Saturday, October 6, 2012

I walk the Way alone

It started innocuously enough.  It was date-night last night, and we were talking about our youngest daughter, and how, if she were a boy, I might have had a son to accompany me to LDS general conference Priesthood meeting.  I have always gone alone, because we have no sons. 

We talked about how our youngest daughter, were she a son, would not go with me this time because at 20 she would be on a mission, because, as my wife said, "Going on a mission is a commandment."

I replied, "No, going on a mission is guidance, not a commandment."

She retorted, "Let me stop you right there.  We're not having this conversation."

I felt a bit hurt by that, but said as nicely as I could, "Why not?  That kind of shuts down dialog doesn't it?  I feel strongly that when we impute a 'commandment' from 'guidance', we create too many laws, too many rules, and isn't this exactly what Jesus objected to of the leaders of his time?"


We went on to play miniature golf, trying our best to talk about nothing meaningful.  At one moment, delayed in our play, I mentioned that our delays give us a chance to talk.  She shook her we're not going to talk.  At the end of the evening, were were sitting down over ice cream, and I realized we had nothing to say to each other.  I felt as awkward as I did at 16 on some of my very first dates. 

I recall my first date with my wife to be 34 years ago, I did ask her "What is the meaning of life."  She laughed and thought me strange.  We continued to date and got married a year and a day later.  We have had some very good times together, five wonderful daughters, and all the usual challenges and joys of a married life.  But we have never been able to talk about the Way and the answers, if any, to my very first question to her.  She merely tolerates my pursuits into the unknowable unknown, content in the certainty the Church gives her of the correctness of her path as a true believer.  I admire her constancy and certainty, but I am profoundly sad that we cannot share the joy I have found in the Way.

So, I walk the Way alone.  Sure, there are many others who share a view of the Way, but they are not here, and there is only so much we can do through words expressed on computer screens.  The nature of humanity is that we need each other, physically, emotionally, and spiritually present.  We communicate through nonverbal symbols and meaning that we cannot express in words.  Without this interpersonal presence, we are lacking -- I am lacking.

I have discovered that without the loving feedback from another human we cannot truly know ourselves: we emote things from our non-conscious mind that only can come back to us through the reflective non-conscious response from other humans.  Even animals can reflect our emotional status back to us, hence in touching and making eye and face contact with others, both human and otherwise, we see into ourselves and vice versa.

Peering into the eyes of another soul, and having that soul peer back at us creates a connection that cannot be simulated anywhere else.

Yet, as we become fearful of the influence of others; as we become resentful, tired, and frustrated at the wearying things we detest in our closest family and friends, we construct emotional walls in our emotional non-conscious minds that prevents the spiritual connection one with another.  In so peering into the eyes of another, instead of the joy of spiritual connection, we feel nothing.  We don't connect, because there is nothing to connect to -- the wall creates a defensive boundary that cannot be traversed.  I know I have done this in the past, and probably still do; but in the Way, one lets go of the fears and emotions that prevent one from sensing the Way and following it.

I have come to recognize, years ago, that it is impossible to change another human being.  I cannot force love, happiness, openness, or anything else.  I fail to do so many things that would be nice, to try to listen, to absorb, and to give in ways that might help.  I try to love unconditionally, but I fail, over and over again.  I keep hoping that giving, serving, loving unconditionally, and trying my best to listen, I will do that which is right and good.  Love needs no justification, it is beyond explanation.  I love because I must and cannot avoid it.  Sometimes, I do not feel love, acceptance, and validation in return -- maybe I expect too much.  But it does not change my love in the least. 

So, while I would guess that others may have companions and loved ones that share their path fully, this is not the case for me.  I walk the Way alone, today. 

Lao-tzu said,
How great is the difference between "eh" and "o"?
What is the distinction between "good" and "evil"?
Must I fear what others fear?
What abysmal nonsense this is!

The multitudes are peaceful and happy;
As if climbing a terrace in springtime to feast at the tai-lao sacrifice.
But I'm tranquil and quiet—not yet having given any sign.
Like a child who has not yet smiled.
Tired and exhausted—as though I have no place to return.

The multitudes all have a surplus.
I alone seem to be lacking.

Mine is the mind of a fool—ignorant and stupid!

Others see things clearly;
I alone am in the dark.
Others discriminate and make fine distinctions;
I alone am muddled and confused.

Formless am I! Like the ocean;
Shapeless am I! As though I have nothing in which I can rest.
The masses all have their reasons;
I alone am stupid and obstinate like a rustic.

But my values alone differ from those of others—
For I value drawing sustenance from the Mother.
I am certainly glad that no-one reads this stuff.


  1. Absolutely beautiful, that prose from Lao Tzu. And your post was just as meant a lot to me. Hang in there. If the Lord can open the eyes of Alma the younger because of the love, patience and prayers of a family member to whom he meant so much, then why not you? There is a type and shadow in EVERYTHING. There is so much to be learned from the Book of Mormon...and we have barely scratched the surface. As for me, I am still trying to make a scratch on that scratch on the surface. Much love, brother!

  2. Loved the post and I know the feeling. The ironic and ultimately sad thing is:
    when you say "She merely tolerates my pursuits into the unknowable unknown, content in the certainty the Church gives her of the correctness of her path as a true believer. I admire her constancy and certainty, but I am profoundly sad that we cannot share the joy I have found in the Way."...

    She is probably feeling the exact same way about you....wishing you could only understand the happiness that total submission to the gospel gives her.

    I am in the same boat as you...the great quandry is that peace and happiness comes in so many forms ... like fingerprints we each identify with a different pattern for peace....and we can't give someone else our pattern. Two people can be so close to one another and yet, so lonely.

    I am hoping for patience and discussion of the philosophy of the path is in accordance with the gospel....that part that says to continually seek truth through the inspiration of the spirit...hoping to help my other half get comfortable with that.

    Thanks again for sharing


  3. Ah, but you're wrong if you think nobody reads this stuff. Well done, my friend.

  4. I've been feeling frustrated, unseen, unheard, alone. Every time I try to put a voice to it, I just feel muddled. So, I just wanted to say that you have expressed your feelings well and you drew a picture of the emotions in my heart with your words. Thank you for writing.

  5. Great post, I identify with it very much and look forward to your future writings!

  6. Good post, Mark. I am glad that I ran across the link to it. I did not know that you blog. I am looking forward to reading more.