Wednesday, March 26, 2008
PermissionsThis morning I woke up thinking about the word "permission." It's a really interesting word when you open up the hood.
The "per" part is way cool -- it means "through," "thoroughly," "utterly," "very" -- as in "pervert," "pervade," and "perfect." (All my references, by the way, I got by clicking around Dictionary.com if you want to go play on your own.)
The "Mittere" part is a bit more complex. When used with Permission, it's defined as "to let, or to make (someone) go." When used with "Admit" however, they define it as "let go, to send" as in a mission. And when used with "Commit" it's defined as "to send, give over". The key thing I get from that is an active sending out and releasing.
So, in one way of looking at it, permission is an extremely active, maximum amount of sending out, releasing, and letting go. An active non-grasping. A conscious opening of the hands for the express purpose of releasing whatever is being held.
In software development, "permissions" are something a bit different. When a user is give a set of security rights, those are called his permissions. So you can have permission to edit one set of documents, but be in "view only" mode for financial spreadsheets. This kind of goes with this other sense of the word, which is "Consent, especially formal consent; authorization."
So it isn't just this opening up and sending out. Sometimes it's very very formalized. The "permit" is a legal document that authorizes availability to something. A permission is a physical (or digital) locking or unlocking that enables access to functionality.
Which makes me think we could do some interesting things with this word. Like, write down, physically, our permissions. What we are going to permit ourselves to do in this lifetime. Give ourselves a permit to make money, say, from our chosen dharmic path. (I so hope that's a word). Give ourselves a permit to be recognized publicly for our teachings and our creative skills. Give ourselves a permit to stop once in awhile (that's for me). Give ourselves a permit to breathe (that's also for me). Give ourselves a permit to be really, truly happy in relationship. Give ourselves a permit to love and be loved. On and on and on. Like a physical, written unlocking of some things.
Because it's not all about our grasping of stuff. Sometimes stuff has us in its grasp (inside our heads). Being locked in or out of something is a form of grasping. Having this deep feeling of not being deserving of something, is a locking in, like being inside of a clenched fist. Having a deep feeling of always being secondary, or invisible, or not enough... that's a grasping. It's a different form than we're used to thinking about. We usually talk about grasping in terms of aversion or attraction. This is when we are grasped, surrounded, kept from, not permitted... by our own thoughts. So the opening up and letting go is a permission. An active releasing. A conscious opening up of the grasping that surrounds us.
Little kids are taught to ask us adults for "permission" to do something. This is ingrained in us, this sense that we need to ask a higher authority for the ability to exercise a certain amount of freedom. When we're small, this makes a certain amount of sense; permissions are installed to keep us safe from dangers we don't yet understand. In software, this is known as a user's "security" setting -- if you are too inexperienced or too dumb to really be able to use all the functionality safely, you are constrained by the software itself to limit your freedom and access to certain pieces of the program.
But we're no longer kids, right? At least not in many areas. Maybe we need to look at the places that no longer need to be kept safely kept out of reach. Like excess money. Like excess creativity. Like excess love. Within moral bounds (like we can't give ourselves permission to go kill our boss when he pisses us off), we need to trust ourselves enough to use the entire program. Our security settings may need to be adjusted to accommodate the fact that we're no longer new to this life, we're no longer inexperienced, and maybe it's time for us to spread our wings and use all the tools available.
[Cross posted with my other blog at www.TheDHX.com. And special thanks to "L," my muse and playmate and partner in extraordinary conversation these days. You didn't exactly give me permission to repurpose my email to you this morning, but I'm doing it anyway.]
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 8:38 AM 0 comments
Monday, March 24, 2008
Saturday Night"I want you to help me fulfill one of my deepest fantasies," I murmured into his ear the other night.
He glanced up at me, startled.
"Okayyyy," he said, with a nervous smile.
I took a deep breath and uttered words I never thought I'd be able to say to anyone in this lifetime. He listened thoughtfully, mulled it over a second, then put on his game face.
"OK," he said with a twinkle in his eye. "I'll drive."
Fifteen minutes later we were roaming the produce section of the new Whole Foods. The store is an orgiastic explosion of beautiful food and happy healthy people and I've been going there as a sort of religious ritual ever since it opened. And every time I've walked its still-gleaming aisles, I've experienced the same aching yearning. And that was to do exactly what we were doing now.
To go to Whole Foods, with a lover, to shop for food for a meal we would prepare together that evening seemed, for so long, like some unattainable Emerald City of joy. I don't know why it took on that proportion, but it always kind of shimmered with elusive sadness to me, like one of the most simple and intimate activities two people could do together. It implies comfort, and leisure, and dedication to spending time together. It implies that you've seen all the movies and gone to all the plays, and that you're so caught up with all your bookkeeping that the only thing left is to indulge in a four or five hour dinner. It's European. It's something you would see in a Meg Foster romantic comedy.
