belinda allen | art
The search for self, the cultivation of ambition, the reverence of celebrity, the cult of individuality, the preeminence of personality - assumed paradigms of the modern condition. Yet it is a well-known tenet of religious and mystical thought that the way to enlightenment is transcendence of 'ego'; surrender of 'self' the paradoxical path to self-awareness.
How can these intractably opposed psychic impulses be reconciled?
And how immeasurably more complex such a dilemma is in the context of family, where the self is not 'self' only, where other is not only 'other', where the self-made cage of responsibility and obligation is a tender trap bound about with love, within which selfish motive can seem irrelevant and ambition a disease.
So is the process of parenting one of self-indulgence, self-expression, self-denial or self-transcendence? How do we, accustomed to worship individuality and admire self-promotion, accommodate the erosion of 'free will' that family responsibilities entail?
The kind of selfless love that the prophets implore us to cultivate is for most of us more possible in the context of marriage and parenthood than at any other time. Then the potential for transformation that we experience in the rapture of romantic love is available 'on earth', but at what a cost?
Sometimes this most mundane of experiences seems a window for the soul, offering us blissful glimpses of the 'one-ness' to which we all unwittingly aspire.
Perhaps by understanding the privilege of obligation, we begin to appreciate the small potent joys that are the currency of self-surrender.
BELINDA ALLEN - JANUARY 1996