Favoring the Convergence of Love and Wisdom
In the strongest full turnings, (particularly in the signal events of life) love and wisdom converge. When love and wisdom converge, you make better, more transformational choices. The deeds that follow on them work their way into the world better and achieve outcomes that are more favorable.
How do I explain convergence? Our loves and wisdoms are not mutually exclusive concerns. They entail each other at decisive moments. Destiny altering turning points happen when love and wisdom move closer, as they can in many permutations and combinations.
An Hassidic rabbi, Moshe Leib of Sasov, explained how he came to understand the convergence of love and wisdom. Sitting in a tavern, he overheard a conversation between two Russian peasants. He gets his insight when one says to the other, “you don’t really love me; if you really loved me you would know what I need.”
Knowing what the beloved needs is a wisdom function; wanting the beloved to have what he or she needs, and offering it, is a function of love. To know what the other needs requires solitude in love. Without this core of solitude, we could not distinguish between our lovers and ourselves.
As Love Draws Wisdom to it, Wisdom Draws Love
Without convergence we'd have no way to know what to give or how to give it, or how to receive with gratitude. Without the wisdom in love, we’d entangle ourselves in incompatible relationships, painful dependencies, cold estrangements, lies and betrayals. We’d eat each other alive.
And wisdom needs love in it. Without love, our inventions are cold. Without love, the withdrawal lacks consequence, lacks a reason for being. A surge of love in wisdom encourages us to return to the world out of longing for others living in it, or longing for nature. Without the presence of love in wisdom, the desire to serve is missing.
From convergent turnings of love and wisdom we get a deeper sense of self-worth, and from that we learn to estimate the worth of the world differently, we view it through the eyes of service and develop management styles that recruit our efforts to live peacefully in new ways.
However, we have great difficulty achieving full convergence. Strong cultural forces drive love and wisdom apart.
Signs of Convergence
My clinical studies with biofeedback clients show that the convergence of love and wisdom happens strongest in illness and healing settings when most is at stake and when the largest numbers of oscillators interact. When resonant sub-systems, which are the fractal units of love and wisdom, touch, they shape the turning process in special ways.
When love and wisdom move into a convergent relationship, we experience giving as receiving and receiving as giving. We readily understand the pleasure in giving; at times one gives with such evident joy that it makes the receivers act of acceptance a giving itself. Receiving well sparks the wisdom in love because it knows that receiving poorly hurts the giver. If we examine ourselves, we will see that giving-as-receiving occurs when approach/separation and withdrawal/return come into phase with each other. Their common dynamics let the two systems come into resonance in one or more of the common frequency bands in human nature.
You can experience the convergence in the span of a heartbeat or a breath length or over the course of a 90-120 minute rest/activation cycle. You can experience it in a night of dreams. Or in a waking day spent in powerful connection with a beloved. You can have seasons of love and wisdom linked primordially to the effects of day length on melatonin flows. There’s always a time course. And the convergence experience always fades away.
When many people living under similar socioeconomic pressures endure correlated turnings with overlapping and interacting approach/ separation and withdrawal/return pulses, historically effective social movements can develop. This kind of rhythmoic alliance manifests first in personal intimacy, in the closest circles of life. It uses eye contact, hand gestures, touches, expressions and vocalizations to carry meaning. From there it gains momentum and spreads out in wider arcs of affiliation by mimetic processes I described in detail elsewhere.
In certain revolutionary situations, brief periods of bonhomie can provoke historical tipping points. The young Wordsworth experienced this spreading wave of values in his travels in Revolutionary France in 1789. He wrote in The Prelude that
A benignant spirit was abroad
Which might not be withstood, that poverty
Abject as this would in a little time
Be found no more, that we should see the earth
Unthwarted in her wish to recompense
The meek, the lowly, patient child of toil… 3
I deal with the historical outflow of conjoined turnings in a later chapter.
Persons who only experience non-convergent love turnings never learn from love. They cannot recognize the interplay between their social and private selves. Persons who only experience non-convergent wisdom turnings live coldly. They never understand the real worth their deeds play in the lives of others. They do not extend their ethical powers.
A convergent turning, even one incompletely realized, produces personal growth, adds something in the world, and touches others. Following the turning, it brings pone out on a meaningful next leg.
