A leg up

On Intimacy & Interrogativity

When I think about what it means to be ‘intimate,’ usually a bunch of synonyms come to mind: present, aware, awake, engaged, attentive. Really, though, enacting any of those is usually a charade of some kind, complete with its own script: make eye contact, nod, hum disapprovingly or delightedly depending on the subject at hand, make physical contact as appropriate. Any of that enacting, though, is not actually being intimate. Fact is you can’t just “be intimate.” You can’t be anything that you think is intimacy because then you’re being something, and, well, ‘something’ isn’t intimate. (Sorry for the tautology, but it’s true.)

To be intimate, you have to be nothing. No certainty, no entrenching yourself in familiarity, no knowing the terrain or the ways. If you’re in any of that, you’re in your head. There’s only one way to get out of your head, and that’s to not know. What do you do when you don’t know? You wonder. You question. You pay attention and observe with an investigative heart. Intimacy is fundamentally interrogative.

Whenever we slide into the familiar, we fool ourselves into thinking that we know how something will go down, what someone will say. Then, at that point, we’re not really interacting with them or being alive to the moment anymore; we’re lost in our own fantasies, surfacing only long enough to congratulate ourselves when what we thought was going to happen happens (“I totally called it!”) or to express our dismay when it doesn’t (“No way!”).

As something is happening around you, whether it’s a conversation with a dear friend or a sunset viewed from a peak you’ve never climbed before, there’s that fleeting sensation where we let go of ourselves and look to see, listen to hear, and it’s there, in the clarity of that wonder, that we are truly present with and alive to that moment as it unfolds. My roshi tells me that there was an ancestor long ago who taught us to “wander in the circle of wonder.” Yeah, what he said.

So, let’s hold that wonder, even in the most familiar of spaces. For, really, you never know what will happen. Treasure that not knowing. Look through it always. Let it bring the world closer—all the way in. Like a child playing detective, walking around looking always through their magnifying glass, hold that question mark of an interrogative heart before you. Gaze deeply at the world through it. Let it enlarge, expand, clarify, and connect your experience of the moment. Let its hook yoke you to what is. Lose yourself in that, and you will gain your whole self.

Standard