15 Jun 2007 12:46 pm

THE ROAD TO INTIMACY

In this chapter we intend on taking a closer look at the dynamics of intimacy and at some of the skills and attitudes which foster an intimate approach to human experience and the world around us. Someone wishing to reassess their priorities may feel a little lost as to where to begin. They may be confused as to what is indeed the best road to intimacy. Sure it is easy to say we should follow our desires to become closer to things, but what does that mean? How does one know they are cultivating the right form of intimacy?

First of all, there is no one right path to follow. Such a goal is structured in a desire for perfection which is directly opposed to our experience of intimacy. A right decision regarding intimacy is verified through reflection, through assessing its effect on lived intimacy and long-term feelings of satisfaction. Momentary happiness belongs to momentary things, but life long tasks should reap life long benefits.

When constructing priorities one should look to see what the proposed payoffs are and how they directly relate to things such as accomplishment, fulfillment and personal satisfaction. The success we gain should not be an empty victory, but a vehicle for us to become closer and more knowledgeable of whatever it is that is attracting our desire in the first place.

If, when having sex with someone, my only goal is to have an orgasm, the experience holds very little potential for enduring satisfaction or intimacy. Yet, if I’m making love with someone to express and increase my appreciation and knowledge of them, then the end of the event holds a significance which will affect my life for some time to come. The payoff for making love in this case is the desire for an increased closeness with my lover.

The example of making love versus just having sex is an obvious contrast between momentary and long term benefits, but all priorities can be evaluated in this way. This is why many people refer to certain types of employment as being “dead end jobs”. Such a job has no future, offers little opportunity for personal and professional growth, and holds no great significance for the future of man.

A career, on the other hand, is supposed to be filled with many opportunities for personal development. If a career does not offer much long lasting fulfillment it is a career in name only and not deserving of our dedication.

Even if we make solid choices offering us great opportunities for personal success and fulfillment, it is how we handle those choices which produces either intimacy or emptiness. There is no one opportunity beyond our ability to squander it, and there is no activity inherently fulfilling. There is only potential, and it is up to us to cash in on our opportunities.

Many times we have no one but ourselves to blame for the lack of intimacy in our lives. Often times we do not take advantage of our opportunities, while at the same time complaining about how empty and uneventful our lives have become. Often marriages, careers, interests and lifestyles which are very promising are mismanaged and abused.

Instead of addressing the real problems limiting our feelings of success we cite the relationships and events in our life as the problem. Rather than identifying our lack of investment in or poor approach to what we are doing, we find the fault lying outside of our control. This view is as disgusting as it is convenient and will bar us from ever finding any lasting fulfillment in life.

If one develops skills promoting intimacy they will be able to glean some fulfillment from even the most mundane task. Intimate attitudes and approaches will succeed in even the most restrictive situations. Not only will the skills and techniques of intimacy maximize the benefits of your experiences, but they will help you identify choices and options you are currently missing.

In the chapter on language and thought we recognized the pivotal role reflection played in helping us overcome our inhibitions and negative life patterns. It is through this process of reflection that we gain insights into both what we truly desire and the ways in which we access and deny intimacy in our lives. Through reflection our priorities take shape and become more integrated with who we really are, and not tied to old habits and prejudices.

Reflection, therefore, is an essential primary skill of intimacy. Introspection has us learn about ourselves and how we integrate with our environment. While unveiling and evaluating our basic approach to life, reflection also provides us with the self-knowledge needed to ascertain a realistic list of priorities.

The very acts of evaluation and assessment inherent in reflection have us get the most out of our experiences by infusing them with self-knowledge. The more thorough and honest our self-evaluation the more intimate we become with ourselves.

With the help of reflection all that we do or say is a possible source of intimacy through an increase in self-knowledge. Even a task as mundane as brushing our teeth gains significance when it is reflected upon. The kind of thoughts we have while brushing, how long we brush, where and when, and the fears and anticipations the ritual contains, are all ripe with self-knowledge, just waiting for our attention.

As we previously stated reflection does not need to be a lengthy and drawn out event. Most reflections are just flashes of awareness which temporarily interrupt the spontaneous flow of our thoughts. This awareness is not meant to replace or devalue spontaneous thought, but infuse it with significance and appreciation. Our awareness of our own thought process has us recognize how amazing we are, while providing us with an opportunity to guide or direct our future thoughts.

