Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Lesson of the Mermaid and Her Lover

Often, when I am reading, a friend or loved one comes to mind because I want to share my thoughts about the material with them.  Usually, the most apparent connections are those of my family members, my son and my daughter.  Like most families, especially those who have experienced divorce when the children are young, there are challenges in how the family members continue to relate to one another.  So, there are many reasons they come to mind, but it is always with a deep and loving interest in their lives.

A long time friend has, through the years, sent me quotes from the writings of one of her favorite authors, Mark Nepo.  I finally purchased, The Book of Awakening, and since then I have often quoted him in my own writing.  Today my reading formed around a quote from William Butler Yeats that Mark used to illustrate his point about how we want to share our innermost experiences with our loved ones.

A mermaid found a swimming lad,
Picked him for her own.
Pressed her body to his body,
Laughed; and plunging down
Forgot in cruel happiness
That even lovers drown.

Mark points out how even though we so much want to share our deep experiences with those we love, often, like the mermaid, we forget that not everyone can go where we go.  No one else can go into our depth completely.  How we respond when we realize this fact has much to do with the nature and quality of our relationships, particularly with those who are closest to us.  Because we want to share what is important to us we become vulnerable to disappointment when others seem unable to go there with us.

He made this point so clearly when he wrote of walking along the gurney as his partner of twenty years was being wheeled to the operating room where she would have cancer surgery.  He could go no further than the glass doors that closed before him as he watched her disappear down the corridor on the other side of those doors.  He

realized then, that whether it be our quarrel with God or with dead parents or with the limitations of our humanity, each of us must go beyond the glass doors of our experience alone.  And the work of compassion is to guide our dear ones as far as we can and to be there when they return.  But no one can go beyond the glass doors for us or with us.

No matter the struggles that occur within our relationships, perhaps made greater because of our love, we bring ourselves toward the surface of the waters of life, so that we may experience the love for and from others.  At the same time our loved ones, friends or even strangers may come from the shores of their lives to wash their souls in that same water.  It is then that we discover the harmony of understanding, sharing and becoming.  These are brief moments shared in that coming together.  But each must return to the environment of his/her own being.  Love does not capture the object of its heart.  Love frees it to be forever what it is that brought us together in the first place.

In the end the mermaid loses her lover when she fails to realize that he can only live in his own environment and she in hers.  They can meet where the air and water come together and share with one another, but must allow each to be true to their own realities. 


Inspector Clouseau said...


Your reference to the mermaid is so timely. As you know, I am a big fan of Turner Classic Movies. I recently saw a couple of fascinating movies starring Glynis Johns ( as a mermaid, one of them being Miranda: The notion of people not being able to visit a place from a physical, mental, and spiritual perspective, which others can visit is so simple, and yet so many of us view things from a fixed mindset or point of view.

Thanks for this.

Dan Perin said...

Thanks, Inspector, for your comment and reference to the movies. I had my own reaction to my article which nearly caused me to withdraw it because I didn't feel it represented what I was trying to say as clearly as desired. Your comment indicates that maybe I did achieve a level of satisfaction re: my purpose. I believe we have the ability for intimate interaction with those in other "dimensions," different philosophies, etc. That does not mean that we give up living in our own. Much more to consider on this subject.