A few weeks ago, I gave a workshop on memoir writing in Lindsay, Ontario. I ended the workshop with this quote from a poem by Emily Dickinson to sum up the state of mind to aim for when selecting words to tell the stories of a lifetime
That love is all there is
Is all we know of love.
But what is love? We went around the table, and everyone said one word to express what love meant to them. Safety, said the man writing about his hobo years. Compassion said another. Then others: caring, listening, forgiveness, oneness, unconditional.
Just yesterday I found some notes I made on a medical memoir I read a few years back. Jill Bolte Taylor drjilltaylor.com wrote My Stroke of Insight eight years after she had a massive stroke at the age of 37 in the left hemisphere of her brain.
What a stroke of luck it was that she was a practising neuroanatomist because she recognized what was happening to her, even as she began forgetting everything her left hemisphere knew. In the space of minutes, she was aware of everything going … speech, motion, self-awarenss. It was with great effort that she remembered how to find and use the telephone, then confusedly figure out how to dial a familiar number that was disappearing by the second.
What was left? The right hemisphere. I read my notes with fascination, rediscovering all the states of mind she tells us are in the right hemisphere: Safety. Compassion. Forgiveness. Love. We are all one. Virtually identical to words the class had used to define love! And J.B. Taylor gives us more: higher consciousness, intuition, joy, peace, open to new possibilities, adventure, no fear of the future, not bogged down by the past. Euphoria, she says, was the state she was in without her left mind. It was a wonderful place to be—albeit not functional.
As she slowly recovered the use of her left mind, she had this stroke of insight: “Peace is only a thought away and all we have to do is silence the voice of our dominating left mind.”
Barbara Brennan, a NASA physicist who became a healer and wrote Hands of Light, refers to love as a Higher Sense Perception, and says that it is, in effect, a sixth sense – along with intuition and telepathy.
In my book, The Gift of Memoir, one of the twenty-two reasons I list for writing memoir is this: To immerse yourself in love. Love for life – even the losses, love for language, and love for the literary form that make sense of it all.
Love is All There Is. Did the Beatles dip into Emily Dickinson for their song that uses those same words? Tantalizing question.