Everything feels very intimate. It has for a while. Things that used to feel safely distant are drawing closer, their orbits tightening around me and picking up speed as though my gravitational pull has gotten stronger, and I cannot stop this even if I wanted to.
Would I want to stop it? My soul is like a Jell-O ring—prod it and it will jiggle; cut into it and it may fall apart, become a pile of quivering little lumps. I don’t want to avoid experience, I want to chase it. I’ve gone back to doing what I used to do when I was very young and very distressed: staring out windows until I feel like part of what George Eliot calls “that involuntary palpitating life,” like part of the cosmos or something. I used to imagine that I was a specific tree or plant—I would tell myself, I am that tree, and clear my mind of everything except photosynthesis and the movement of water up the trunk and the space the tree occupied. Now, I pay close attention to my breathing and feel like I am other people.
I used to not want to read Walt Whitman; I felt like everything he talked about was something I already knew and felt. Now I see how much clearer he is in describing many of my own beliefs and habits (especially in “Song of Myself” and “I Sing the Body Electric”), and how his descriptions help clarify my own thoughts and feelings. Like Whitman, “I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother’s breast with the little child, / Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with the wrestlers, march in line with the firemen, and pause, listen, count.” I loosen myself from my own consciousness and feel like I’m moving outside of myself and becoming one with every life force. I think it feels something like being in love or being mesmerized or like taking a really good breath. It helps me love the world more, and being part of it, myself, too.
I associate this meditative practice with my much-younger self, but it’s still where I go to see myself for who and what I am, to observe my own worth. It is how I escape from self-loathing and and how I will become a better listener and interact with people better. I am starting to carry this feeling around with me, and it makes everything feel so very close. Sometimes this proximity to everything feels transcendent, as it is in Whitman; sometimes it’s more like when Courtney Love sings, in “Softer, Softest”:
I’ve got a blister from
Touching everything I see
The abyss opens up
It steals everything from me
Or like Arthur Rimbaud’s boat, which, after fully experiencing all there is to experience, desires oblivion. The last two feelings are scary, and the fear of feeling them is why I usually avoid experiencing very much. But for now, I feel this almost druggy closeness to the world immediately around me strongly. It distracts me from schoolwork, but it helps me be present when I’m with others, to think of myself less.
Every look, every word, every adjustment of someone’s posture feels like a physical touch. When someone talks to me, I feel as if their hands are fumblingly touching my face like the arms of a squid moving over a rock, gently slapping and sliding all over the surface. It is eerie and extremely intimate.
I went out with some girls from my dorm one night a month or so ago. When the waitress poured me a water, I was genuinely moved. I blushed and thanked her emphatically in a voice that was slightly choked up. The girl sitting across from me noticed my reaction and looked confused. I tried to explain that it had felt like such an intimate gesture, because water is so essential and primal—it was not unlike having someone wash your hair or hand-feed you—and that I was embarrassed because this woman was a total stranger. I don’t think this explanation helped.
My brother and I used to get on our hands and knees, drape our parents’ comforter over ourselves, and crawl about the house together, chanting, “Amoeba, amoeba, amoeba,” occasionally accidentally picking up and dragging an errant shoe or getting caught on the edge of a carpet. When we grew too frustrated with the difficulty of coordinating our movements and/or the extreme heat under the blanket, the game was over. Right now it feels like every person I talk to is trying to play amoeba with me. It’s nice so far, if a little uncomfortable. I hope that when it gets too hot or too difficult, I will not give up, that I will be resilient enough to maintain contact. ♦