How important is a place like Innermost House to having a rich inner life and deep conversations, and how much - once we learn how - can these be enjoyed no matter where we are? Can time substitute for place? Some set aside sacred places, others set aside sacred time. I think taking a sabbath from this crazy world is in some ways like going to beautiful place.
~ Al Mollitor
That is a very large question. I cannot find a place to stand in my mind outside of it. I think it is only within my reach from inside. Perhaps I can talk about how it feels to me from withinside my own life.
For me bodily experience has always been necessary. Not at every moment, but somewhere in my life at all times. My husband and I have occupied a long and varied succession of houses over many years, and somehow we have always found a way to have that place of experience.
All of my life I have been guided by a feeling. I would say it is like a memory, but it is more present than a memory. It is more a kind of enclosing dream through which I see and hear everything that lies beyond it. I cannot see apart from it. I cannot see around it.
It has been a source of great joy and much suffering to me. From even before I entered school it held the world away from me at a distance of incomprehension and confusion. I could make nothing of the world then, and I can make little of it now.
I cannot understand with an answering instinct why things are the way they appear to be. I don't know why people want what they want, or say what they say, or do what they do. But the incomprehension goes both ways. Through all the years of my childhood and youth I heard one thing most of all from well-meaning adults and friends, "What is wrong with you?"
My husband was the first person who did not think anything was wrong with me. He shared the same dream, but in him somehow it was different. What was weakness in me was strength in him. What was stubbornness in me was reasonableness in him. What was like memory in me was in him something more like a kind of clear-eyed and determined imagination.
Our many moves together were searchings. We sought with the feelings we shared, but also with the reason I reflect from him. We shared everything. Most of all we shared a common hunger that was too desperate to be satisfied with names or appearances.
We were searching for a kind of living unity of things. Our many moves were a way of remaking the whole of our life again and again—the whole of our communal, social, public, private, commercial, cultural, material, intellectual, marital and domestic relation. With every move that whole grew denser and warmer and more nearly alive.
I have never really been able to identify with time. I learned history in school, but it seemed unreal to me. In our very early days together my husband observed that I do not "believe in time." To me ordinary time is part of the mystery of the world.
But time had something to do with what we were seeking. We always sought for ways of living where place "enclosed" time, if I may put it that way. Place separate from time is a lifeless object to me. Time unbounded by place is time run wild.
The strange thing is that our feelings for that something led us into greater and greater intimacy with the past. Our first trips to Europe, and especially to Paris and Oxford and Cambridge, changed my life forever. For the first time I felt at home in the world. I was at home in a past that was all present to me.
There was unity in the heart of those places, that is what made the difference. A unity of mind and body, of inner and outer. A unity of time and place.
I have never been able to separate time from place. This is hard for me to understand or explain, but it is my lifelong experience. To me their separation marks the world that lies beyond the atmosphere I occupy. It is the thing I cannot identify with or understand.
The Conversation has never ceased for us, not for a day, not from our very first night. And it has continually gained strength with our enlarging experience. But it changes in character with the places we live. Sometimes it assimilates our joy and unity of circumstance. Sometimes it focuses disunity and suffering.
So for me the answer is as it has always been. I can make no use of places or times or inward or outward riches. They all lay beyond my reach. The only air I can breathe is their unity.
Sometime soon I want to try and talk about some of the ways we have found of making places of unity outside the woods in the world.