About (updated 11/28/12)


Life is difficult,” wrote Peck. And so too is love—real Love. . . . “There is scarcely anything more difficult than to love one another,” wrote Rilke; “That it is work, day labor, day labor, God knows there is no other word for it. . . . For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.”

A relationship stands the best chance of being a lasting and deeply fulfilling and meaningfully one, the more we grow, and the better we become as human beings—meaning the move loving, self-aware, present, and emotionally mature we become.

Yet there are plenty of thinkers, writers, and psychologists—far too many in my opinion—who seek to reverse this—who seek instead to champion an outside-in approach, and claim that our capacity to be happy and loving and decent to others depends, on the quality of our relationship, and if our relationship improves, then we too automatically will improve as human beings and be happier by virtue of all that.

And while this is the case sometimes—that as we are loved and accepted and affirmed more, we—at least some of us—do tend to stabilize and our symptoms and neuroticness do tend to lessen—it’s also equally, if not more true—and certainly much more empowering to realize—that as we face ourselves and become more mindful, self-aware, cognizant, reflective, virtuous, conscientious, self-controlled, we improve our capacity to engage in healthier and more meaningful and loving relationships.

Do this, doing the latter—taking up an inside-out approach—is the essence of differentiation—of defining ourselves, our “I” in a healthy and mature way.

Thus what I find objectionable about an outside-in approach to relationships is not that it may not be effective, and not that it is completely appropriate with children or even adolescents, it’s that it takes the burden off of us, it shifts the responsibility for our conduct and how loving and mature we are away from ourselves and away from courageous, heroic, right effort, and that it disempowers us by putting us in a reactive position by placing the burden of the quality of our relationships on the relationship itself and on other people (or the other person), in essence saying, If you loved me more, listened more, gave me more attention and quality time, etc., then I would feel better and be a better person, and in turn love you more, listen better, be more giving, et cetera. (And this may be true—that if we are treated more kindly and with more compassion and understanding, then we tend to become kinder and more compassionate and understanding in our treatment of others. But as adults, it is incumbent on us to make sure that we check ourselves to make sure that we are not expecting something that we are not giving—that we are not being more demanding of the other person than we are of ourselves.)

This outside-in approach is not only disempowering by focusing us more on circumstance than on our own character, it is demeaning and disrespectful of who we are and can be as human beings: it is disrepectful of the human spirit. An outside-in approach can lead us into the mental unhealth and downward-spiral where we rely on another or a relationship to better us—instead of our own initiative and conscience and inner wisdom—and thereby take things out of our own hands, effectively victimizing ourselves by placing the locus for control in regards to the quality of our relationship largely outside of ourselves and more in the hands of circumstance, other people, fortune, fate, luck, caprice, et cetera.

It is quite a concession / surrender of oneself and one’s personal power and capacity for responsibility and initiative to make.

And so with this blog I intend to take an inside-out approach to love and life and relationships and encourage the growth and development of what’s best in us—what’s in us that is capable of heroism, real responsibility, virtue, wisdom, self-control, maturity, making better choices, making more loving choices.

Hello; my name is John.

I’m 45-years old, recently married, and living in the Cincinnati-Dayton area, and trying as best as I can to live and love and grow and wake up (and stay awake) in a culture that seems to embrace sleep, mediocrity, comfort, the path of least resistance, and avoidance of challenge and difficulty as if they were virtues.

And I will be quoting and excerpting liberally from and commenting on the words and wisdom of thinkers like Fromm, Peck, Rilke, Rumi, Jesus, Buddha, Thoreau, Emerson, Montaigne, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Krishnamurti, C. S. Lewis, Merton, Nouwen, Jacob Needleman, Simone Weil, David Schnarch, Murray Bowen, Pema Chödrön, Kahlil Gibran, and cetera. I’m not the first—I’m not the only person who thinks this way and who holds himself up to these sorts of high standards and who is determined to Loves this way. There have been others. But this is definitely a higher path; the road much less traveled.

This site is dedicated to the learning and discovering of what Love truly is, and not what we would want it to be, and what we hope meshes well with our congenital preferences and limitations and tolerances.

