You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves. Mary Oliver
In the morning after a rain when the ocean settles into the sky, the horizon looks true,
not divided but a continuum–grey on grey–indecipherably terra-firmament.
My life appears so linear, me moving my mother and father along their journey, as they once held my hand and led my toddling feet, cajoling them forward and dragging them back, the push and pull of a daughter’s love full of fear and longing as they travel into the night even as my daughters, soft and loosely tethered to my heels, unwittingly come along for that treacherous trek of mortality. But the line is an illusion. Time is recursively experienced and what else is there but subjective moments of breath?
Heidegger notes: Temporalizing does not signify that ecstases come in a ‘succession’. The future is not later than having been, and having-been is not earlier than the Present. Temporality temporalizes itself as a future which makes present in a process of having been. (Being and Time 68: 401).
The past, present and future are always with us in lived experience. I am one (of many others) with an awareness and constitution of my past, my history, born to certain parents in a particular calendar time, history, and place, aware that I exist–live, breathe, do–in the moment known as now until the someday I cease to exist and so experience time not as an arrow shooting from birth to death but as a walking simultaneity of past, future and present I carry and am.
Like time, bodies are continuous, only unmindful minds make it not so–the mime of generations. We are and are not the infant or/nor the corpse but live suspended between the two, seemingly marching forward from birth and facing death, but really carrying our birth and death with us at all times. Living with another human being is living with her patterns and hang ups developed from childhood, her fears of her own mortality and the actions and inabilities to love or trust or celebrate life due to her genetics, home life, experiences or attitude toward her own mortality. She is reckless because she can be in her twenties with so much life ahead or she is cautious and more discerning with the people with whom she spends time given she may only have a good ten or twenty years of life left on Earth. Death shapes her.
To clearly “see” ourselves poised for death sharpens our vision of what is real and true, who we are. Since I will die, I schedule my days full of stuff to do. Since I will die, I plan from the time I become aware of my impending death to go to school, get a career, a family–live a life in finite time. If I were immortal, would I choose to get up and go to work each day?
The realization that I am not, wearing my own death as a blanket across my face in order to make me see what I do in the unknown time allotted to me, who I am, is the experience of time that allows me to be my authentic self, roughly paraphrasing from Heidegger. We all know what it feels like to have a close call. The aftermath of that potentially fatal collision–near miss–shows us who we are, what we are made of, what we hope for, and what is important to us–truly, not lost in the doing-ness of the day. So how to keep death in front of our eyes?
Read a lot. Observe. Listen. Think. Feel. Try on faces, clothes, philosophies, scenarios, and lovers; test your instincts and learn. “Love who can love you the way you need and want to be loved,” I tell my daughters. The formula is simple. It only takes knowing who you are, letting the “soft animal of your body love what it loves.” Time as aggregation, an amassment of experience and burning, is the fullness of space opening up as the big bang deity of the universes spreads the creation of all we are and imagine unending.
The deep field experiment (http://youtu.be/LENqnjZGX0A) of the Hubble telescope reveals that the infinite is even more than we circumscribed previously. David Eagleman, in his informative and entertaining Youtube video on Possibilianism, remarks that the Hubble telescope identified over ten thousand galaxies in a pencil eraser sized spot in seemingly starless space viewed from Earth. Upon learning this, I was struck with how humans are unfathomably minuscule and particulate and endless as moving dust of eons innumerable.
Perspective. There is no time or reason to suffer needlessly at the hands of others in the finite or infinite. Each human is an ever burgeoning expanding and shrinking self in a moment. We are not either-or’s, especially not labels that predict behaviors merely for the sake of another’s comfort. I don’t have to identify as heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual in order for someone to understand how to act with me, determine what interests or potential lies in me.
Gender is not merely anatomy. Sexuality is not merely the act. In the words of Robyn Ochs, bisexual activist, writer, professor:
“Sex is between your legs; gender is between your ears.” In real people, sex and gender do not always correspond…sex and gender each exist on a continuum; thus there are more than two sexes, and more than two genders.
This resonates with my lived experience thus far. We cannot know another by assuming we know, only intuit and strive and thrive, be brave and curious. Love is all we get in finite time. Judge not so unthinkingly.