Yin/Yang: The Circle of the Opposite
I can make the convergence even clearer by illustrating it with the Yin/Yang symbol. On one side of the central curving line, in the field of white, you have a black circle floating, and on the other side, in the field of black, a white circle floats. We can use them to symbolize how love touches into wisdom and wisdom touches into love.
You know you are close to the heart of a wisdom turning when the circle of love opens in the deeps of solitude, and you know you have grown deeply intimate at the turning of closest approach when the circle of solitude opens up in it.
We experience the circle of the opposite as a surge of love in the heart of the solitude of wisdom, and the solitude of wisdom in the heart of love.
Together the circles with their opposites (imagine the symbol folded over on itself making a helix with the circles aligned) suggest the image of the Caduceus or the Shamanic world axletree around which wind our two most characteristic human enterprises.
The circles of the opposite are the pivotal moments, the creative nexus in both dynamics.
Taoist convergent lovers
Perhaps love can manifest in wisdom in extreme withdrawal because then we touch a resonance beyond the intimate, personal, social and public distances. There we immerse ourselves in the greater dance of nature in the cosmos. With our sensitivities to gravitational pulls, electromagnetic spectra, day/night and annual/seasonal cycles, in those moments we experience the world as a living presence. Here perhaps the sensory grounds for withdrawal-return and for approach-separation touch. And contact with nature following the turning point in deep withdrawal may evoke memories of home, of life with others. The twined snakes on the axletree have long stood as symbols of healing and wholeness.
As an experiential feature of life, the circle of the opposite shows the closeness of a single turning moment better than the Caduceus. The energies in the circle of Yin and Yang rise, fall, and bear on each other in describable and quantifiable ways. The I Ching uses the solid or broken lines of the trigram to represent these processes. The Caduceus, on the other hand, better represents a series of related turnings, an extended process, an historical unfolding representaed as a spiral. It appeals to us as a Western symbol of continuity and directionality in change.
Perhaps the symbols have deeper meaning too. Both show wave-forms. Both show the phenomenological interactions between two dynamisms. The curved line in the Yin-Yang symbol, its waveform representation, shows a kind of embrace between love and wisdom.
If in the brief period of delicate balance we can integrate the circle of the opposite into the turning without annihilating the main thrust, we will amp up the energy of transformation, and its results will become more life affirming. The wisdom is wiser when love falls in the heart of it. The love is more loving if touched by wisdom in the loneliness of intimacy. This touch of the other also occurs during the smaller turbulent passages in the principal mini-turning points of love and wisdom. At these moments of vulnerability, love and wisdom trade words, images and concepts. The experiential uncovering of the circle of the opposite, therefore, marks a high point in restoring meaning to turning points, and as does the shamanic axle-tree, it opens a route to moral endeavor based on exploration of connected realms of life.
Notice that the circle of the opposite is surrounded in the color field; it has no direct access to its own color. It works as a window, not a door, a dynamic tension, an energizer, a seed crystal we must treat with care. If you fall too deeply into the circle of the opposite and give yourself over to it, you may suddenly drown to love and be resurrected in wisdom, or the reverse. The purpose of the turning will be thwarted then. When love wells up in wisdom, it can be experienced as something fearful and if we act upon this fear, the circle of the opposite becomes the source for regressive tendencies. It can intensify and bleed out and take over. We can flee to symbols of the mother for comfort, undermine the turning point in deepest withdrawal, and abort the return. This crossover would not only involve a premature turning, it would require a jump from withdrawal to approach instead of return. The return would not be enriched and enlivened by love, but dominated by it, forfeited to it. For the same reasons, the serpents on the Caduceus never touch. Crossover is a danger.
If we take the circle of wisdom, when it appears in the close approach phase of love, to be a signal to withdraw, a similar danger rises. Instead of separating with an enlivened, enriched sense of the need for boundaries and solitude and good judgment in the dance of love, the love song stops. The dance ends. The relationship is sometimes sacrificed in the crossover to wisdom. Something like that must have happened to Kierkegaard when he broke his engagement. He fell into the circle of the opposite. Wisdom became his escape hatch.
To get the power of the circle you usually must resist the temptation to cross over from one dynamic to the other. However, there are those rare moments when the jump is right, rare moments when you climb through the hole, as through the Sipapuni, the Hopi passageway between worlds, and experience transformation full on. You can switch planes then, change paths, revolutionize your life, and with commensurate action, change the world.