And this will not be a site dedicated to the “drug” of love—to enhancing feelings of romance, sexual love, infatuation, limerance, the feeling of being “in love.” Rather it will focus on becoming a better and more emotionally mature and self-aware human being first, and from that—from becoming this genuinely more loving and understanding and decent human being—more and more truly loving and benevolent and happy feelings will—or at least should—follow.

Either way, becoming a better you should certainly in many ways be its own reward.

I think (hope) that most of what I write and post here will hold up to repeated viewing and reading (meaning it may need to be read more than once).

And I also hope you will consider yourself free to argue with what I write and share here and with my point of view—because arguing, debating, wrestling with differing ideas and perspectives—and doing so in writing—is a* great* way of learning more clearly why we think the way we do, and clarifying our own opinions and assumptions to ourselves, and digesting in a legitimate way a divergent point of view.

So I hope you will deeply consider this perspective that I am detailing on this blog and journey with it for a while and see what changes come about in your life by taking an inside-out approach to change and growth and by first becoming the change you wish to see! Because this path is very grassy (very, very grassy!), it has not been very tried very often, and so it is certainly in want of some wear. So try it. Walk it for awhile. It just might change your life—and not just a little, but radically, completely, and for the better. It just might be what ends up making all the difference.

Namaste,

John

47 Responses to About (updated 11/28/12)

  1. I appreciate this blog. Years ago, I read Peck and was moved by him. I was reading him at the end of one of my relationships, which I wrote a play about. Now, I am writing a screenplay about the last day of a relationship, and I am happy to have found your blog for inspiration and research. The script is an unromantic comedy in which a couple finds that true love doesn’t exist and that something better does, that they are living the love they have dreamed about and haven’t ever noticed. Thank you again for reminding me of Peck!

    • John says:

      You are welcome. I hope this blog has helped you and that your screenplay is coming along well!
      Best regards, and thank you for you nice words,
      John

  2. I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Feel free to decline, but if you choose to accept, please visit this link for details:
    http://celestealluvial.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/versatile-blogger-award-5/
    Congratulations
    Celeste

  3. Julie says:

    So delighted to have come across your blog through Zemanta suggestions while writing my post today — and to be able to share this discovery. Fabulous.

    • John says:

      You are very welcome, Julie 🙂 I am glad you have found my blog and that you have found it to be thought-provoking and enriching. Please stop back by, and please check out my other blogs.

      Kindest regards,

      John

  4. I just passed the Very Inspiring Blogger Award to YOU! Congratulations! Read about it here: http://bareyournakedtruth.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/my-very-inspiring-blogger-award/ All you have to do is share seven things about yourself, then list your award winners.

  5. Sebastian says:

    Hello John! This is a wonderful blog and I have placed it on my blogroll because it is a real blessing to me! Thank you for following my blog at Faith1st Ministry. I hope it has and will continue to be a major blessing in your life. May God richly bless you as you continue to write and blog. Please continue with us on this journey and remember to have Faith 1st. — Sebastian

  6. leilarashid says:

    What a beautiful blog!

  7. I have tried and tried the outside-in approach and am finding, for me anyway, it DOESN’T work. I’m embarking on the inside-out journey now & I must say it’s not easy. Somedays it’s such a painful struggled I find it hard to breathe, but I am starting to see the light coming through and the peace in my heart taking hold.

    Looking forward to reading more of your stuff. 🙂

    • John says:

      Hello Cadence,

      Thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment. And I’m glad you found my blog because it definitely is based on an inside-out “be the change you wish to see” approach to love–and to life in general! To me that’s usually the best approach, and it’s an approach the world needs more people who are willing to take up and try, so I for one am truly glad you are taking up the challenge! And yes it will be difficult at times, and lonely, and painful, but if our struggle is honest and hard fought, we are usually rewarded with a life that is much more meaningful, that has more depth and deliberateness to it.

      I wish you well on your journey and I hope you will stop by this blog often and read and comment and share some of your struggles and successes! 🙂

      Warmest regards,

      John

  8. Mark says:

    amazing blog. I was wondering what your thoughts are in regards to why we do desire/have the romantic ‘fall in love’ stage and whether or not there’s something essential about it in finding a partner and even striving for what we want in life in general? Would we do anything at all without wanting and desire? If you’ve blogged about this already point me to it.. otherwise greatly looking forward to hearing your ideas.

    • John says:

      Hello Mark,

      Thank you for reading and for the kind comments and the questions. . . .