And here I was, with a willing participant in my little dream world. We wandered through the orderly stacks of vegetables, feeling and analyzing our choices like we were picking out items for a museum. We stood in front of the seafood counter and I looked at the eyeballs of the iced fish and the green sheen of the mussel shells and took a deep breath of contentment. Deeming the fish selection somewhat limited, we went upstairs and engaged the butcher in a deep discussion about the attributes of the perfect spencer ribeye steak. My companion selected a worthy cut; the butcher massaged the soft tissue of the meat with thumbs, declaring it a good choice; and I dropped the cool package into the cart with a sense of a job well done.
We prepared the vegetables first. He washed and chopped while I got the barbecue going. I added some balsamic marinade to the mix and dug out a big spoon for him to toss it with. The division of duties soon blurred. The meal evolved nearly without our participation; we just followed some instinctive choreography and moved through our steps without really thinking.
Afterwards, we settled ourselves in front of the TV to see what old movies might be on. "An American in Paris" was just starting and as we curled up to watch Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron fall in love on the banks of the Seine, I realized that we had just engaged in a similar dance. The effort was in the past, and all that was left was flawless execution.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 7:18 AM 0 comments
Monday, March 10, 2008
con·spire /kənˈspaɪər/ [kuhn-spahyuhr]
I find myself in a conspiracy. With a man. We are breathing together. Acting in harmony. Our spirits are commingling.
We hesitate to put a capital "R" in front of the word that describes what we may be embarking on. Like naming God, we know the danger of putting labels on things. Labels call to them their own destruction. We talk around it, acknowledging the essential messiness of all such liasons, their potential for pain. We have both been around the block so many times that a night with YouTube and a beer seems a very viable substitute for all human entanglement.
It is good. It is scary. The feelings contain spectrums of color I swear I've never seen before. It is poignant. And much of the time it is oddly calm, like when you're driving 100 miles an hour behind a fully loaded semi, and feel yourself weightless and gliding, pulled by the slipstream.
Today he is sick. Not in a way that will keep him down more than a few days, but sick enough to be reclusive and inward. This little deviation is enough to call forth my own inner demons. Today my fear takes me hostage. I am consumed with it, unable to believe that the whispers of loss could possibly be false.
The fear is a hangover. The last time I saw him was as pure and simple as my imagination today is complex and dark. Maybe it's my own fatigue creeping in. He apologizes profusely for exposing me to his germs, is scared I'll blame him if I get sick. I try to explain to him that it would be fine. That getting sick would be a sign of connection that I haven't felt in so many years. My immunity is strong. But if I fall ill, it was worth it many times over.
I think about this today as I am encased in an office conference room, locked in an endless meeting. The conversation we had on my way into work swirls in my head, making me crazy with my inability to escape and participate in my real life. Words forms inside my brain, take shape with urgency, and I start scribbling madly in the margins of my handout.
This is what I write:
We are infected with love. We are infected with loss. We cannot help but spread our joy, our fear and our sorrow. It is a symptom, a condition of being human.
We don't do this to each other. It is a function of our being, of our breathing in and out. We spread our emotional germs as a by-product of our interchange, our interdependence.
We breathe the same air. I inhale what you give off. You inhale my detritus. I can stay safe only by never breathing in. You can keep from infecting others only by not ever letting go. Keeping everything to ourselves is impossible. I need what you've got, and you need me.
We are mechanisms that live by ingesting the refuse of each other. Our lungs rise and fall in tandem, like the waves upon the sand. We have no control over what we carry with us. We give off energy like radiant spores. Our energy infects and heals and soothes and agitates. We can attribute blame or feel guilt but the things we emit are outside of our control. Our cross-contaminations are what keep us alive.
Sometimes the air we breathe is suffused with joy. The smell of clean laundry, night blooming jasmine, a lover's skin. It is impossible to distinguish the perfume from the poison. To be afraid of inhaling one is to lose the other forever. The equation simply does not square itself out.
No matter what we call this thing, I am pleased to be infected with it. I am happy to have it in my blood stream. Without a doubt, it could turn on me and knock me on my ass so fast my eyeballs would explode. I understand that part. I don't like breathing air mixed with equal parts danger and sanctuary. But that's the nature of this conspiracy. It's never one or the other. It's a cycle of give and take. And the alternative to both is to sit in fear on the sidelines, waiting for the safe moment, for the clean touch.
# posted by Katherine Doughtie Nolan @ 10:07 PM 0 comments