Lengthy reflection, when we slowly sift through our lives, has its personal benefits and impacts on our experience of intimacy. During a lengthy inventory of our lives is when our vision of our future becomes the most clear. This is the time when we not only become the most aware of our needs, but are able to fully consider the needs of others. Balancing our needs with those of people whom we value and cherish is a most difficult task which long-term reflection can accomplish.

Ego and Consciousness

The part of us which spontaneously lives in and responds to the world is very different from the part of us which assesses and evaluates our lives. A person who seldom reflects never gains a perspective or an appreciation of the complexity and awe of human experience.

Even though a great part of this century’s intellectual focus has been on the role of the ego in human experience, our perception of the ego is still shrouded in misconception and confusion. The ego (being conscious) is opposed to the unconscious. Therefore, according to our investigation, the ego is not part of our spontaneous life. The ego is present in the reflective act of our experience when we assess, appreciate and evaluate our experience.

If ego is the conscious aspect of ourselves it has little to do with our moment to moment experience in which we just spontaneously move about and reactively think. Breathing, walking, or reactively swatting at a fly near our face are not conscious decisions of an ego. Neither, then, should the flow of thoughts which come to us without our discretion be considered to be property of the ego. These unreflective thoughts are no more a process of our conscious awareness than the kicking or gag reflex.

The ego, according to this view, is that which guides and takes ownership for all of our experiences, our total history. It is that aspect of us that feels emptiness, and seeks intimacy and fulfillment. The ego needing some distance to become aware is a reflective function, the observer rather than the actor.

General psychology largely agrees with these views, but some schools often consider many aspects of unreflective experience to be ego experiences. How they accomplish this while maintaining that the ego is always conscious is beyond me and does not seem to correspond to actual experience.

Popular psychology would be in definite agreement with the view that our ego is bounded and influenced by all of our unreflected experiences. They too would contend that our inhibitions, faulty patterns and lack of fulfillment are structured in the unreflected (unconscious) aspects of our life.

Our solution of using reflection as the means of overcoming unnecessary limitations and attaining intimacy would find general agreement in the psychological community. Strict behaviorists would add that only the faulty rituals and not their cause need to be identified. We, too, have noticed that a total knowledge of anything is impossible, and we, therefore, should concern ourselves more with fulfillment than perfection.

A combination of eastern mysticism and western psychology has viciously attacked the realm of the ego, equating self-consciousness with pain and disillusionment. Yet, where are these criticisms coming from if not from self-consciousness? How can one criticize without evaluating and assessing, and how can one evaluate without being conscious?

One can claim that much of self-consciousness is mired in misinformation and in need of further clarification, but it is ridiculous to say that self-consciousness is an illusion. The anti-egoist claim the ego is the cause life’s pains and the source of deception and disillusionment. A life devoid of self-consciousness is one devoid of meaning, fulfillment, and any awareness of human experience. Ego-less experience can not be a human goal, for it is the pure annihilation of experience, reducing one to a life of an animal or a computer.

The eastern variation of this goal is the experience of cosmic consciousness or “being here now”. Cosmic consciousness, or enlightenment, as we have already seen is not devoid of individual awareness. The individuality and the uniqueness of experience is left unchanged in the life of the holy man, only the perspectives which promote pain are altered. The enlightened perspective is one finding joy and freedom in all experience, without being chained to all the petty fears and concerns which create the pain in human experience.

Our view of intimacy is in agreement with that of enlightenment in which perspective is all important to one’s happiness and self-fulfillment. An un-intimate life is bound to be filled with mistaken judgments causing pain and emptiness. One’s pain is only overcome by divorcing oneself from false priorities and cultivating a perspective of joy and fulfillment.

Where some people underestimate the value of consciousness in life, others over emphasize its role and function. The desire to “be here now” as exhorted by many eastern mystics is one example of overestimating the role of awareness in life. Oddly enough the goal of being present during all of our experience has spawned two mutually opposed ideas.

