Tuesday, July 20, 2010


My husband and I come from two different backgrounds. As he describes it, he grew up with a lot of organ music and little symbolism. I, on the other hand grew up with a lot of symbolism and no organ music. As a result, his senses and passions are wide open whereas my abilities to analyse and interpret are well honed.

Opposites attract they say, and I guess it’s because they complement each other. Of course Alan would never ponder that, he’d just enjoy the life and beauty that surrounds him. Like just now, when he whistled a whippoorwill song and the loon sang back.

For him, life is like music; it comes in either a major or minor mood: happy or sad, good or bad, energy is going up or it’s going down. For me, life, like water, is always changing, flowing, interpreting: adjusting.

There seem to be three stages in relationships. After attraction comes repulsion: when you wished the other was more like you: if she’d just lighten up, if he’d just go with the flow.

Thinking there is a right way and a wrong way is one sure path to conflict. I remember my nephew the sailor telling me I had tied a knot the wrong way. His dad had taught him a different way so all knots had to be tied that one way. “Does it work?” I asked. “The boat’s still tied to the dock, isn’t it?” He shrugged his shoulders and moved on. Thinking there is only one way to dress, one way to pray, or one way to live has caused endless pain and suffering in this world, and relationships of all kinds split apart if they get stuck in this dualistic way of seeing things – my way or the highway.

My husband and I are still together twenty years later because through this stage, no matter what, we were kind to each other. We rarely said anything we regretted, and as a result, we continued into the third stage.

As I see it, when we get past criticism, get past thinking there’s only one way to do anything, a whole new world opens up. With respect, we’ve moved into reaping the gifts of union. Through the years we’ve come to appreciate the other’s strengths and have opened ourselves to the complimentary way. We’ve both softened and let go of our need to be right.

In yoga, there is a bending over pose where the intention is for the wisdom of the heart to flow to the head. This intermingling of opposites creates the third energy, or the middle way as some call it. This is what Goldilocks and the Three Bears was about: not too hard and not too soft, not too hot and not too cold – just right.

When the opposites not join but integrate, a different vision opens up. I’d read about this in different places but it’s taken a while to finally understand it. In The Little Prince, St. Exupery wrote: “What is essential is invisible to the eye. It is with the heart that one sees rightly.” I have a framed quote on my wall from Helen Keller who wrote: “Beauty cannot be seen or touched. It must be felt within the heart.” And Proust wrote: “The greatest journey is not to travel to new places but to see with new eyes.” Rising above the dualities and living in the goodness, appreciating things as they are, is what I think they’re talking about.

Like a symphony orchestra with its strings, brass, percussion, woodwinds and voice, there is more than one way to be on this earth. And when the different parts come together with respect and appreciation, an opening is created that lifts both players and audience to a higher place: that place of bliss we search for.

Alan may have a preference to perform and I to conduct, yet together we make beautiful music.

Marci Mandel has written a sonic performance piece for the Minden Fringe that stars Brigitte Gall, August 21 and 27. “And the Word Was...” is about getting to the root of things. “If you go deep down through the words to the primal feelings, you’ll find truths that are universal: mythical. What was at the beginning? This work suggests one possibility.” Look for ticket information.