Following a conversation with a friend, I thought I would set down some thoughts about softness. These thoughts will no doubt be influenced by the thinking I have done while on my spring retreat, from which I’ve just returned.
Hard men are still out there, still riding fences, still checking their steely gazes in mirrors as they pass. The desperados, the slow-flowing deep waters, the silent watchful cops, the secret agents of fiction – they are still there. Though God knows what they find to do.
What’s the point of all that containment and tension?
When I was a teenager, I was worried I wasn’t hard enough. If I wasn’t Robert Redford I would never get a girlfriend. My eyes were not blue enough, my voice was too high, my chest too unmanly. I would always be the weed who got sand kicked in his face. I got stood up outside the cinema; girls at discos would go to the toilet and not come back. I was seen as a very good friend by them, but that was all.
It was the friend thing that saved me, really. I listened, I became softer. I discovered, eventually, that everyone – even a girl – was interesting.
It was then that things felt easy. Receptiveness is soft, and soft is so much more pleasurable. It takes the world into itself, like a hug, and doesn’t feel like it has to push it back. The world can just fill you up!
And now, as I get older, I seem to get softer. I have less and less hard impact on the world. I hit no targets, I seek no fame. I plant trees, I walk slowly, and when I sit I just sit. I am trying to become as small and as quiet as I can be.