In one form the goal is to overcome one’s ego and just live. “Being here now” becomes equated with just accepting life on its own terms without contaminating it with our own personal desires, thoughts and needs. Life without desire and conscious thought is also devoid of any experience. Therefore, even the very desire to “be here now” is opposed to the stated goal. What can be more contradictory and unrealistic than the desire for experienceless experience?

Another interpretation of the desire to be here now over emphasizes the role of consciousness by expecting one to be conscious and aware of every moment of existence. An omnipresent awareness does not fit well with actual experience. This goal is unrealistic in many ways.

First, one can only be conscious of one thing at a time, for conscious awareness is a selection process. One can choose to be aware of the smell of the air, the scene before their eyes, or any other aspect of sensual experience, but cannot be aware of all sensation at one moment. In fact, our awareness can only accommodate a few aspects of a single sense at one moment. Sure we can flip from the top of a tree to a chimney stack to a bird flying across our view. Yet, at each moment we can only be aware of a small section of our visual field, which in turn is only a minuscule amount of the information bombarding our body at each moment.

Secondly, if one were to try to be aware of everything, they would never get beyond their breathing to consider anything else. Any moment spent with their attention away from their breathing would be unconsciously taking their body for granted, destroying their ideal of consciousness.

In the last chapter we noted how unrealistic it would be to learn everything consciously. Our body learns so many important and complex skills automatically by responding to the demands of life. Consciously learning a skill such as riding a bike, movement by movement, would be a very, very slow process.

Being aware of every moment of existence is just as unrealistic and detrimental to human experience as the goal to never interrupt life through individual awareness. The relationship between the body (unconscious) and reflection (ego) makes all experience possible. Without an ego there is no one to observe and appreciate experience. Without spontaneous (unconscious) perception there is no experience to be evaluated and cherished.

This is not to say the ego and the body are perfect and in no need of improvement. Many of the complaints and concerns regarding the ego are legitimate. An ego which reflects on little and habitually and blindly responds to the world around it, is likely to be petty and full of pain. This would reflect the ego of the inferior man, whose lack of potent intimacy strips his life of meaning and fulfillment. The ego of the superior man, whose awareness is steeped in the intimate will not be bound to life in petty and painful ways, but rather find fulfillment in the very process of life.

Consciousness and the ego are not only the problem, but they also contain the solution. Through maximizing the benefits of reflection (by using it to cultivate intimacy) one can use conscious awareness to gain a healthy and rewarding perspective of life while fulfilling one’s needs.

Intimate Approaches

We have already mentioned how intimate reflection can make the most of mundane experience. No matter how superficial a task is, we can use it as a source of self-exploration. Self-exploration leads to self-knowledge, which in turn leads to a greater clarity and understanding of one’s needs. Once we understand our needs, prioritizing them becomes much easier.

Prioritizing our needs makes it possible for us to plan our future. Our future plans thus being based on our needs will make it possible for us to choose activities and interests which promise to cultivate intimacy in our daily life.

The above chain of intimacy can be summed up in the following sentence. Reflection is at the heart of self-awareness, which is the basis of recognizing our real needs, which allows us to identify our priorities, which will cultivate intimacy in our lives.

When we approach life in an intimate fashion we put ourselves in the position to satisfy our needs. Needs are never totally fulfilled, but give birth to new desires and new needs. Yet, an intimate life is in love with the sense of becoming closer and, therefore, finds the very process of life rewarding. Intimacy never seeks a perfect static state or the cessation of all desire, yet delights in every need met while looking forward to the next challenge. Every success in life whets our appetite for more success, making us more confident and appreciative of our lives.

Since we have stated how any talent or skill can be misused or abused, we now need to ascertain the best way for us to approach intimacy through reflection. One of the most important aspects of reflection is in its ability to identify the negative patterns and habits we employ.

What makes these habits and patterns negative is the fact that they prevent us from experiencing intimacy. They may prevent intimacy for they are structured in an inhibition or prejudice which prevents us from becoming closer to others or to specific aspects of life in general. These negative patterns and habits may also be preventing us from identifying or recognizing important facets of life which could provide us with intimate experiences leading to increased fulfillment. These patterns may be negative because they are based in superficial needs, or incite us to spend our time cultivating unimportant things.

