the unclaimed heart

This dance hall of a universe is a place full of promises and terror.  Perhaps, it’s more a place of promised terror.  I remember the dances I used to go to; shall I date myself and call them “sock-hops”?  Mostly the evening amounted to standing in abject fear at the door, watching the gyrations to squeaky bubble-gum music, knowing – just knowing – that it was easier to summit Everest than cross the territory between the door and the chairs at the back of room.  The only way to deal with this impossible rite of passage was to check my heart at the door and surge through with a fiery (though fake) invincibility.  More than that, it required an air of fierce independence that said unequivocally: I don’t need you.  I can dance to my own music.

We hold ourselves back, furtive and tentative about our dreams and desires.  Yes, desires are just fine; it’s what we expect those desires to fulfill that is the problem.  Take books.  Not mine; go get your own.  I have a deep and profound love – nay lust – for books.  Last night after joking with at a monastic friend about the Joy of Sensual Books (the leather binding, the transparent frontispiece!), I retrieved these lovelies from the guest room.  They languished there for many years and I’m saddened by the disrepair that has befallen them.

That’s what happens to the heart that is left unclaimed.  The commitment we have to our dreams, to bring relief to a world of suffering cannot be contingent on our safety, on our ego being stoked and stroked.  Entering this dance hall furtively and with our vulnerability held in reserve leaves us, ironically, even more vulnerable than our worst nightmares can reveal.  I don’t know if any magic happens when we walk in self-aware and valuing the gifts we offer.  I do know that opening the heart allows the universe to step into the intimate dance we truly want to have.

6 thoughts on “the unclaimed heart

  1. Ooooo – “I do know that opening the heart allows the universe to step into the intimate dance we truly want to have.” Goosebumps…. Dancing with my Heart – waiting for the opening – with fear and trembling…

  2. what a lovely lyrical post! I just love this line “the heart that is left unclaimed”. Isn’t it so true for all of us in big ways and small? It reminds me a lot of Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability. We fear the very think that will set us free, make us feel connected. There we all are quaking in our boots afraid of the same shadowy thing. What strange creatures we truly are, how far from our true home we have traveled. And yet it is just the willingness that will set us free.

  3. Lynette – Are you familiar with books printed by Harry Duncan? He’s been called the father of fine-press printing, and with good reason. He printed Robert Lowell’s first book under his primary imprint, the Cummington Press, as well as books by Wallace Stevens and many others. I was privileged to have my first three books printed by Harry, who understood the “joy of sensual books” as few people have. I hope you have the opportunity to view–and hold–at least one of Harry’s books, which are a delight to the senses as well as to literary sensibilities.See

    • Thanks, Ben! I had not heard of Harry Duncan so am glad to know about him. Looks like I may have to go an a hunt for one of his books! Truly there is nothing like a beautifully bound book; I had friends in Art Conservation who would go on and on over dinner about what they had restored that day. Always thought they were a tad “teched” but secretly envied them!

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