I read one of Tom Robbins masterfully written books (Still Life With Woodpecker) and copied this quote down, “That which you hold holds you.” It drove me crazy for awhile until I mentioned it to some friends. Of course one of my friends had been speaking about control issues and something clicked for me. When I am trying to control (and of course it backfires on me), I then become obsessive (sound familiar?) and voila, the meaning of the quote becomes clear in my deranged head.
I didn’t want it to be so revealing and honest. I wanted it to be mystical, esoteric even, for a huge aha moment, which it was, but it could have been less about my craziness. It could have been revealing like; if you hold on for one more day, or you hold the universe, or will you hold it against me. Anything but what was truthfully going on with me. Oddly enough the novel is so juicy questioning, “Who knows how to make love stay?” A very important question in this chchchchanging world of ours.
Know that Robbins has the high compliment of being named one of the top 100 writers of the 20th Century by Writer’s Digest magazine. I think he should be on the list for the 21st century too. He is known to spend a day on a sentence to get it to near perfection, and I admire his great skills. An Italian critic, Fernanda Pivano, calls him “the most dangerous writer in the world.” That quote really got me interested in his work because I think that is a great compliment to be considered so. Dangerous suggests truth, because, as we all know, the truth is out there, and in today’s political, farcical, untruthful world that is dangerous.
That which you hold holds you. When one lies to another the lie holds the liar. If one doesn’t hold true to the lie then the truth is questioned. That alone has been proven over and over in the media accounts of lying politicians that get sensationalized, scandalized and blasted all over the internet for excruciatingly too long time periods. Amidst all this lying going on are tragic events (like Norway) that get put on the back pages too soon. My rant is up and I return to the brilliant writer who holds my attention.
Some Tom Robbins Quotes from Still Life With Woodpecker
"Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won't adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words "make" and "stay" become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free."
"When the mystery of the connection goes, love goes. It's that simple. This suggests that it isn't love that is so important to us but the mystery itself. The love connection may be merely a device to put us in contact with the mystery, and we long for love to last so that the ecstacy of being near the mystery will last. It is contrary to the nature of mystery to stand still. Yet it's always there, somewhere, a world on the other side of the mirror (or the Camel pack), a promise in the next pair of eyes that smile at us. We glimpse it when we stand still.
The romance of new love, the romance of solitude, the romance of objecthood, the romance of ancient pyramids and distant stars are means of making contact with the mystery. When it comes to perpetuating it, however, I got no advice. But I can and will remind you of two of the most important facts I know:
1. Everything is part of it.
2. It's never too late to have a happy childhood."
He’s deep but light, see? His insight into human nature is profound and so humorous that I dare you to read any of his work and not get addicted. All this from my first reading of a Tom Robbins book! I must be spellbound, or better yet, held.
That which you hold holds you doesn’t mean to hold on if you feel like letting go. It speaks of a reciprocal exchange or interaction between objectivity and subjectivity, or subjectivity and subjectivity. At least that’s what my take is. It is at the very least a beautiful phrase that gives pause for contemplative musing. Hold and let go seem to go together often in today’s psychology. Letting go is a big deal, detaching with love is a necessary action to practice. Letting go can actually become a part of the bigger view. So, if one is grieving a loss (death, divorce, etc), the letting go process can be more of an opening to a greater awareness that the loss really is still here, just not the way that a single perspective view holds it. The obsession can be a negative hold and the awareness can be a positive hold.
The quote that holds me may also have to do with the burning question mentioned earlier. Here is what Robbins says: "Albert Camus wrote that the only serious question is whether to kill yourself or not.
Tom Robbins wrote that the only serious question is whether time has a beginning and an end.
Camus clearly got up on the wrong side of bed, and Robbins must have forgotten to set the alarm.
There is only one serious question. And that is: Who knows how to make love stay?
Answer me that and I will tell you whether or not to kill yourself."
Writing this quote and possible meanings out for the whole world to view has eased the hold. I have learned that discernment in that which I hold is of utmost priority. Mostly, it should have a humorous depth to stay held. The other thing I learned is that Tom Robbins words are good for the soul.