Reflection also has us analyze our thoughts and words to see if they house or promote any unhealthy stances or attitudes towards the world and experience in general. In other words, reflection has us stop taking the world and who we are for granted. The increased awareness it provides allows us to evaluate and assess our lives from the very way we take up and live a life. Reflection makes even our own experience of yourself an object to be studied and improved. An aware person is created when we ask the right questions during reflection. Right questions come easy when their objective is to increase our understanding and appreciation of ourselves and our world.

We often ask the wrong questions when our goal is to explain the world or try to force it to meet up to our expectations. The lazy person sees injustices and their questions are veiled attempts to appease their anger and express their complaints. Such a person never asks a question to learn, but only to indirectly demand the world to adapt and change to their unreflected needs and priorities.

If a person is truly asking a question, they are open to many possibilities and do not have a specific answer in mind. Expecting a specific answer shows a lack of adaptability and desire to know life on its own terms. Such a view is destined to be at odds with reality and, therefore, pain and conflict will result instead of intimacy and fulfillment.

An aware person is not offended by the possibility they may need to adapt or change in order to better facilitate intimacy. Change is only distasteful to an insecure unhappy individual threatened by their own experiences who impatiently demands life to be perfect.

While reflecting, our hearts should be full of questions. One becomes more intimate and feels closer through learning and understanding. A curious and open mind is the benefactor of intimacy. Therefore, we should never stop being the child who yearns to know why things happen, or how everything works.

A reflective mind takes as much joy in finding a new question to ask, as it does in finding an answer. The experience of intimacy is not just found in the revelation of an answer, but often accompanies the feelings involved in formulating the question. My care towards another is expressed whenever I consider their feelings, whenever I ask myself how I can better please them.

My desire to know, to understand, is itself an expression of intimacy. Even when no answer is found the very questions we ask can enrich and fulfill our lives. An important quest is its own fulfillment. A quest based on our highest principles is destined to fill our lives with importance. It is through the questions inherent in intimate reflection that we direct our lives towards quests which contain personal importance and meaning.

The more questions we ask ourselves the more sure we become of our answers and of our future goals. It is through discipline and consistency in both reflection and action that we fill our lives. There is no sure way to insure that our personal quests and interests are the best possible. Yet, through consistent examination of ourselves we can verify the importance and impact of each one of our quests on our daily lives.

The quality of the questions we ask directly affects our ability to accurately assess the long-term gains and repercussions of the activities and principles under consideration. Our goals and aspirations which fall short of fulfillment and intimacy usually suffer from short-sightedness, or from placing other goals above intimacy.

When people have a myopic view of success they may resort to lying, cheating and stealing to attain a goal. Though one can become highly influential, wealthy and even powerful through deception and cruelty, their rewards are seldom in the realm of intimacy. Any form of deception distances a person from themselves as well as others, which is why success, wealth and fame can be such empty experiences. A person who equates superficial success with happiness and fulfillment is destined to live an alienated existence.

A person who lies or steals to be successful is truly cheating themselves. Each deception creates a greater distance between them and the people they cheat. This distance is inherent in all they do making intimacy with others almost impossible. One cannot be intimate with someone they lie to, for the very act of lying creates distance. The joys gained through the spoils of deception are never as great as the joys of intimacy. Even if one takes great pride in their ability to deceive, use and fool others, these feelings will always be accompanied by the reality of the alienation such behavior fosters. The lack of trust and respect for others and oneself are always a distancing companion of deception.

The above example, though extreme, demonstrates the need for a person to thoroughly examine the repercussions of each and every goal and quest in their lives. The prime tool of evaluation should always be intimacy. Our questions and assessments should always be focused on how our experience of intimacy gets played out as our quest unfolds. The more pure and concentrated our intentions, the greater the potential for fulfillment and happiness.

Superior quests are born from a thorough examination of all intentions and repercussions involved. When intimacy stays central to our examination of and search for personal quests, we are in the best position possible to obtain personal happiness and fulfillment.

There are, of course, superior and inferior quests, and superior quests are attained from asking the right questions. Questions which are based on our individual needs, perceptions and interests (yet whose goals are always intimacy) are the most promising. Asking the right questions not only leads us in a the direction of intimacy, but as we have already noted are themselves a great source of personal fulfillment.

