An Eagle was soaring through the air when suddenly it heard the whizz of an Arrow, and felt itself wounded to death. Slowly it fluttered down to the earth, with its life-blood pouring out of it. Looking down upon the Arrow with which it had been pierced, it found that the shaft of the Arrow had been feathered with one of its own plumes. “Alas!” it cried, as it died, “We often give our enemies the means for our own destruction.”
What is the matter with these people, these people who won’t stop fighting, won’t stop hurting each other long enough to see that a body is a thing of beauty, is a miracle of rivers and oceans and islands and continents contained within itself? That the brain is divided into two hemispheres, each symmetrical, each perfect, each with its own system of waterways. These people of war should be shown an x-ray of an intraparenchymal hemorrhage, of a hemorrhage in an eighteen-year-old girl’s brain, a girl named Ivy. Take a look at that, people of war. See, you should not hurt each other, and this is why. Without you ever even trying, this is what can happen to your body, your beautiful body, and your brain, your beautiful symmetrical brain, and your heart, and your soul.
―Alison McGhee, All Rivers Flow to the Sea
Emptiness felt like a living thing. A parasite growing in the center of your chest, somewhere behind your heart, taking every ounce of warmth and light and happiness and consuming it until there’s nothing left. Emptiness feels like exhaustion, like there’s no reason to fight, no reason to take another breath, no reason to try to survive. But emptiness also feels like freedom. Because it doesn’t just take the good, it takes the bad, too–the anger, the bitterness, the pain–and when it’s done, it leaves you with just you. A cold, shell-like echo of yourself, but still you.
―Ava Jae, Beyond the Red
It was no thought or word that called culture into being, but a
tool or a weapon. After the stone axe we needed song and story
to remember innocence, to record effect-and so to describe
the limits, to say what can be done without damage.
“Well, let’s argue this out, Mr Blank. You, who represent Society, have the right to pay me four hundred francs a month. That’s my market value, for I am an inefficient member of Society, slow in the uptake, uncertain, slightly damaged in the fray, there’s no denying it. So you have the right to pay me four hundred francs a month, to lodge me in a small, dark room, to clothe me shabbily, to harass me with worry and monotony and unsatisfied longings till you get me to the point when I blush at a look, cry at a word. We can’t all be happy, we can’t all be rich, we can’t all be lucky – and it would be so much less fun if we were. Isn’t it so, Mr Blank? There must be the dark background to show up the bright colours. Some must cry so that the others may be able to laugh the more heartily.”
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
Soul has been demoted to a new-age spiritual fantasy or a missionary’s booty, and nature has been treated, at best, as a postcard or a vacation backdrop or, more commonly, as a hardware store or refuse heap. Too many of us lack intimacy with the natural world and with our souls, and consequently we are doing untold damage to both.