      I don’t think I’ve addressed this (what you asked) specifically.

      I think most of us desire the experience of “falling in love” because it’s such an amazingly pleasurable natural high. When we’re in love and we feel deeply loved and we feel as if we’re with someone who’s out of our league, we feel on top of the world, elated, almost manic with joy! But just because we feel all of this, does this mean we’ve actually paired up with someone who’s good for us, who will always be loyal and have our best interest at heart? Have we paired up with someone who actually knows how to love us and treat us well, especially if (and more likely when) the feelings go?

      Most of us are much more creatures of emotion than creatures of logic and reason and commonsense, and so most of us are driven to seek pleasure and avoid pain and difficulty. And the experience of falling in love is front-loaded with (the promise of) intoxication and pleasure. So with so little commonsense and ration and wisdom working within most of us, why not go all in and fall for the promises (likely overpromises, but who’s really thinking about that?) that falling in love seems to offer–the happily ever after fairy tale ending?

      If a person truly wants to be happy it would seem to me that it would behoove that person to add as much commonsense and wisdom and thought to the equation as possible. The feeling of falling in love doesn’t mean that we’ve actually met our match or that we’ve paired up with someone who will actually love us and be good to us, or that we’re actually loving the other person or that we even truly care for him or her. All it indicates is that two people are horny and that they feel really mutually intoxicated with each other for the time being and that they likely care more about how they’re feeling and how the other person is making them feel than the actual well-being and happiness of the other person. It tends to all be very narcissistic and self-centered and emotional.

      And I think that what some (most?) of us hope is to strike a balance — to meet someone we’re in love with and who elicits those feelings in us, but who also has the depth and moral development and character and personality that will make us want to stick around should (likely when) the feeling wanes and diminishes, and who will care enough about us to invest themselves in us and the relationship in order to keep the relationship generally smooth and happy and positive. That seems to be the optimal situation — to experience romantic love with someone who is capable of being our best friend and companion and whom we will still feel attracted to and appreciative of and occasionally even smitten by when the infatuation and lust and reproductive urges have passed or cooled and calmed somewhat. And so that is what we ought to be thinking about and investigating while we’re giddy with love–what sort of companion will this other person be? What sort of character does s/he have? What does s/he stand for? Is s/he capable of truly being a true friend? Is s/he the type of person who is caring, patient, appreciative, generous, kind, warm, giving, willing to look at her/him-self, admit when they’re wrong, make amends, et cetera?

      And just as importantly, am I this type of person? Have I done the inner work that will allow me to be a good companion to another? have I done the inner work such that will allow me to be kind, generous, appreciative, forgiving, and not exploitive, selfish, mean, cruel, self-centered, impulsive, overly emotional and reactive, cold, resentful, et cetera? it seems that this least set of questions is what very, very few of us are willing to ask, let alone investigate, but that we must ask and investigate if we are to be able to genuinely Love and be good for another human being.

      Thank you question, Mark, and for reading; and I hope this answers what you were asking.

      Kindest regards,

      John

  9. Hey I am loving your blog!!! I’ve nominated you for Kreativ blogger some great posts you have here http://deborahyishak.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/kreative-blogger-very-inspiring-awards-massive-thank-you/

    • John says:

      Thank you very kindly, Deborah, for the nomination/award, and I am even happier that you have found my blog and that you are enjoying it!

      And I have to confess that I have a major on-line character flaw (just one? lol 🙂 ) — I have not been a very good blogger when it comes to accepting awards. I think I have managed to say thank you, but the answer 7 questions part trips me up. I have so many things I want to write about and my fondness for photography, tennis, soccer, chess, bridge, Legos, intellectual stimulation in so many forms isn’t very stimulating to blog about in answerr about by myself. And answering about my favorite flavor of yogurt or if i could be reincarnated as a member of *Nsync or Backstreet Boys or One Direction or Menudo, which one would I chose and why, just doesn’t do it for me.

      But no worries, I am trying to address all of this with a who team of therapists, and so far so good, this response would have to count as progress in a onlinely sociable version of John 😉

      Kindest regards, Deborah, and many thanks for the award!