The subject matter of these questions are as diverse as our own personalities and preferences. There are as many noble quests as there are countless things with which to become closer. One can become closer to nature, explore human potential, or refine their skills of self-expression. One can spend one’s life investigating the entire galaxy, exploring the ocean depths, or examining the teeming life in a handful of sand.

A person may desire to become an athlete testing and extending the limits of human potential. They might decide to study the body through science with the same goal. A person may become an inventor or a carpenter to better understand man’s ability to create beauty and personal comfort. An individual may choose to be politically or legally active to have an impact on how people get along with each other. An individual may seek to express their inner most sentiments through music, dance, drawing, poetry or through any other art form imaginable.

The list of interests and quests having the ability to promote intimacy is virtually endless. So are the ways and means by which each and every one of these tasks can be accomplished in an intimate fashion. Our choice of interest is often not half as important as the way in which we approach our quest.

What we decide during reflective moments has a profound effect on our unreflected, spontaneous life. It is through reflection that we guide and direct our mundane experiences and the approach we take to those experiences. Since conscious awareness takes but a moment to appear and disappear, our mundane experiences can be unobtrusively infused with the objectives of reflective thought. The watchful eye of the reflective individual finds many opportunities to provide meaning and pleasure to the event at hand. Fulfilling moments of intimate revelation and appreciation are common experiences for the person who consciously outlines goals during reflective times.

In this chapter we are finding that the purity, integrity and quality of intimacy in our lives is dependent upon a number of skills. The cultivation of intimacy in our lives is dependent on our first being aware of what intimacy is, and how it fits into our lives. Through reflection we are able to attain the type of awareness and self-knowledge needed to prioritize and assess our needs which will color our specific journey towards intimacy. Successful reflection is dependent on a number of skills focusing on our ability to ask the right questions. In reflection we need to be disciplined, open and consistent while conducting a thorough examination of all the long and short terms repercussions on our experience of intimacy.

Our reflections, being an on-going process, should verify and validate their objectives and goals in all of our experiences. The quality of intimacy in our lives is fine tuned each time our priorities and expectations are tested in the real world of lived experience.

The quality of intimacy we experience is greatly effected by our ability to be selective, to choose fruitful goals while dispensing with superficial or harmful ones. Activities which promote a diluted or warped form of intimacy are discovered through reflection on our habits and through exploring the repercussions of our current goals. A success is considered warped when it leads a person away from feelings of intimacy and respect for themselves or others. A habit is considered destructive when it inhibits or limits the amount of intimacy a person allows themselves to experience.

The road to intimacy can be traveled upon in many ways and from many different directions. Though there is no perfect path, a person may find fulfillment in devoting all their time and energy to traveling down the road of intimacy as far as possible. This may seem excessive to some, but if one truly grasps the primal role of intimacy they, too, may decide to evaluate all of their experience in terms of intimacy.

Developing and refining intimacy may seem like a tiring responsibility, requiring great vigilance and effort. Yet, when one feels good, the muscular effort it takes to smile hardly ever becomes a hardship. The rewards of living an intimate life have always prevented me from perceiving it as a responsibility or an arduous task. Instead, for me, intimacy is an opportunity, a challenge, and the source of all meaning in my life.

Calling this chapter “The Road To Intimacy” is a little misleading. First of all, there is no one road. There are numerous ways for us to experience intimacy in our lives, and each road we take has it’s own integrity and charm. A better title might be “Roads To Intimacy”, since each of us have many interests and relationships from which we derive pleasure and meaning.

Yet, the title’s most misleading image is one of a straight and narrow path (road) always moving forward towards a final destination. Intimacy is a process with no ultimate destination, and life’s journey is anything but straight and narrow. Even though intimacy is the desire to become closer, it involves understanding and appreciation which demand multiple perspectives. This fact leads us to consider the dual role of distance in our journey to attain intimacy.

Distance and Perspective

Becoming closer to a person or a desire does not always involve a movement forward. Often getting closer to something necessitates we become more knowledgeable and understanding of it. Such knowledge and familiarity is gained by seeing an object from as many perspectives as possible. In an attempt to see and understand the object or person more clearly we will be required to move about the object, darting in and out to see it from very perspective.

