It’s Valentine’s Day and I am thinking about all of my beloved – and all of my beloved “be” words. As you may have guessed through reading some of my posts, I am very interested in the truth of existence – what it means to be, how we become, how this truth of our existence can become central to our educational practices.
I think you can find glimpses of the truth of ‘being’ in the words ‘behold‘ and ‘beloved‘. The word ‘behold‘ is so much richer than ‘look‘. Looks easily glance or bounce on. They can be indifferent or judgmental, curious or objectifying. To look is the action of an ego – as if all objects of looking are mirrors that affirm the facade the ego is trying to maintain, a facade that craves certainty, approval and ownership. Looks count or discount, approve or disapprove, acquire or dismiss. To behold requires the ego to be still so that the truth of whatever is beheld can become. It requires eyes that are soft and open rather than narrowed and defensive. It requires the ability to be present enough to hold the other, to draw out the other, to reach the other with eyes and heart, to take in the other, to call the other. Beholding is a gift given to the beloved – you really can’t behold anything that is not beloved.
We don’t often have the gift of being beheld by another person. However, the experience of being beheld is something unforgettable and leaves you both restored and aware of your need to be beheld. Being beheld touches your heart in a way that brings you peace in the midst of the very real storms of uncertainty and suffering that we all endure. There are echoes of a longing to be beheld in my son’s words to me after a difficult conversation one night. He said, “Mom, look at me. I won’t know everything is ok unless you look at me.” To be beheld is to feel the touch of an other’s eyes on you, a touch that knows the truth of you and loves that truth in a way that would sacrifice anything to preserve that truth.
Mikhael Bakhtin said, “Without faith that we will be understood somehow, sometime, by somebody, we would not speak at all. Or if we did, it would be babble. And babble, as Dostoevsky shows in his short story, ‘Bobok,’ is the language of the dead.” I think to be beheld gives us the faith to speak. It helps us trust that we will be understood. Beholding creates a silence that is full of presence. It teaches us to truly exist – to become in communion with the other/Other. We are saved by those who behold us. We save those we behold. We are saved when we behold.
There are many things that prevent us from beholding. We may consider ourselves the beloved rather than the other. We are busy. We are distracted. We are annoyed or frustrated. We have lost our faith, our hope. We are suffering. We haven’t been beheld enough or we don’t really know the One who is always beholding us. Christ’s words from the cross are for all of us: “When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘ Behold your mother!’ Because we are the beloved we can behold! (notice the exclamation mark!) Something wondrous happens when we behold!
It is not hard to give the gift of beholding and it can raise our beloved from the dead – our beloved family, our beloved students, our beloved friends.
This post is dedicated to my father, the one who first beheld me into being. Valentine’s Day was his birthday. He would have been 75 today. I last beheld him and was beheld by him on Nov. 2, 1996.