Unfolding in Time:
Intimacy across Situations
Do fish complain of the sea for being wet? Or if they did, would that fact itself not strongly suggest that they had not always been, or would not always be, purely aquatic creatures? Then, if we complain of time and take such joy in the seemingly timeless moment, what does that suggest?
It suggests that we have not always been or will not always be purely temporal creatures. It suggests that we were created for eternity. —from The Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken, describing his correspondence with C. S. Lewis (Vanauken, 1980, p. 203)
This chapter explores different types of intimacy and argues that—because intimate experience and meaning can manifest in different situations—it is much more prevalent or accessible than we typically think. I aim to speak more directly about the ways in which we experience intimacy in all its possible, especially poetic and spiritual, dimensions. To this end, I borrow readings and mix quotes from different spiritual and mystical traditions as well as from modern psychology. My selections are not meant to convey that one spiritual orientation is better than another. I hope you will add meanings (and references) from your own spiritual orientation that relate to the ideas conveyed.
Intimacy has many interfaces, many “being withs.” We experience an ongoing sense of participating or sharing with: of having deeply met, of knowing and connecting, and of allowing and embracing. This sense does not arise in a vacuum, but rather in an encounter, a time of meeting, of being present. We think intimacy occurs mostly with a special person, a life partner, and perhaps with a few other close friends and confidants (Situation 1). But sometimes the sense appears in solitude with ourselves—when contemplating life's mystery or the wonders of this earth (Situation 2). For many, intimacy also occurs in contact with a spiritual source that many choose to call God (Situation