On this Mother’s Day, I share with you two reflections. Please see the website for the links to the two websites for further reading.
In grace, Alan
The first is an extract from A Rose for Your Pocket: An Appreciation of Motherhood by Thich Nhat Hanh:
“The thought “mother” cannot be separated from that of “love.” Love is sweet, tender, and delicious. Without love, a child cannot flower, an adult cannot mature. Without love, we weaken, wither. The day my mother died, I made this entry in my journal: “The greatest misfortune of my life has come!” Even an old person, when he loses his mother, doesn’t feel ready. He too has the impression that he is not yet ripe, that he is suddenly alone. He feels as abandoned and unhappy as a young orphan…
People in the countryside do not understand the complicated language of city people. When people from the city say that mother is “a treasure of love”, that is already too complex for them. Country people in Vietnam compare their mothers to the finest varieties of bananas or to honey, sweet rice, or sugar cane. They express their love in these simple and direct ways. For me, a mother is like a “ba huong” banana of the highest quality, like the best “nep mot” sweet rice, the most delicious “mia lau” sugar cane!
There are moments after a fever when you have a bitter, flat taste in your mouth, and nothing tastes good. Only when your mother comes and tucks you in, gently pulls the covers over your chin, puts her hand on your burning forehead – is it really a hand, or is it the silk of heaven? – and gently whispers, “My poor darling!” do you feel restored, surrounded with the sweetness of maternal love. Her love is so fragrant, like a banana, like sweet rice, like sugar cane…
Mother’s devotion is overflowing, like water from a mountain spring. Maternal love is our first taste of love, the origin of all feelings of love. Our mother is the teacher who first teaches us love, the most important subject in life. Without my mother I could never have known how to love. Thanks to her I can love my neighbours. Thanks to her I can love all living beings. Through her I acquired my first notions of understanding and compassion. Mother is the foundation of all love, and many religious traditions recognise this and pay deep honour to a maternal figure, the Virgin Mary, the goddess Kwan Yin. Hardly an infant has opened her mouth to cry without her mother already running to the cradle. Mother is a gentle and sweet spirit who makes unhappiness and worries disappear. When the word “mother” is uttered, already we feel our hearts overflowing with love. From love, the distance to belief and action is very short…
If I were to have any advice, it would be this: Tonight, when you return from school or work or, if you live far away, the next time you visit your mother, you may wish to go into her room and, with a calm and silent smile, sit down beside her. Without saying anything, make her stop working. Then, look at her for a long time, look at her deeply. Do this in order to see her, to realise that she is there, she is alive, beside you. Take her hand and ask her one short question to capture her attention, “Mother, do you know something?” She will be a little surprised and will probably smile when she asks you, “What, dear?” Keep looking into her eyes, smiling serenely, and say, “Do you know that I love you?” Ask this question without waiting for an answer. Even if you are thirty or forty years old, or older, ask her as the child of your mother. Your mother and you will be happy, conscious of living in eternal love. Then tomorrow, when she leaves you, you will have no regrets…”
The second is an extract from Humanity’s Attachment to Mother Earth by Oumar Konare, a former intern in the United Nations University Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP):
“…Philosopher Mircea Eliade proposed a reflection about the “Mother Earth”. He compared Earth to the mother, on a symbolic level. Just like the mother, it is the first object of attachment that we encounter in the objective world. Earth holds us like a mother, it nurtures us like a mother does, providing food, chemicals, wood, and answering our every need in a seemingly omnipotent way, akin to the vision an infant has of its all-powerful mother until it has grown enough to fend for itself.
Moreover, clinical experience has demonstrated instances when patients separated from their homeland (immigrant workers, refugees, nomads) exhibit symptoms of depression and anxiety, echoing the situation of a child deprived of its mother’s care. The similarity comes from the feeling of abandonment from the loss of a familiar, known, secure, gratifying object.
Psychoanalyst Melanie Klein theorized, from her observation of babies, that an infant at some stage fears that it has “damaged” its mother by clinging to her and feeding off her, and this causes the child to enter a phase of depression subsequent to so much guilt. This guilt actually allows us to mature enough and form a psyche that can both withstand frustration and develop an ability to feel remorse.
This would mean that guilt and the ensuing need to “repair” are experienced at the very early moments of our life. While these theories are quite controversial, the central message is that humankind is capable of developing a stable psyche because of our very deep capacity to feel bad about our actions, and to delve into a more ”gentle” identity and accept to make amends by learning, by “being good”, and then by repairing the damage we have caused. As children, we thrive on a “good enough mother”, rather than an all-powerful mother, and the guilt from damaging the mother, by claiming too much from her — in another form of all-powerfulness — is one step towards socialization and the integration of norms and values.
In practice, it is often very apparent in adults how many of their everyday actions have a source in their early interactions with their mothers. In regards to Earth, this is something that is quite apparent too: we do feel deeply moved by the consequences of our use of Earth and our all-powerfulness towards her.
One main question remains though: are we moved enough by the plight of the planet to question ourselves, deal with depression and make amends at the same time? If we are not, we should think of ways to allow ourselves to be moved by those feelings so familiar and yet so terrifying because they force us to confront the possibility that we are in fact powerless and our ultimate fear of becoming victims of something we cannot control at all — the revenge of she who created and fed, and on whom we depend for everything…”