April 23 – Playing Small – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

“There will never be an “us” if I play small.” Sharon Preiss

In Dante’s Divine Comedy, the only difference between the lovers who find themselves enduring Hell and the lovers working their way through Paradise is that those in Hell have no individual centre, and so they spin in endless identification with each other.

Hard as it is, we cannot shrink from our relationships or we simply become and audience or gofer for the dominant partner or friend. Like most of us, I have struggled with this my whole life: fearful of what might happen if I actually voice my concerns and needs, surprised that doing so, while not always easy or pleasant, always enables me to by myself more fully.

Then, not by chance, I’m always more able to feel and see the world around me. I bring more to the scene and am revitalized more readily by my daily experience.

The great philosopher Martin Buber, who believed that God is most deeply known through relationship, spoke to the heart of this paradox. He said that before there can be a true relationship, there must be two separate beings who can relate. Most of our life experience bears this out. Unless we work to be ourselves, we can never truly know others or the luminous world we live in.

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