Distance does not always imply alienation, sometimes it is the very vehicle for intimacy. When we stand close to an object it makes it difficult for us to see it clearly and to appreciate its many facets. Without distance in a state of total unity there is nothing to see, therefore, distance is an important aspect of not only intimacy, but vision itself.

I feel very close to my wife and son and enjoy showing them affection and being physically near to them. Yet, nothing has me feel closer to them than watching them do activities they enjoy. My wife is a beautiful swimmer and can float and glide in water for hours on end. Watching her in her serene little water world is mesmerizing and has me appreciate her in ways which physical contact can never duplicate.

My son is a happy and energetic child of nine, whose smile and optimism provide me with great joy. Watching him play with friends or just run about our yard as we play catch has me appreciate how special he is, supplying me with memories I will cherish long after he leaves home.

An important aspect of appreciating and understanding another person is to try and see them as others see them. One cannot accomplish this without occasionally having emotional as well as physical distance from them. Without emotional distance, we will not gain the objectivity needed to even partially see them as others do. Feelings such as love should not be used to cloud our vision of others, but rather incite us to see and understand them as fully as possible.

People who are blinded by their love of a person are forgetting this very important aspect of intimacy. Instead of understanding and appreciating their loved one, they are clutching on to the person losing all perspective. Without distance a relationship is indeed suffocating, allowing for no growth, or increased intimacy.

Seeing something from only one perspective (as when we stare) is destined to blur one’s vision. If one stands right on top of a painting, one can do little more than sniff the paint. Only by standing back and view the painting from a variety of distances and angles does one gain a true appreciation of the work.

Standing too close to an object often prevents us not only from being able to appreciate its total splendor, but makes it difficult for us to even distinguish a single feature. A cramped perspective blurs our vision, and too distant of a view makes it hard for us to distinguish important features.

If I imagine an object in my mind, I usually see it from a specific distance and perspective. Imagining my favorite chair, I see it from an ideal angle and distance which comes to me quite naturally. This is the ideal picture of the chair which I carry about with me. It is not the only view I can imagine of the chair. Yet, it is my optimal perspective, my preferred mental image. This is the view in which the chair is most in focus and fully reveals itself to me.

We have these ideal perspectives of almost everything in our lives, from trees to imaginary creatures such as unicorns. They may be identical images duplicating pictures we have seen, or just a comfortable image of familiarity we have formed on our own. Whatever the source of the image, it is our preferred distance from the object.

Preferred perspectives are not just imagined but occur every time we focus on an object. If entering a room I see a piano, I will walk towards the piano and stop at a comfortable distance offering me the best view of its beauty. After a while if my attention is drawn to the keys, I will venture closer to get the best look of the keys, eventually leaning over to touch and feel them. If the wood grain and finish are appealing I will once again move closer to look at and touch the piano’s surface to fully appreciate its qualities. If while stroking the wood I become fascinated by the way the finish reflects the light in the room, I’ll back away to find a distance and angle which best shows off the attractive sheen of the finish.

Our moving about the piano, forward and backward and side-to-side, allows us to gain different perspectives. The desire to become more intimate and familiar with the piano causes our attention to be drawn to its various qualities and aspects. The varied perspectives allows us to appreciate the piano in a variety of ways. As our attention shifts from the piano as a whole to some of its most attractive features we are inspired to inspect the piano from varying perspectives. To see the keys demands different perspectives then feeling the piano’s finish, or watching the light shimmer off of its finish.

Variations in perspective are an important aspect of intimacy. Our distance from an object and the way we approach it is dictated by the purpose of each exploration. As the goal and purpose of our investigation changes so does our perspective, demanding us to move closer or farther from the object in order to increase clarity and familiarity.

Intimacy is not climbing on top of something and latching on. It is a process of understanding and familiarity which only movement and change of perspective provide. All of our senses depend on movement. In a totally stagnant visual field where not even light is in movement nothing is seen. When we scan and focus we provide the movement needed for vision even if nothing is changing in our perceptual field. When we touch something, we move our hands across it for the movement is what causes the sensation of touch. Without movement, there is no sound, no taste, or heat to sense. Without movement there is no experience.

