Wednesday, May 29, 2019

he who stretches

Procrustes was a host who adjusted his guests to their bed.
Procrustes, whose name means "he who stretches."

He kept a house by the side of the road where he offered hospitality to passing strangers, who were invited in for a pleasant meal and a night's rest in his very special bed. Procrustes described it as having the unique property that its length exactly matched whomsoever lay down upon it. What Procrustes didn't volunteer was the method by which this "one-size-fits-all" was achieved, namely as soon as the guest lay down Procrustes went to work upon him, stretching him on the rack if he was too short for the bed and chopping off his legs if he was too long. Theseus turned the tables on Procrustes, fatally adjusting him to fit his own bed.

We are no sooner out of the womb than we must begin this precarious unfolding and shaping of who we are. If we have bad or destructive times in childhood, we begin to fix on a survival identity to cover over and to compensate for what happens to us. If we are never encouraged to be ourselves we begin to construct an identity that will gain us either attention or approval. When we set out to construct our lives according to a fixed image, we damage ourselves. The image becomes the desperate focus of all our longing. There are no frames for the soul. In truth, we are called, in so far as we can, to live without an image of ourselves, or at least to keep images we have free and open. When you sense the immensity of the unknown within you, any image you have built of yourself gradually loses its promise. Your name, your face, your address only suggest the threshold of your identity. Somehow you are always secretly aware of this. Sometimes. you find yourself listening to someone telling you what you should do or describing what is going on inside you, and you whisper to yourself that they have not the foggiest idea who you actually are.

~ John O'Donohue
from Eternal Echoes


Ruth said...

There are no frames for the soul.

This passage is tremendous!

Thank you for posting these readings. I read every one.