Friday, September 21, 2012

Other People

Dewey writes about Timeless Time:  "That sounds about as blissful as I can imagine Innermost House being...not a single mention of hardship or irritation.  Do you and Michael not face some irritation about the weather, wildlife, wet wood, each other?  How do you handle that in close quarters?"

This is a serious question, but it made me smile when I read it.  I knew I was going to have think pretty hard to come up with something I find irritating about life in Innermost House!

It's not that I don't find things irritating Dewey, really.  Just not things about Innermost House.  When I am out in the world I find things bewildering, disabling, noisy, ugly, and unbelievable.  And irritating.  Cars on the street.   Music in the storesand almost everything else in stores.  The kaleidoscope of what Al calls cartoon towns and houses.  The meaninglessness of it all overwhelms me.  I feel it just as much now as ever when I'm out in the world, and for now I am in the world and part of it.

In many ways dissatisfaction with life in the world has characterized my experience for as long as I can remember.  That dissatisfaction is the measure of my contentment in Innermost House.  I did not add Innermost House to my life. I subtracted the world from my life until nothing was left, then Innermost House arose out of the nothingness.   And it enclosed what I now believe was waiting for me all the time, my original contentment. 

Perhaps that sounds strange, but it is even stranger than it sounds.  Innermost House only emerged at the end of a long, narrowing tunnel that appeared to end in darkness.  When the way opened up again the world we had left behind reconstituted itself.  Food, clothes, shelter.  Correspondence and books. Science and art.  A society of visiting friends.  Everything was there again, but it was all different.  And the difference left all the remaining things without the barb of irritation. 

Ember really did make me laugh yesterday with her talk about hurling herself into a hedge at the sight of an oncoming friend.  How well I know that feeling! There have been times in my life when I would go out for walks only under the cover of darkness for fear of running into an acquaintance.   I knew I could always count on my husband to rescue me, but that did not wholly calm my old trapped, panicky feeling.

There is a line from a play someone quoted once around the fire, "Hell is other people."  Yes.  Very often and for a long time, that was my experience.

Who are they who once made me haunt the night and keep to the hedges of life?  Who are they who drive cars and play music, and build houses and towns? Who are they who find meaning in what I find meaningless?  It must be other people. 

Life in Innermost House has taught me that the real hell is not people, but the otherness of people.  And of things and experiences.  That is the barb that is missing in Innermost House.  I love people here.  I love the music of their voices.  I love the books they write and the pictures they paint and the pots and bowls and implements they make.  I love their joys and their sorrows.  I am them.  They are me.

I think it is the separateness of things in the world that has always made it so intolerable to me.  I cannot get over it.  I cannot accept it.  

In a way there are no other people in Innermost House, whether we are home alone or receiving a roomful of guests.  There is no otherness.  No more is there other weather than there is, or other wildlife, or other wood.  Sometimes it is warm and sometimes it is cool.  Sometimes Michael will spend half a morning digging out what he calls Brother Rat.  But there is no otherness about the rat. Our wood is dry when it is dry, and wet when it is wet.  It all makes sense to me.

I do not mean there are not boundaries.  I would not like to have Brother Rat in the house, or the fire out of the fireplace.  I only mean that even those boundaries belong to one mind and one body of life.

You spoke about close quarters.  I think that all of the tensions and irritations of life in the world naturally increase in close quarters.  Including the tensions in a marriage.  

But when we finally succeeded in drawing our quarters close enough around us, those tensions converged into an inward openness, and everything changed. There is no one and nothing to be irritated with now.  There is no otherness.


  1. Diana wrote: "But when we finally succeeded in drawing our quarters close enough around us, those tensions converged into an inward openness, and everything changed."

    -- Are you saying that when you had created the ideal living situation or lifestyle, that you developed a different relationship with others and the "otherness" of others?

