Kim: Emerson said, “A true friend is "one soul in two bodies.” I heard this in a movie last night, but it was said a little differently, and it made me think of the two men holding hands. The guy in the movie said that his Polish grandmother had said that when two bodies touch, their souls become one. The woman (who at that point was quite antagonistic) said that Emerson had said that, not his granny. So what is going on with these guys, anyway?
Emma: I see a lot of love—love manifesting as a cigarette-smoking bad-ass, as a sultry monk. It’s all the same love, overflowing. They walk like allies, two kids against the world. They hold hands to remind each other of something.
Kim: I think “remind” is important—that they’ve had a connection for some time. “Against” is important to me too—that their connection separates them from a world that may not be as warm and friendly.
So I told my wife the Emerson quote and she said that he was wrong, that it is more like a multi-colored marble (“it” being the soul) that happens when people touch.
So what is this soul thing, anyway, which Buddhists don’t buy? And what is the relationship of these guys?
And why does the photo hit us right in the heart?
Emma: It does hit us right in the heart, doesn’t it? I think that’s because it so perfectly presents the intimacy we’re all looking for: that deep, all-the-way-down-to-the toes feeling of being known. Everything is revealed (look at that shoulder!); nothing is rejected.
They walk like they have a secret—something perfect and beautiful that belongs to both of them and none of us. Maybe it’s that they’re lovers on their way to a make-out session. Whatever it is, I want it.
I think soul is a word God gave poets so they could talk about this kind of love. Hands being held, limbs intertwined, words whispered . . . . that’s all good. But souls meeting . . . that’s happening somewhere else entirely. Souls meet in the ocean of being. I think Buddhists might be okay with that.
So who’s right, your wife or Emerson? What do you think these kids are up to?
Kim: Eric Fromm talked about “dual egotism” as a negative thing, where we get so close to someone we lose who we are. I think that was my wife’s objection to the idea of the bodies having one soul. Emerson was being a little more romantic about it that she is.
I don’t see them off to a make-out session. That didn’t enter my mind. But a little homophobic element may have made me squirm a little—I can’t quite remember what I felt when I first saw it.
Imagine if we were all one giant marble with each of us having our own swirl. That’s the meaning for me of “not one, not two.” Emerson was doing a little hyperbole, don’t you think?
I’m now looking again at the picture. The rebel is holding the monk’s hand (not the other way around). The monk is looking at the photographer. The shirt says AC/DC Black Ice. Here is more than you want to know about that group. AC/DC used to be a reference to people who would do it with either sex, but I’m not going to jump to that conclusion. Theravada monks can touch people of the same sex.
Those are bike gloves the rebel is wearing. Maybe they are part of his toughness. I now remember that I thought they were brothers. There is a chain hanging from the rebel’s right hand. Why?
Holding hands in a market makes some sense since it is so easy to lose someone.
Now, back to the soul. I heard the word “consciousness” as what moves to another when we die. I think that is more fluid and less permanent than a soul. It would change by the moment.
So why does one photograph touch our heart while another doesn’t?
Emma: I liked your wife’s image of us as swirls in a marble. Intimacy is meeting in the places of our samenesses and our differences. We don’t connect with everyone, right? The sameness isn’t enough--there’s something about a few special swirls that makes our hearts sing. It’s the same with art to a certain extent—what resonates with me is not necessarily going to rock your world.
But some photographs do seem to captivate in a universal way—I’m thinking of the Afghan girl (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2002/04/afghan-girl/index-text). That child’s angry, riveting eyes . . . Maybe we more clearly see ourselves in the photographs that touch our hearts.
The AC/DC kid’s got a whole rebel thing going—I think the t-shirt and chain are just a part of that. He’s maintaining an image. I guess the monk is, too, in his own way. If you put your cursor over the source image, it says “An Odd Couple—Buddhist Brothers.”
It’s curious to me how much I wanted them to be lovers. I think part of it is conditioning that says that kind of love can come only from a romantic partner. But I think too, it was coming from a deep longing for anyone in love to be able to hold hands anywhere in the world and stare down a camera with that much certainty. “Yes, I’m in love. What are you going to do about it?” kind of thing.
Pure consciousness is fluid, yes, ever responding. Consciousness allows for complete transformation, moment to moment. It is freedom from everything we think we are. Consciousness doesn’t need to be “saved” from anything. It just is. Souls let us think we can exist forever, but there’s a heavy price to be paid for that kind of certainty: we don’t get to keep changing and growing and exploring. Souls could be that fluid, too, if only we’d be brave enough to let them. Letting go of the idea that we’re not forever is scary.
Kim: I know that photo of the Afghan girl. I heard the photographer talk about it. He was surprised how it touched so many people.
I wish that we’d have more people holding hands who come from different places, like Republicans and Democrats, Jews and Muslims (though that is happening a little), etc.
In ancient Greece supposedly the intimate relationships were between men and boys, and marriage was for different purposes. I wonder to what extent that is true today—not necessarily between men and boys, but between friends. I sense that friends often have a greater intimacy than husbands and wives. A psychologist William Glasser said it was because we don’t criticize our friends (because we’ll lose them as friends) but we’ll criticize our family. He also said, “Caring for but never trying to own may be a further way to define friendship.”
Look at the withholding of judgment that must have taken place for the odd couple to exist. No one is right or wrong. They both are who they are.
D.H. Lawrence wrote in a letter, “I am glad that you are in love. That is the right way to be—happy and in love, and if there are friends to help the love along tant mieux (so much the better).” That letter was on the cover of a book of his letters that I found when I was 18. It stuck.
Emma: Yes, I suppose different relationships have different purposes. I don’t know if it matters, ultimately. I have found the deepest, most profound love open up in unlikely relationships, most certainly not where I wanted or expected it to come. But when love is flowing, truly flowing, it just flows everywhere. It’s just love all around, life saturated in love. There’s even space to dislike people, to be angry with them, perhaps even to hate them for a while, but the love keeps flowing. When that happens, it doesn’t matter what opened up the source, what turned on the tap, so to speak. The tap’s just on, and the love is there. When I’m contracted, when I can’t feel my own love, I have all these ideas—that there are certain relationships for this and that, that this kind of relationship is more important than that kind (hence the wanting the Buddhist kids to be in love). When I’m opened up and present, it doesn’t matter. I don’t need to own anyone or have anyone be any certain way.
I’m not claiming to live in this space, but it’s nice to visit.
I love these young men. I hope their love provides them with an occasional sanctuary from the world for a very long time.
Kim: Yes, this for me is what “taking refuge in the sangha” is about—a place to open your heart.