Ordinary men…
     Put up a barrage of common sense to balk
     Intimacy….           (Louis MacNeice)
Have you ever seen it: the awkwardness, the avoidance, the embarrassment on a person’s face when more is expected of them than they are able to give?  I mean in the area of intimacy or friendship.  Yes, we shy away from intrusion, particularly of the emotional kind, and we have learnt how to protect our space.  But it is possible to protect it so well that few people ever see it; after a time, no one sees it; and eventually we even lose touch with it ourselves.  That is how to “balk intimacy”, how to block it and avoid it and never know it at all. 
           Why would you balk intimacy?  Why, because in intimacy you are vulnerable, you are fully visible, you can be got at, and therefore you feel unsafe.  There are people who are very spontaneous in every other matter, but when it comes to anything personal they are like prisoners in chains.  They talk business or football with great enthusiasm but they never speak their real feelings about life or love or death or anything personal.  Perhaps it is because they associate love (and anything like it) with entangling obligations, jealousy, resentment and guilt.  So they develop a protective layer against all such subjects.  A man was described after a family funeral as “the noblest Roman of them all.”  In other words he had shown no emotion but only a stoical dignity.  That was surely some kind of achievement, but I'm not sure that we should strive to imitate it. 
           The wise ones tell us we should be intimate with everything, with every thing!  -  with our own experience moment by moment, with every object in the house, with trees, with every plant in the garden, with music, with the sound of people’s voices…. Then we might not find it strange or threatening to be intimate with people!
           The word ‘intimate’ comes from Latin intimus which means (among other things) ‘deep’.  We would surely want to be deeply immersed in our life rather than glancing over the surface.  Wise people have told me many things and I pass them on to you!  “Taste your food, don’t just stuff your face!”  And “If you don’t hear the clanking of the pots and pans as you work in the kitchen, your meditation is not deep enough!”  Add pots and pans to that list, then!  “When you walk, walk as if you were kissing the ground with your feet!”  If I can walk on the ground with respect and awareness, it will be harder for me to walk on people!  If I can be fully present to a plant or tree (or even a pot or pan), then I will find it easier to be present to other people.  It’s not so strange: our life is one thing, it is all of a piece.  People are not in a separate compartment from everything else; you cannot despise or ignore the material world and love people.  All are God's creatures.  I've always noticed that we treat people in much the same way as we treat furniture. 
           Meditation is: being intimate with everything, not dividing things into categories  -  interesting and uninteresting, important and unimportant, nice and nasty….  These categories are about oneself and nothing else.  Meditation means “dying to oneself” and discovering, as a consequence, that I can be intimate with everything: I can be immediately and directly present to every thing and every person and to the Source of all. 

Donagh O'Shea

These are brief articles, one per month,
on a wide variety of topics concerning the living of the Christian life.