    Does this have to do with creating the environment where you are not daily annoyed by cars and noises and people in your space? Are you suggesting that once we each manage to eliminate the other stresses in our lives that we will be open to seeing others as part of ourselves and being better able to welcome them in our lives? I ask these questions because I am wondering about the statement about "drawing our quarters close enough.." Was this house so much smaller and efficient and ideal to be "enough"? Is it really about drawing the quarters close enough around you or more just finding a way to eliminate your stresses including more control of your home life and the amount of interaction with people so that when people were around it was because they were invited and were there only for a short time?

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  3. :0) This post goes a long way toward answering what I was struggling with here yesterday. I felt intrigued by Diana saying "I love people here." I stopped and thought about that, and wondered where it has been true for me. Also, "I think it is the separateness of things in the world that has always made it so intolerable to me. I cannot get over it. I cannot accept it."

    When I considered this, it came to me that where "I love people here" (in my own life) is either in my household, where we are focused intentionally on loving truth and Earth, or in monastic community. I love people in some other intentional communities too, but their rigid frameworks of mind somewhat terrify me.

    Asking myself why I can say "I love people here" of monastic communities and my household, I realise it is because they are not looking at me - nor at themselves either. They are *here*, yes - really present. When my eyes meet theirs I am seen indeed, wisely and shrewdly. There is no need for pretence, and I am surprised by love when I am with them. Such kindness.

    But though they are very present and their in-sight is full on, this is because the orientation of their souls is not to me nor to themselves, but to Mystery. This essential looking-beyond gives space to breathe in the relationship. Their souls are tuned in to the Great Mystery, so they can afford to be kind to me, because I don't matter so much (and nor do they). Things find their right perspective in the light of Mystery.

    Out in the world where it is all Mammon, weasel-eyed watching turns on. My money, my turn, my stuff - competition, consumption, conflict. Overwhelming.

    1. Ember, I really appreciate this explanation, especially:
      "... the orientation of their souls is not to me nor to themselves, but to Mystery."

      As much as I like to be heard, and hear others, but not about "My money, my turn, my stuff - competition, consumption, conflict...

      I think we share the mystery here on this site.

    2. I've been really struggling with all this too and in a nutshell I've come to the conclusion that for me it's about keeping it real (I know thats such an over used and under understood catch phrase but I can't come up with anything more eloquent). All the falseness and social game playing really confuses me. I've thought for too long that there is something wrong with me but no more. Diana's last two posts have really given me the courage to hold my ground in my own unique way and thank you Ember for your perceptive interpretation, once again you've articulated what I was feeling and shown it to me with new eyes.

    3. Yes, Ember, I can totally relate to what you have said about tuning into the Mystery in relationships. When that awareness is the stillpoint through which we look and are looked at, the deeper essence of each person is perceived/responds and we feel loved and interconnected at a very deep level that transcends our personalities but includes them as well.

    4. Love it! Thanks for sharing that Ember. I agree - it is easier for me as well to love people when they also are oriented to the Mystery.

    5. I return to nature when ordinary life is overwhelming. And there I find mystery which soothes and comforts me. What Ember pointed out about the souls tuning in to mystery sounds like music, yes, things find their right perspective in the light of mystery. There will always be others, but I will no longer grieve about that, because there also always be me and the ones I also am. Thank you for your visions about this.

  4. (Sorry. Initial comment deleted for typo) _0_

  5. "There is no one and nothing to be irritated with now. There is no otherness."

    Does this remain true for you, Diana, even back out in the hustle and bustle of the larger world, so that now you are able to perceive the entire world as one unified whole regardless of where you find yourself to be? As a result of living for so long at/in IH are you now able to INCLUDE the contracted belief in separateness and meaningless that you perceive in most people's relationships with the world as part of the wholeness that has no 'other' that you experience in IH? Do you continue to transcend the perception of linear time even when you are not in the controlled environment of IH?

    1. Excellent questions, Pam. I am curious about this as well. Our reactions to situations are often related to our overall stress levels.

