We all yearn for a provincial life. But remember that winter of ’14, wasn’t it nice and warm? And wasn’t it an amazing rollercoaster we wrought? I believe our meetings in that winter were more than simple recognition, they were private declarations. “Is my friend there?” I was saying; waiting for you, like the person who comes to meet you at a crowded terminus, looking out for that particular trick of walking, that particular way of holding yourself, which will single you out at a distance. Thus there was no sleep, no pause, no preservation through the acceptance. What a terrifying thought that was in retrospect. But just like that, you had disappeared like a drop of water, lost in the immensity of the ocean of sympathy. Often, our friends—how they change, don’t they? Those chance meetings, when you sit chatting to someone who was your bosom friend years ago, and find yourself with very little to say except “Wonder what’s become of old So-and-so” and hoping that there will be enough old So-and-so’s to last the ride. And even with friendships we make later in life, founded not on accidental association, but on a real community of tastes and interests, how seldom they last a lifetime, or anything like a month! Destiny shuffles our partners for us: one friend or the other gets a different job, goes to live somewhere else; it may only mean changing from one stop to another, but how easily we make an excuse of distance. More and more as we grow older, we find that the people we see most of are recent acquaintances, not perhaps very congenial to us, but chance as thrown them in our way. And meanwhile the people we used to know so well, for whom we once entertained such warm feelings, are now remembered as distant phantoms. I have never told you this, but I was little damaged by our experience. I was damaged because I had lost myself in you in those days. And I don’t know if I have fully recovered from that. I can still see here and there a solitary figure or fragment remaining, as we can see flecks and scraps of snow left in cold dells and mountain clefts of the Caucasus in June and July. For the genius that you had created in those two days it creates now somewhat else—something more representative of the individual soul, rather than the communal one, if I can put it as such. Or it might have represented two different types of soul: the soul which chooses and the soul which forsakes the world, the soul which is false and the soul which is true to its supernatural loyalties.
We are changing, too, all the time, ever so little; habits grow upon us, new interests grip us; how easy it is even after years of friendship to find that the other person is not quite what you thought they were—or is it that you are not quite what you thought you were? After all, how little we really know of one another! Anyhow, an illusion has faded. Yet grace will come as an intruder, to struggle for the mastery in hostile surroundings. For even if you gather apples in the sunshine, or make hay, and then retire within doors and shut your eyes and press them with your hand, you shall still see apples hanging in the bright light with boughs and leaves thereto, or the tasseled grass, and this for five or six hours afterwards. There lie the impressions on the retentive organ, though you knew it not. So lies the whole series of natural images with which your life has made me acquainted in my memory, though you know it not; and a thrill of passion flashes light on their dark chamber, and the active power seizes instantly the fit image, as the world of its momentary thought. As one of Freud’s disciples (Winnicott, who did not agree with his late decision to privilege the Oedipus complex as the absolute “explanation” for all psychic phenomena) propounded on, potential space is a realm that both connects and separates the ego from the transitional object—it is, in other words, the space of “play.” The space of play, or “potential space,” is the space that all adults have to allow themselves to go back from time to time, because it is the one place where a transformative relationship between subjective desires/fantasy and the “real” world of objects can be imagined/experienced. As we are more or less flawed beings, we love to be loved—we imagine ourselves to be the ideal-ego that we’ve all lost and that we all want to regain (an idealized memory of oneself, and image of oneself that never was but that one would like to be).
My life has been very mundane of late—quite monotonous. As one day, it will be for you. I have years of struggle ahead—mostly within myself. I will try to keep you in my thoughts—I don’t know how long even this will last. But, here and again, we can all see how the priest stoops, when he comes to a child in its first communion. The priest himself must stoop, almost ridiculously to reach the tiny figure that has to stand upright if he is to reach it at all. And this posture of the priest, which itself somehow, brings tears to the eye, is but the outward image of the unfathomable condescension involved on the part of divine Creator with the Incarnation—an example of our abiding connection, and an example for our sacrifices.
Now I hear you are on your way to Pyeongchang for the next experience, and I can barely pray for myself, let alone for you! But I will try to pray for you, anyway. I will pray for God to keep your soul. As anybody will tell you who has had, even in a small way, an experience of the limelight, it will mean a constant drain on the vitality, a constant sense of virtue having gone out of you, which makes a man the victim of his adrenaline. In youth, we are made for experiences. Childhood and youth see all the world in them. But, I hope for you, Julia, the larger experience discovers the identical nature appearing through them all.