Thursday, July 3, 2008

Finite Hearts that Yearn

Unwritten Poetry - Ink
Originally uploaded by Samyell

At almost 30 I'm coming into that portion of life where growing has slowed down long enough for me to focus on knowing. The person that we are at 8 is so different from who we are at 18, and at 28 the mind boggles at the things we did and said and felt when we were 18.

Art has always been a huge part of my life, but more so now than ever.

I'm learning that I'm more sensitive than I ever thought and that I'm more stubborn than I ever thought, that I'm both more fragile and more determined than I ever suspected.

Tuesday a friend said, "Part of the reason most of us get married is that we feel incomplete as person."

I stopped the thought, solidified it in my mind, examined it from this angle, and that. And I realized that I may never get married. For real. I don't feel incomplete as a person. The very thought is alien to me.

No man is an island, and I'm certainly not. I love my family and spend *a lot* of time with them. I love and need my God, my friends, my cats, my books and my art. But it's not because I'm not a complete and whole person. It's because healthy, complete and whole people know that relationships and goals and interests outside themselves contribute to a happy meaningful life.

I've always loved Browning. If you're not familiar with him, you've probably heard the line "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." That was written for him by his wife, Elizabeth Barrett I love pretty much anything he wrote. My first acquaintance with him began in school with 'How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix’ and 'The Pied Piper of Hamelin'. I memorized the first one. He was my kind of poet!
Later I discovered 'Two in the Campagna', which is only, to my mind, the most romantic poem ever written! That she completes him is obvious. He expresses so much adoration that he wants to be his wife, he wants to be so tightly bound up with her that they are the same, one complete person. It's a physical, but not essentially sexual yearning:

I would I could adopt your will,
See with your eyes, and set my heart
Beating by yours, and drink my fill
At your soul's springs, - your part my part
In life, for good and ill.

He can't of course. His human nature limits him to being with her, and loving her. His human nature leaves him wondering what's going on inside her head, as we can never fully know with another. Even if they tell us, what they are trying to say will never be exactly what we hear.

As with our art, what we try to convey will never be exactly what the viewer, buyer, owner feels. As even with this poem.

My favorite part of the poem expresses frustration and resignation at that, but also such beauty:

Only I discern-
Infinite passion, and the pain
Of finite hearts that yearn.

We're all capable of seeing glimpses of infinity, and certainly of wanting it. But we're only capable of doing so much despite our yearnings. I read this, and where before I always wondered what it would feel like, now, truth be told, I'm kind of glad that my yearnings are artistic and spiritual. There's only so much of that infinite stuff a physical body can take.


  1. Interesting post - I got married quite young, at 22 (we had been together since I was 17) and I believe the reason it's working out so well is because I feel complete as a person and always have. Separateness is what makes being together special. I'm almost 30 now and we've been married about 8 years. We have a one year old baby girl now and that's where I think the test is - knowing who you are before you have kids!

  2. You are fortunate to have gotten to where you are by 30. It took me quite a bit longer. I am now where I don't "need" a man and in fact am so happy in my singular life that I actually prefer my life on my own.

  3. H.E.Eigler, in a world where marriage is seen as disposable commodity, a happy one is real treasure! Congratulations to you!
    'Separateness is what makes being together special' That's an interesting statement that I'm going to think on:)

    Marlaine, most people grow up thinking that you *have* have someone because *everyone* does. I had a good role model, a beloved aunt, who never did marry. My parents also never tried to push a relationship on me. That counts for a lot.

  4. I was a few months shy of 30 when I met the man I ended up marrying. that was almost 18 years ago.

    While I was "complete" before I met him, now I can't imagine life without "us." Odd.

    I see our love in eecummings "i carry your heart"

    i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
    my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
    i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
    by only me is your doing,my darling)

    i fear
    no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
    no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
    and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
    and whatever a sun will always sing is you

    here is the deepest secret nobody knows
    (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
    and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
    higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
    and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

    i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

  5. CD, Thank you for sharing that! I love it, especially as it begins claimaxing from 'and whatever a sun will always sing is you . . ' on.

    I don't think it's odd at all. I think it good and right that mates feel that. It's part of a marriage that works.

    But, really, thank you for sharing that piece:)