Double Take

'When you've seen beyond yourself, then you may find peace of mind is waiting there. And the time will come when you see we're all one, and life flows on within you and without you – George Harrison

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Do You Love Me? by Rowena J Ronson, Photograph, Eternity Ring by Rowena J Ronson

Do You Love Me?

by Rowena J Ronson

Photograph, Eternity Ring by Rowena J Ronson

Eternity Ring by Rowena J Ronson

A hundred years or so ago, at the turn of the last century, my ancestors would not have imagined, let alone expected, to marry for Love. In tiny settlements on the Russian/Polish border – think Fiddler On The Roof – Jewish marriages were arranged by a ‘yente’ and the match was decided without the couple’s consent and for monetary, social and practical compatibilities. Husband and wife had their own individual roles, which they accepted willingly, establishing a strong family unit that prevailed through thin and thin. The hearth was built with the fire of survival and thrived on the warmth and unwavering commitment to tradition. Romantic love for orthodox communities such as these was a twinkle in the future’s eye.

In our current era of freedom of choice and materialism in the West, in our larger and grander settlements, we have now evolved a delusional concept of commitment and become too easily betrothed on an imagined whim of love.

What we might experience in the first few weeks, months and even years of a relationship could be a series of dinner dates and movies, holidays and parties, where make-believe ‘firm’ foundations are unwittingly built on the distractions of escapism and not the unromantic reality of the dedication to endure. And why would we really choose otherwise? Oxytocin is a great connector and when we are loved up, we become gratifyingly invested in that feeling lasting forever and are prepared to even commit to marriage on the hope that it does.

In times past, love was expected to grow from shared experiences, familiarity, dependence and the joint journeying through the pervasive passage of time. And that passage was always going to be one monopolised and motivated by loss and survival. But as health, financial and safety baselines have been raised, priorities and preoccupations in relationships have been revised.

Not wanting to dupe you, portraying myself as an embittered mid-life muse, I am in favour of progression and, of course, marrying for love. But my life experience, as someone who has loved and lost – several times; and loved impulsively and experienced a change of heart – several times, is that love is indeed a fragile emotion. Fortunately I only committed to marriage once, but I did that very quickly while on the rebound from my first lost love, and when very young before I developed my own identity, and knew what I was committing to.

The end of 2014 finds me in a very loving and nourishing relationship. And this great love affair is the one I am having with myself. I thoroughly recommend commitment and engagement with yourself throughout your lifetime when you are in relationships and when you are in between them. Doing so will more likely result in your commitments to all things, including people, being the ones you truly want for your head and your heart.

Happy 2015 everyone 🙂


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Nature vs Nurture

Published in the Society of Homeopaths Journal, Spring 2012
Double Take by Rowena J Ronson and Nigel Summerley

Was Lionel Shriver’s Kevin born a psychopath or was his parenting a strong contributory factor?

When we reflect on our own lives, how much do we honestly blame our parents for our issues, our stuckness and how we are in the world? Are we parenting our own children in spite and in opposition of how we were parented ourselves or do we consider our parents to be good role models and are consequently continuing in their flow?

How much do we judge the parents who sit before us in clinic when their conditioning differs from ours? Are we able to be the unprejudiced observer when a child is smacked, for example, if we are not raising our own children with that style of discipline? How do we feel if a child is punching or kicking his mother? By just bearing witness are we quietly condoning their behaviour? Do we find ourselves sympathising with the younger of two siblings if they are being bullied by the elder, if it touches a deep unhealed or perhaps even unknown wound in ourselves? We have all been affected by our upbringing and our aim as homeopaths is to be self aware and clear enough about our own individual conditioning to be clear in clinic.

As homeopaths we are in a privileged position to have the opportunity to create change in our patients’ lives. This potential is increased substantially when we are working with young children and their parents. Their journey is just beginning and can be influenced not only by our prescriptions but by what goes on and how we subtly respond to it in the clinic setting.

My experience working with families with children and ‘their’ behavioural issues is that the underlying problem sits within the family and is being projected on to the child. Bringing a child to see us can be a form of scapegoating. After all it is easier for someone else to have a problem than take responsibility for it ourselves. Systemic family therapy encourages us to view the family as a whole even in cases of anorexia, schizophrenia or other personality disorders. It is useful to approach families holding this in mind and to have an eye on the dynamics occurring between parent and child in the room, as this is often where we can find the centre of a child’s case.