  6. oh diana
    discovering your site after all this time is like a little precious gift left for me in the woods. can you imagine unwrapping and finding it . . .
    you sent me a special quote at a particularly hard time. the hardest.
    it helped.
    i kept returning to innerhouse to see if more posts had been made. i kept
    re reading the old ones.
    this morning i found you listed as a favorite in a friend's brand new blog.
    she named it 'home, in a heartbeat'. it's going to be very special.
    not just because her spirit shines through like sun through a clean glass

    . . . but because she holds dear all the things you talk about.
    i am so so very grateful to have found you again!!! and to have found you
    through a friend is even more wonderful.
    i have much reading to do, from the very beginning of your archives!
    tammy j

  7. I hope you'll stick around Tammy J. Innermost House and this group have helped me to change into a whole new person--The one I always was.

    1. The one I always was, yes, that is what I am looking for. It seems as the years has gone by I have lost myself, but not completely. Changing into the one I always was, that's a wonderful thought.

    2. Yay Julie Graff! You are awesome. Looking forward to hearing more about your journey.

    3. thanks julie.
      i'll be sticking around. i first discovered diana and michael through the tiny house blog. then discovered her very first site of innermosthouse a long time ago. . . where she only posted occasionally. there was no interaction on it.
      i kept going back and back. reading every word.
      i always wished i lived closer to hear her speak.
      imaging my delight in "hearing" her speak through this site to
      each of us. wonderful!

    4. Yes! Tiny House blog landed me here too--hook, line, and sinker.

    5. i've spent what feels like minutes but has no doubt been hours
      reading through all the wonderful archives and comments.
      i think you chose the title of your book in your very description of it! living elegantly on $5000. perfect!
      especially. finally. now that people are being made to find out
      that it's not all about money. it's slowly happening. but they are coming 'round!

    6. I think I came here that way also. Tammy, before this blog was the Facebook group which started on the 1st Jan this year. Lots more reading there. And it has helped me through the year so far, with lots of insights and support from different people.

  8. My innermost space is my a rural area/small town...I often think it would better in a far more remote has not come to be....when I think about it....I am where I need to be now. God continually blesses me each and every day. I practice both mindfulness and work on practicing the presence of God in quiet waking moments. Such a richness...I have to throw myself in a hedge...but I do turn off the phone regularly....and stay put as much as I am able. I find solace in this medium of communication...thanks.

    1. Welcome, Will! I don't remember seeing your name before this. You speak of being in a small town and are Benedictine. Are you in a monastery, and if so, in what part of the country, if I might ask? I live very near the Abbey of the Genesee near Geneseo, NY and am so drawn to the monastic life. However, since I'm not Catholic I don't think I could even be an oblate affiliated with the order. Too bad. Monasticism as a lifestyle is more a way of 'being', I believe, than necessarily the structured religious form in which it is practiced. Prayer, contemplation, silence, selfless service, inner awareness, the offering of alms to the needy, and worship of God are all common elements in different monastic settings, I should think.

    2. i have always loved the sound of the word hermitage.
      i am as much hermit as i am anything else. though i've never liked labels. but i think that was my fascination with the innermost house of diana and wise michael.
      diana... the wise man's wife... i think of more as a shining light.
      it seemed like a hermitage of the spirit.
      nice to meet you will. and all of you!

  9. This is totally unrelated to this topic, but I just noticed something I had missed before in one of the photos of the chairs at IH. It appears that on each chair one leg at the front is convex and the other is concave and that the two chairs facing each other would fit together if pushed against each other. There is no 'other'--each chair is a mirror image of the other and together they make one whole.

    1. The photo I'm referring to is the picture used for Diana's blog post entitled "A Place to Be Free".

    2. Wow! Great eye, Pam. I wouldn't have seen it in a million years. I love them even more.

  10. I didn't see that, although I saw the photo's many times now. Isn't that beautiful? Together they make one whole, I see this also in my own relationship. We both bend inwards and outwards, like waves. We are not always in balance, like these chairs are, but I trust we eventually will grow to that point.

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