I have had the good fortune of getting to know John Jeremiah Sullivan this past year, and he has become an inspiring friend and mentor. One of the first times we had lunch to discuss his new project—about early eighteenth century Utopianist Christian Priber—we stopped in Old Books on Front Street for coffee. His change included two quarters that he deposited in the bookstore's venda-quote machine (formerly serving gumballs), and, as we were walking out, he handed me the unfolded morsel of wisdom above.
Since we parted ways before having the chance to talk about it, I've decided to post my thoughts here.
"We have our private opinions. . ." that is a foregone conclusion.
"But why should they be a bar to the meeting of hearts?" Why should what makes us individual also keep us from expressing that which, from within our hearts, often leads toward solidarity (our meeting of hearts)?
I'm left with the impression of two forces at work. Heart and Mind, disconnected.
Our opinions are thoughts, created by our minds, that have taken form. They buzz around like a swarm of bees.
The impulses that arise from the heart are different. They are born out of an element of surrender.
Thoughts are electrical. Emotions are magnetic. Our opinions, when highly charged, often bar a meeting of hearts because, in order to reach our emotional centers, we need to slow or turn off our thought-processors. This gives our awareness the room it needs to move beyond the static.
Why do our opinions bar a meeting of the heart? Because opinions, in this case, are storm clouds.
Humans are electro-magnetic beings. Sometimes we leave encounters with others carrying bits of their energy with us. I'm told it has something to do with the water inside us. What happens when an appliance, say...a lamp, has too much charge running through it? Bulbs pop and circuits break. Humans, when overrun with excessive current, blow lids and lose tempers. Flat flip out.
Like other electrical entities, humans need a ground, a release of any excess charge so keep our heads from exploding. How? With a quiet mind and open heart.
With a lot of deep breaths, one following Gandhi's footpath begins to filter all thoughts and interactions through the heart. The head loses its place in the center, it's energy expands out from the chest rather than the nervous cloud.
Things like fear, worry, and judgement transmute from negative to neutral and release. Life becomes like play again. We learn how to reclaim a child-like sensitivity. Loads lighten.
Joseph Campbell, well known for his work in comparative mythology and religion, reduced his entire mature philosophy down to this signpost: "Follow your bliss."
As the parable goes: leap and the net will appear. Follow whatever it is that makes you feel as if there is a well of energy rising up from inside you, trusting that along this trail good things will come.