But is a remedy capable of being a cure all? Will the family heal its trauma by the child receiving an indicated remedy, even when their dynamics are taken into consideration when prescribing? Is it our place and part of our role to point out any familial obstacles to cure that we observe when our patients are with us?

My belief, having worked with many families, is that there is a diplomatic way to bring parenting issues to the attention of a mother or father without making the parent feel judged as a consequence. It is important to hold an open and trusting space where we are approachable, wise and honest, so that both parent and child feels safe and able to be themselves and bring forth what needs to be treated. But in that space of trust, I often feel there is an underlying unspoken request by the parent to whomever they are consulting, for their lives to be made easier. They do not have the answers they need and they are searching for them.

I feel it is a wasted opportunity if we do not offer some guidance when we see a dynamic that may benefit from a slight shift, as the ‘nurturing’ by some parents can inadvertently create the state that needs treating within a child. How often do we see a Sepia mother forsaking her child creating in them a Pulsatilla state? And how often do we see the reverse too, a needy child bringing out Chocolate tendencies in their parent?

We know that even a foetus can have issues with nurturing. They can feel insecure from their time in the womb or traumatised from their birth process. These experiences are beyond their nature and are in the realm of nurture, so much so that it might shift them out of one remedy state and into another. A babe who might have been destined to be a Calc Carb could adopt a shocked and fearful Stramonium state as a result of an emergency C-section, and who knows what state this might trigger for the parent.

Incidentally, how we nurture our patients is influenced by how we were nurtured when we originally learned to be homeopaths. If we were role modelled supportive, long term holistic treatment to create deep and profound change in our patients, then it is more likely that we will follow that approach with our patients. It is one way of creating a busy, fruitful and fulfilling living as a homeopath, and as a result the benefits work both ways.

The flipside of nurture is supposed to be nature. But what is the true nature of ourselves and our patients? Perhaps we have all had so much nurture that we can’t actually answer that question any more. It’s all very well to talk about the effect of the nurturing/conditioning perpetrated on us by our parents (variations of which we perpetrate on our children), but all human beings are the results of thousands upon thousands of years of nurturing/conditioning — by culture, creed, religion, family, philosophy… And that’s before we add on for good measure what the media, the politicians, the advertisers and the multinationals have done to us. How does the practitioner find the true nature of themselves and their patients in the midst of all this?

The therapist — even one enlightened enough to be able to operate as an unprejudiced observer – can only scratch the surface, and any real change in the patient will be superficial. Perhaps deep change can only come about when the nurturing of millennia is cut through. But how can that be done, and does homeopathy have a role to play?

Homeopaths are well used to dealing with “delusions”. The ultimate delusions of humans are those of “self”, “selfishness” and “self-preservation”. The human brain did long ago what the computer HAL appeared to do in 2001; A Space Odyssey: the ability to think created the delusion that “the self” exists, that this “self” is central to existence, and that it must be protected at all costs in the hope of survival.

This “self” delusion is primitive stuff. When people say human nature will never change, they actually mean this delusion won’t ever change. But can we work on the basis that real human nature is still there, even if it is buried deep?

As homeopaths, we know that sometimes near-miraculous changes can come about. Many things that have been done can be undone. But we also know of the power of “maintaining causes” — of which the most powerful must be the world we live in and which flows in and out of us.

Do we need a new kind of “selfishness” — a “true nurturing” of ourselves which destroys the self created by the “false nurturing” of conditioning?  For, in nature, there are no individuals and there is no self.

As patients, homeopaths, humans, we do not know our true nature. But there must always be the chance that it will be revealed. In crude terms, there could be a return to “Eden”; a state in which love overrides thought.

Such a transformation of the human being can only come about from within. But surely homeopathy can play a part — however small — in enabling the patient to come closer to that transformation.

Ultimately, we might equate nature with god/truth, and nurture with the delusions of humanity that go against nature. Homeopathy — using nothing but the energies of nature — could be part of a revelation.

Our conclusion is . . . difficult . . . but despite the fact it is easy to be pessimistic, maybe there is optimism that homeopathy is one of the best therapies equipped to help the evolution or perhaps more properly devolution of the human being. Just as the remedy stimulates the body in its efforts to heal itself, then perhaps homeopathy stimulates the life force, the opening of heart/mind, the seeing of true nature (as Hahnemann says in the Organon, “the reasoning spirit who inhabits the organism can thus freely use this healthy living instrument to reach the higher purpose of human existence”).