      John

      • John, I loved your reply it really made me laugh, thats absolutely no worries buddy – and not something I think you need a team of therapists for haha I totally get you. Your blog is great and therefore very deserving of the nomination irrespective…;)

        • John says:

          🙂 Thank you. You are very kind for understanding, Deborah. And I’m glad my response made you laugh 🙂

          (And I still plan on fulfilling the conditions set forth in the bylaws of the award and the nomination 🙂 )

  10. Hi John, I am still relatively new to the blogging world, and I am still learning to navigate. Consequently, I just read your posts for the first time, and I am in awe. What an amazing concept, and how beautifully written you are! I cannot wait to read more. I am truly inspired, and thanks for your validating words for my post…

    • John says:

      You are more than welcome, and I am glad that the words and posts you are reading here are resonating with you! Best to you and happy blogging!

      Kindest regards,

      John

  11. yazrooney says:

    Good luck in this wonderful journey to re-discover the True Self, which is the love we are in the process of re-claiming. Lots of love to you John.

  12. Thank you for following my blog!

    • John says:

      Hello Michael,

      You are more than welcome, and ditto. Photography is also a passion of mine as well–landscape and nature, in particular. At some point, I will also have a website for my photography.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Kindest regards,

      John

  13. MarciaSD says:

    Cheers….To Love!!!

  14. dranilj1 says:

    If you are curious, would you like to acquaint on perspectives of psychological science on Love?

    http://wp.me/p2qjsX-22k

    Some people just know the right thing to do – YOU – thank you!:)

  15. John, I am honored and delighted to walk this grassy path of self-development along with you as I enjoy your writings here. Your works are definitely worthy of many a re-read. I appreciate the homage to Robert Frost in your concluding paragraph, and I agree whole-heartedly. Remaining conscious of our inner growth and making the healthy choices that keep us on the highest path do indeed make all the difference. With gratitude for you and this important blog, Gina

    • John says:

      Hello Gina,

      Thank you for the very kind and complimentary words! I appreciate them. So thank you for that.

      And yes, this is a very grassy path! I’m glad you are walking it as well (and that you got the reference to Frost as well). And I am grateful for having found your wonderful blog!

      Warmest regards,

      John

  16. John, thank you for stopping, liking a post, and following the blog. As I read your autobiography, I noticed your Rilke quote and I am posting his poem, The Panther, as my post tonight. His poetry resonates with me deeply and the message it speaks to relationships beginning with one’s self and those immediately around each of us.

    I look forward to following your blog.

    Take care,

    Ivon

    • John says:

      Hello Ivon,

      Thanks for reading and for commenting. I appreciate that.

      And Rilke is indeed on my favorite poets and writers! Ivon, have you read many of his letters? (Beyond “Letters to a Young Poet” there are other and bigger collections of his letters).

      And “The Panther” is one of my favorite poems, and a poem that I have played around with on more than one occasion. To me it speaks of the cumulative effects of a life of self-imprisonment, a soul-less life, the life that perhaps too many live and are trapped in or have gone numb in–life before the “why?” before what Camus describes here–“Rising, streetcar, four hours in the office or the factory, meal, streetcar, four hours of work, meal, sleep, and Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday and Saturday according to the same rhythm–this path is easily followed most of the time.” To me, this is what Rilke is describing in “The Panther”–life before the why–

      It happens that the stage sets collapse. Rising, streetcar, four hours in the office or the factory, meal, streetcar, four hours of work, meal, sleep, and Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday and Saturday according to the same rhythm—this path is easily followed most of the time. But one day the “why” arises and everything begins in that weariness tinged with amazement. “Begins”—this is important. Weariness comes at the end of the acts of a mechanical life, but at the same time it inaugurates the impulse of consciousness. It awakens consciousness and provokes what follows. What follows is the gradual return into the chain or it is the definitive awakening. At the end of the awakening comes, in time, the consequence: suicide or recovery. In itself weariness has something sickening about it. Here, I must conclude that it is good. For everything begins with consciousness and nothing is worth anything except through it.

      Or maybe Rilke’s Panther–or those whose life he is describing via this image of the Panther–are those whose consciousness has been awakened briefly from their mechanical wearying life, but who have returned to the chain–

      Only at times the curtains of the pupil rise
      without a second . . . then a shape enters,
      slips through the tightened silence of the shoulders,
      reaches the heart, and dies
      .”