Feeling close, like feeling anything, is an experience requiring movement. That is why intimacy is an on-going process. Being intimate requires movement to be experienced, and constant change in perspective to remain vibrant and alive. The more we move and explore, the more knowledgeable and closer we feel to the object of our investigation.

An intimate person looks at life through both a telescope and a microscope. They are bold enough to approach things which attract them, and confident enough to back away from things they love. They are driven by intimacy, not by insecurity and, therefore, view distance as a tool, not as a threat to their security.

Language, pervading our thoughts and speech, is also infused with telescopic and microscopic properties. What we think and say are the major ways in which we learn about, and reveal ourselves to others. Through words we approach and distance ourselves from all that we perceive and experience. It is the conceptual flexibility of language which allows us to look at the world and others from a host of perspectives.

Earlier we talked of how words were once tied to the objects they represented and that through time words became more versatile by becoming concepts and symbols. A single object was then able to be recognized as being comprised of a number of qualities and sensual components, which made perceptions of other objects more intricate.

The conceptual nature of words made it possible for us to acquire telescopic and microscopic visions of the world around us. A concept, free from a particular object, can stand as a universal property providing us with a telescopic view of life. The very same conceptual nature of words makes it possible for us to distinguish relations and minute similarities between different objects and perceptions. It is the endless reservoir of qualities and characteristics which allows us to paint and express our world with great clarity.

The evolution of language is a prime example of how intimacy is often dependent on distance. If words were to have remained tied to specific objects, then perception and expression would have stagnated and no journey towards truth or essence would ever have been possible. Only through becoming symbols and representations were words able to probe into and under surface perception. The symbolic nature of words allowed us to create poetry and to see language as deciphering and not just naming reality.

Only by first distancing itself from actual perception were words able to become tools of exploration and clarity. As concepts and symbols words were able to point beyond themselves to the very nature of experience itself. With concepts man was able to see and appreciate life from a myriad of perspectives.

A word can represent and connote a host of associations, or denote a very specific meaning. Language can be precise and articulate, or global and vague. Language can be poetic and rich in possibilities, or technical and specific.

Language too, demonstrates that the road to intimacy is not a straight movement forward, but rather an endless shift of perspectives and distance. The varied uses and applications of words provide us with the distance and proximity necessary to get to know life intimately and appreciate its diversity.

Words freed from objects acquire a distance allowing one to play with life, to adopt many different perspectives. Words used in an intimate fashion can reveal, guide and create. They can open up new visions, push back the boundaries of perception, have us scrutinize with increased clarity, or inspire us to dream. The conceptual nature of words allows us to create ideals such as Truth, Freedom, Happiness and Intimacy.

Yet, the conceptual and creative nature of thought and language can also be used to alienate as well as bring us closer to our experience. Words can be used to distort, hide, mislead and deceive. One can use the distance of words to pull away from life, and make it sterile. One can be purposely vague and evasive when they talk or think, and be abstract and global in way which limits rather than unfolds one’s vision and appreciation of the world around them.

Once again we are faced with the fact that the very possibility of intimacy requires an ability on our part to squander opportunity and live an empty life. The choice is truly ours. An intimate life is one of discipline and commitment, requiring both determination and skill. An intimate life requires that we must recognize our desire for intimacy and make it central in our lives. Second, we must develop the practical skills promoting intimate experiences while vigilantly ferreting out habits and attitudes which limit our experience of intimacy.

An intimate approach to our experiences motivates us to see life from many perspectives, aligning our priorities while assessing our needs. A devotion to intimacy guides us to ask the right questions letting us understand the repercussions and pay-offs of all our options. Through reflection and introspection we are able to learn about the past as well as anticipate and design our future. A superior quest for intimacy is born out of the awareness attained by a disciplined inspection of our experiences, allowing us to evaluate the quality of our lives in terms of a realistic view of human potential.

Our discussion regarding the road to intimacy has shown us how human existence is a curious blend of freedom and limitation. The road to intimacy is full of many options, but each possibility is bordered by limitation. Without limits there are no options and without options there is no opportunity for fulfillment. Limitation, therefore, is not an inherently evil aspect of life, but rather a necessary condition for experience to occur. Since all experience and individuality are dependent on limitation, we need to learn as much as we can about the role of limitation in human experience.

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