, characterize the perspective of others as false).

Take your perspective seriously but not literally – how much of our living softens when we take this as if it were the law and the prophets . . .

On this view, a relationship is both holy and special. It is a midlife crisis and true love. Yet the splinter we are doesn’t perceive this until – miracle of miracles – we allow the other to be our self in which case, all of a sudden, all of the views are “ours” and peaceably coexist. This is why Humberto Maturana says that love is the consensual coordination of doings with others who could be our own self.

There is neither one nor another, nor one and another, and there is only one and another. In this way, our stranglehold on the external world loosens – or learns that there is nothing to grasp – and love remembers itself all and once.

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