      Rilke’s Panther is wearied from his confinement. His vision is wearied, his heart is wearied. He’s left to mechanically spend his days walking in a small circle. Rilke’s Panther knows firsthand what David Whyte in his poem “Sweet Darkness” is passing on–

      Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
      confinement of your aloneness
      to learn

      anything or anyone
      that does not bring you alive

      is too small for you.

      Except there’s nothing sweet from the Panther’s perspective about his confinement. No release will be forthcoming. The Panther in Rilke’s poem is showing us just what a life that is too small to live looks like. One could ask of Rilke’s Panther, as Mary Oliver asks of us–“Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” The Panther’s heart is cold and infertile, a graveyard; it’s where things–images, impressions–go to die. The Panther is not free, it is dying inside, what it sees comes and dies inside as well. But the Panther’s cage is not of its own making.

      But what of our own cages? How much of our own caging is self-made and self-imposed–and not for any higher purpose? To me this is the gist of what Rilke is pointing towards in his poem.

      Here are a few versions of Rilke’s poem–

      The Panther” – (translation by Stephen Mitchell)

      His vision, from the constantly passing bars
      has grown so weary that it cannot hold
      anything else. It seems to him there are
      a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

      As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
      the movement of his powerful soft strides
      is like a ritual dance around a center
      in which a mighty will is paralyzed.

      Only at times, the curtain of his pupils
      lifts quietly. —And image enters in,
      rushes down through the tense, arrested muscles
      plunges into the heart and is gone.

      . . . . . .

      The Panther” – (translation by Robert Bly)

      From seeing the bars, his seeing is so exhausted
      that it no longer holds anything anymore.
      To him the world is bars, a hundred thousand
      bars, and behind the bars, nothing.

      The lithe swinging of that rhythmical easy stride
      which circles down to the tiniest hub
      is like a dance of energy around a point
      in which a great will stands stunned and numb.

      Only at times the curtains of the pupil rise
      without a sound — then a shape enters,
      slips through the tightened silence of the shoulders,
      reaches the heart, and dies.

      . . . . . .

      The Panther” – (my rendering from various translations as well as my own best guesses)

      (in the Jardin des Plantes, Paris; & the Corona Ave apartments, in Dayton, Ohio)

      His seeing, wearied from being locked away
      behind bars for so long, adheres to nothing anymore.
      To him the world is just bars—the flashing glint
      of bar upon bar—. A hundred thousand bars.
      And beyond the bars, nothing.

      The supple restless swinging stride
      of the smoothen black silky flank
      has been reduced to a tiny ring—a dance
      of potential lithe energy around a tiny center
      where a great will stands numbed.

      Only at times do the curtains
      of the eyelids open on this muted life
      and an image rushes in, winding its way
      through the taut silence of the frame,
      only to vanish, forever, in the heart.

      . . . .

      Thanks for the very nice comment, Ivon!

      Kindest regards,

      John

      • John, I had not considered the role of the translator in the wording of the poem. The subtle differences in the wording are important to the reader’s interpretation.

        Thank you for a wonderful breakdown of the poem and multiple considerations in the reading and the interpretation.

        Ivon

        • John says:

          You’re welcome, Ivon; and, yes, reading the different translations of Rilke’s poems (Edward Snow, Stephen Mitchell, Robert Bly, among others) and comparing and contrasting and synthesizing them, does wonders for unlocking deeper layers of potential meaning in Rilke’s deep words.
          Take care,
          John

  17. Joy Monger says:

    Thank you for following my blog! I’m looking forward to reading more of your stuff. Best, Alison

  18. Davia says:

    Hello John, I read some of your posts and it’s what I’ve been looking for. It really inspires me and it’s something I needed at a time like this. I was wondering if there is any way to contact you privately in order to speak about something. If that is possible, that is.
    Best, Davia

  19. Thank you John for stopping by to see my blog – and in turn, introducing me to yours. 🙂

  20. Gràcies per seguir el meu bloc.

  21. Beccy says:

    Hi John, do you still update this blog?

  22. Hi, John, I’m writing a book inspired by Bowen theory on the subject of love and an inner guidance system. I would like to quote you by full name if possible. You will have my email address so I invite you to write and let me know if I can quote you by name. I’m doing research integrating Bowen theory and EMDR Therapy. In a single case design I was able to observe an increase in differentiation, according to the Differentiation of Self Scale, from -12 to +10.

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