20 September 2007

The Work of Intimacy

My friend read that Woody Allen doesn't consider movie-making the "end-all" of his life. I asked "What's the end-all for your life?" and he answered "Intimacy."

I'd been thinking about intimacy, about how much closer the World is to me lately. Weather, kindness, soap, ideas, injustice, music...it's all begun to register on a keenly visceral level.

In the course of trying to describe in a telephone conversation the Brahms Intermezzo I'm studying , my free hand clenched and danced and touched my breast. Words were insufficient. The sound of the music, the way it feels to play it--glissandi and irregular arpeggios in my hands, the pedals under my feet, even the way the notes look on a page evoke a blend of joy, serenity, excitement, yearning and curiosity that vibrates every molecule of my being--physical and psychic.

I finally looked up the tempo marking -- Andante teneramente -- and discovered that teneramente means "tenderly." Ummm, one of my favorite words. How can one hear that word and not feel its meaning viscerally? Comprehension of the word is an intimate experience.

On an impulse, I bought flowers yesterday for two of the women I work with. The florist was a heavy-set, middle-aged woman. She was talking on her cell when I walked in but ended her conversation smoothly and smiled when she said "Hi. Can I help you?" I told her I wanted a little something for two overworked, stressed female coworkers. "They just moved their office into a little cinder block room over in Biloxi and everything over there needs some softening," I told her.

"Oh, maybe a couple little bouquets in bud vases? A little bit of ribbon?"

"Sounds good."

As she worked, we "got to talkin'". A little ceramic plaque on the counter said, "Don't lose any sleep worrying. Give it to God--He'll be up all night any way." The design of the plaque was too sweet but the thought was somehow both sweet and compelling. I commented on it and that led to a conversation about God. Her speech flowed from a traditional stern-but-loving-Father perspective and mine did not; but still, we communicated.

I could feel her Life, the living breathing reality of her, as we talked. And although I can't know exactly how she felt, her energy felt open and present. She was not distracted or defensive or resistant. The interaction was, for me, intimate; in part due to the theme of our conversation but also because after only 10 minutes of acquaintance we were together bridging a divide that so often proves impossible to transit. Both of us willingly brought our attention to the moment where we stood. We did not pretend anything. We did not demand anything.

The space between things is where Intimacy takes nourishment. Being physically close enough to share breath creates an especially fertile space. I think of lying with a lover, limbs intertwined in the dark; and the space between a mother and a nursing baby. I even think of fighting--when someone "gets in your face"; although intellectually polarized, combatants can not get much closer to each other--bodies and psyches wrestling.

The place where things touch is where Intimacy takes nourishment. There is sitting with my friend when she cries--and there is holding her as she cries. There is saying "Nice to meet you" from three feet away and there is clasping hands with eye contact as you say it or embracing and speaking the words directly into the ear.

I understand my current heightened sensitivity and increase in intimacy consciousness as yet another gift of Grace in my life. I also recognize it results from my willingness to approach and enter intimacy. To acknowledge and surrender when those spaces and places of Intimacy present.

My friend wants to create and facilitate such spaces and places. I am a little frightened by the idea of such work for myself...and I'm also curious and drawn to such work. Surely I don't know enough and am not good enough at it to do it for hire, I tell myself. But I can learn and get better at it by living in it, practicing it, sharing it with other people day-to-day. Like everything else, it will find its way into whatever I do for hire.

Almost ten years ago, in the Bachelor of Arts Completion program at CA Institute of Integral Studies, our cohort explored "identity." We were asked what we would with our lives if we had only ourselves to answer to and everything was possible.

I said I would be a courtesan because it allows an unparalleled depth of intimacy--and a lot of time to do things I love, like dancing and bathing and making music and reading.

The topic came up again just a few days ago. I searched for a new answer after all these years but my answer was the same. I would still choose to be a courtesan if everything was possible. What with all the softening and growing sensitivity (and pianistic development, if I say so myself) and rising intimacy consciousness--I wonder if I'm on my way there.


  1. Thanks for another beautiful post. Rather than log-in to Netflix, I'll recommend here the movie Serenity and TV series Firefly - for the courtesan. There is a beautiful scene of her bathing in one of the TV shows.

  2. “Details” comes from the French meaning, “to cut apart.” The details are the broken up pieces. The word “intimacy” comes from the Latin root, “intus” meaning “within.” It’s the superlative version of
    “intus”, so it means “the most within.” What is intimate is
    not the details of our lives, the surface stuff. The intimate
    is the wholeness, the truth that is most within -- that is our
    soul or our spirit. The surface details of our lives are not as
    intimate as the spiritual wholeness, who we really are inside. ~ Mellen Kennedy

  3. Alex - I do so love to read your writings ....

    tenderness ... tenderly

    what good words to start my day

    also - who painted the woman form with blue? I like that painting. I like it that you have added images to your blog ... more connection for my brain splinters.

    love ya baby!


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