Krapp’s Last Tape
The strongest dramatic representation of the loss of convergence I know is in Samuel Beckett’s play Krapp’s Last Tape, a play without turning points. Krapp, the lonely protagonist, practically a bum, listens to a tape he made 35 years ago when he broke up with his girlfriend in order to write his Magnum Opus.
“… Thirty-nine today and sound as a bell, apart from my old weakness, and intellectually I have now every reason to suspect at the… crest of the wave—or thereabouts.”
Krapp eats bananas and listens to his younger self.
“Spiritually a year of profound gloom and indigence until that memo-rable night in March, at the end of the jetty, in the howling wind, never to be forgotten, when suddenly I saw the whole thing. The vision, at last. This I fancy is what I have chiefly to record this evening, against the day when my work will be done…”
On the jetty, in the storm, he has an intimation of Truth. It hovers before him ready to be captured in a great book he is destined to write. As the young Krapp starts to expand on his epiphany, the old Krapp shuts off the tape recorder. He fast-forwards, cursing under his breath, until he gets to
“… my face in her breasts and my hand on her. We lay there without moving. But under us all moved, and moved us, gently, up and down, and from side to side…”
Then he rewinds a bit and plays:
“She lay stretched out on the floorboards with her hands under her head and her eyes closed…”
The epiphany on the jetty regarding his Magnum Opus and the encounter with his beloved are part of the same incident.
“Sun blazing down, bit of a breeze, water nice and lively,” he continues. “I noticed a scratch on her thigh and asked her how she came by it. Picking gooseberries, she said. I said again, I thought it was hopeless and no good going on, and she agreed without opening her eyes.”
They broke up, he to write, she perhaps to enjoy her other lover. The Magnum Opus never appears. Missed turnings, lost love, failed convergence. No next long leg. Long term despair. Krapp puts a new tape on the machine and starts recording:
“Just been listening to that stupid bastard I took myself for thirty years ago, hard to believe I was ever as bad as that. Thank God that’s all done with anyway. (Pause.) The eyes she had!”
Later he adds:
“Nothing to say, not a squeak. What’s a year now? The sourcud and the iron stool.”
The health of the rhythmically restored body gives us the aptness and dexterity we need to work the levers of change gracefully. We use the hand of giving-that-is-receiving to pull the lever. William Blake exalted this power in his poetry. The Blakean body, born in the fires of convergent turnings, enters the fields of endeavor armed with arrows of desire. Those arrows show the fusion of love with aggression.
Blake Jerusalem etching
Bring me my Bow of burning gold!
Bring me my Arrows of desire!
Bring me my Spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
I shall not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.
When new values and motivations percolate into the world, they rise up biologically, pulsing through the tissue of life, first stirring in intra– and intercellular communications, then extending their reach into sensorimotor physiology and from there into volitional behaviors. Social and political commitments come from them. Can we directly discern the physiology of “percolation”? Can we tell when it is happening?
How can we know when the historical lever has moved? We experience giving-that-is-receiving on wide social scales as in the genuine ethical movements underway today. There is another sign that may seem at first sight contradictory: the restoration of creative competi-tion, the affirmation of the agonal component, which I take to involve the fusion of love with aggression. (Harold Bloom sees the agonal in all great art.)
It will take powerful rhythmic resilience to cope with the changes we are going through today. But that’s the only way we can meet the almost unremitting perturbation and complexity of technological civilization vigorously, without losing our hold on love and wisdom. The needful thing is to stay afloat in the turbulence. That means having the strength, at times, to welcome the chaos and still pursue authentic turn-ings— and to recognize convergence when it comes. You get the strength and courage for this first from understanding the temporal patterns in human endeavor. From our present vantage point, we can accept the following rules of thumb as parts of human nature:
1) Intensification and reversal are inherent in human endeavor.
2) The opportunities for growth increase tremendously at crossroads in crisis times.
3) To traverse turning points with greater knowledge and power is to gain special skills of timing, a kind of primordial canniness to see change coming and to meet it on the fly.
4) Love and wisdom converge only at singular moments and rarely for long stretches of time. It is hard to foresee these moments, but easy to recognize them when they come. To have clean and strong intentions then delivers your presence into the world with special force. Then intention spreads across the cortex, attains freedom and leaps into the world.
I have insisted on freedom for the first time here. But do we have it? Where does it come from? How does nature produce it? To these ponderations we now turn.