Relationships, freedom and berries

1

My friend told me a story the other day.  She said, what if you’re hungry and you know that red berries are easy to find, they will always be there? Blue berries are much rarer and more elusive. Maybe because of that, when you do find them, you get that extra burst of flavour and delight.  Which do you prize more, the red or the blue?

How do we value what we receive?  We may value the red berries for their reliability and steadfastness, the blue berries for their unpredictability.  Perhaps we take the red berries for granted, we can take or leave them, they may lose interest for us just because they are there. We eat them to survive. The blue berries may inspire greater attachment and sometimes even addiction. Both bring joy to life and, of course like anything else, it is possible to become addicted to joy.

Where is that fine line between caring for and about, and attachment, that may even border on addiction?  These are some of the questions that came up when reflecting on berries!

I’m torn between blue and red berries myself, when it comes to life. I like them both – not equally but differently.  Life would be depleted without either, and unsurvivable without both. 

We cannot be totally without preferences, without responses, without ego, nor would we want to be all the time; this is what makes us who we are, this is what gives us life – and yet how do we make sure our responses are healthy and life-sustaining?

Even birds have favoured seeds and berries – hence the current research project to discover the seeds that turtle doves prefer in order to preserve and grow their dwindling population.

So, turn the berry into a person, and that defines relationship. Some people are there for you, you feel they will always be there even as you learn that everything can change; yet you prize and value them for that Thereness which they offer you right now. You may be attached to them, but in a kind of loose, undemanding way. Is that because you believe there’s no risk to their Thereness?

Other people are here and there now and then, sometimes with you sometimes not. They are delightful and energising when they’re there. The question is – how does their intermittent Thereness affect their pull for and on you?  Do you get hooked on the uncertainty or do you get fed up?  Does absence make the heart grow fonder?  Can the uncertainty be used consciously as a tool to identify, expose and even intensify attachment?

Through practice and self-study, it is possible to observe the patterns in yourself, in others, between you, and move closer to a dispassionate state, a more flexible state of greater freedom from being affected by external circumstances. It is possible to survive on any berries or without berries – for a time, anyway. You can fast, or you can feast. 

Can you be tenderly amused by it – the response it prompts in you? And can you take it seriously, without getting too heavy about it?  Do you care, with a light touch?

Or do you go off in search of honey berries instead? (These are berries that gradually ripen to blueness, from Siberia, rarer still, and meant to be this year’s most desirable crop.)

2

I’m not pixels on a web-page

Nor a ghost in your machine

I don’t sit inside your mind-cage

Nor keep your conscience clean

I am a real live person

You could call me on the phone

I stand beneath the same sun

And I call my life my own.

– Vivienne Tuffnell, shared on Facebook

Life on the internet is strange.  However, I have come to realise Facebook is my friend. All the names and faces, the little avatars, are just different manifestations of informing spirit. Facebook isn’t just the delivery channel, Facebook is an informing spirit. Who else could bring Thoreau and Jung together, cheek to jowl, on my News Feed?

“The pendulum of the mind oscillates between sense and nonsense, not between right and wrong.”

― C.G. Jung

“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”

–Thoreau

These two Facebook voices were unconsciously dialoguing with each other, or so it felt to me, and I derived meaning from their exchange. 

I love the juxtapositions, the unexpected and bizarre conjunctions, amidst the rest.  As in real life, so it is on Facebook. There are the red berries and the blue berries. You know what you can expect, and do you devalue it because it’s certain to be there? Is it the blue berries who get the special attention, the leap of the heart, the burst of mental energy?  Can you really tell the difference between what you might take to be a red berry and a blue?  Maybe we need to be reminded sometimes.

How do you feel when the red berries don’t show up?  If you get wind of that, do you try and stockpile fuel like when the tanker drivers threaten a strike?  Maybe the red berries need a break sometimes, maybe they’re busy, or they feel like going on strike.  Maybe they experiment with being a blue berry sometimes, to see and show you what it’s like.

Can a leopard change its spots?

The Tree of Scarlet Berries

The rain gullies the garden paths

And tinkles on the broad sides of grass blades.

A tree, at the end of my arm, is hazy with mist.

Even so, I can see that it has red berries,

A scarlet fruit,

Filmed over with moisture.

It seems as though the rain,

Dripping from it,

Should be tinged with colour.

I desire the berries,

But, in the mist, I only scratch my hand on the thorns.

Probably, too, they are bitter.

– Amy Lowell

3

The games people play….Eric Berne’s famous work needs an update and expansion to include internet games. Beyond the meaningful randomness, that’s another reason why the Facebook Newsfeed is such a rich tapestry of life.  You have everything on it from factual updates about the world picture and the minutiae of someone’s life, to someone else’s humour that might also be your own, to sincere wishes for life improvement, to attention-seeking strategies, to pleas for help from victims to rescuers,  even persecuting comments such as threats to ‘defriend’ …. to genuine exchanges, sharing of items of mutual interest,  thoughtful reflections, quotations, art, music, poetry, offered without the interference of ego.

Eric Berne’s games are serious, and people can get hurt.  I have friends who won’t use Facebook not because they think it’s superficial but because they find the anxiety of whether someone in particular, or anyone, will respond to their post or their comment too intense; their ego feels battered and rejected if no one does.   These feelings come and go, they are rich material for self-study and practice, and you can get past them.

Whether the ego feels a little overlooked or undervalued in a moment doesn’t matter in the greater scheme of things, and staying with those feelings is powerful.  What does matter are the underpinning relationships, and they are as real as you let them be.  Conducting them with care, respect and reciprocity is a responsibility and a gift.

Interestingly, as I’ve written this post, I’ve seen someone enquire over the disappearance of a Facebook friend saying they were ‘Facebook-worried’ about this person – as if it wasn’t real concern, or somehow they felt sheepish or embarrassed about it, because it’s only online.

That makes me think of Viv’s poem.

‘I’m not pixels on a web-page

Nor a ghost in your machine

I don’t sit inside your mind-cage

Nor keep your conscience clean

I am a real live person…’

Maybe sometimes we forget this, the reality of our online connections, just as we may take for granted our three-dimensional relationships in life.  We tread on them, making crushed berries. We scrape our hands on the branches in our desire to get the fruit.

Yet the berries are there, and they are as sweet as we let them be.

Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;

And, in the isolation of the sky,

At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make

Ambiguous undulations as they sink,

Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

Wallace Stevens, from ‘Sunday Morning’

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This entry was posted in connections, friendships, groups, internet life, Jung, organisational life, writing, blogging, yoga. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Relationships, freedom and berries

  1. nadinefawell says:

    My attention span is not usually this long, but you kept me right there with you! Good work.

  2. Viv says:

    This was a brillient piece of work and very inspiring. I do live a certain percentage of my life online and the relationships are very real and you can be as hurt by an online friend as by someone you interact with offline.
    At the weekend, I had a bit of an upset when someone chose to message me on Twitter to tell me in no uncertain terms, and in a very judgemental way, that they were unfollowing me forthwith. This was swiftly followed by an unfriending on Facebook too. I’d suspected it was coming and was surprised how little it truly hurt me. One of my former students, a lovely Basque lad told me via (haha) FB chat that the person could not ever have truly been my friend to have treated me that way.
    red berries or blueberries. Hmmm. Bit of both. xxx

  3. Madhu Sameer says:

    The red-berries in my garden are rare, I have plenty of black ones…. 🙂

    Nice work…

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