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On Relationships

Published in the Society of Homeopaths Journal, Autumn 2012

Every kind of relationship has to be worked at, including the therapeutic one. But how do we work at relationships effectively? And where do we start? Rowena Ronson and Nigel Summerley examine this vital issue from different angles…

The first time I went to see a homeopath I spent ninety minutes Spanish Inquisitioning him about every aspect of homeopathy and what it was all about. As well as answering all my questions he was able to ask me some of his own, observe my responses and prescribe a wonderful remedy, and there my relationship with homeopathy began.

But is it all about the remedy? At the start of my journey that was certainly what I was looking for and having never experienced any kind of therapy before, I wasn’t appreciative at all of the therapeutic relationship. I was not aware of how the homeopath needed to be wise enough to understand me, self-aware enough to be able to see me objectively, awake enough to listen to and observe me, and strong enough to hold the space for me to feel safe and trusting.

Over the years I have visited homeopaths both male and female, classical, complex and combining, ones that use machines to prescribe or make their remedies, ones that are surrounded by old books and/or new computer programmes, subscribers to new methods and old. Some work on the case on their computers as part of the consultation, and with others it is like visiting a counsellor. Some have looked to develop a relationship with me and booked me in for a next appointment at the end of a session, their style implying an ongoing  process of healing, and others have waved me goodbye on their doorstep, never asking for feedback on their prescription or offering continued care. And my role models, in one way or another, have influenced how I practise homeopathy myself.

Learning how to develop the therapeutic relationship with our patients, in my opinion, is as important as understanding the repertory and materia medica, pathology, philosophy and all other aspects of homeopathy in practice. Without it our patients can almost be like ships passing us by in the night, not understanding, appreciating or receiving the potential of what homeopathy and working alongside a homeopath can provide. I see my role as the gateway for my patients to work alongside me to assist change in their lives in order to aid restoration of their health on all levels. By building our relationship we develop a two-way communication that implies process, education and healing.

And for me our healing relationship with our patients starts with a similar one with ourselves. If we are not in balance, taking responsibility for our behaviour and development as a person, taking care of our health holistically, in effect ‘walking our talk’, how can we expect to be professional practitioners of homeopathic medicine and suitable role models for our patients?

Reflecting on our own relationship with ourselves and others and on our relationship with our patients is fundamental in order to have a successful, ongoing and fulfilling practice in all ways.

And how we each individually develop our relationship with our patients creates the bigger picture of how we are seen by the public as a whole. If we offer just one session, do not offer education into a more holistic way for our patients to view their health, do not explain how homeopathy works and its potential for long-term healthcare, and do not develop an effective therapeutic relationship with our patients, we create the wrong image for our profession.

Which comes first? The healing relationship with ourselves? Or with others?

Can one know oneself in isolation? Or is it only through the mirror of relationship that one can see oneself? You can go into the desert alone for 40 days and 40 nights and have revelations (or hallucinations). However, spend 40 days and 40 nights in the company of other human beings and you may have some real insight into what you yourself are — by being aware of the effect that you have on others.

But is such awareness possible? A major obstacle to our being aware is our imagination — literally, the creation of images. And this is something that our brains are all too adept at.

I create an image of who I think you are, while you create an image of who you think I am. And we have also both created our own self-images. What hope is there of real relationship in this tangle of multiple images, all of them almost certainly false in some way?

If this process of imagination could stop, perhaps I could be aware of everything about you and vice versa (and we could also see in each other what we are responsible for creating). It’s easier said than embraced, but if we could dispense with the images we have of ourselves and of others, there would be a chance of real relationship.

To be effective therapists, homeopaths must have some awareness of this tangle of images

that we weave. They need to be aware of what they may be bringing of themselves into the therapeutic relationship. And they also need to realise that the patient is likely to be lacking in self-awareness, and the “person” presented to the homeopath is, to a great degree, the image that the patient has of themselves.

The homeopath has a need not only to see themselves without an image (ie be free of the self) but also to be aware of everything going on with the patient: the patient’s own self-image, their image of the homeopath, and, if possible, the actuality (the REAL reality) of the patient.

The patient’s self-image is not irrelevant to the case — far from it. But as well as taking this into account, we need to be prepared to dig deeper, to get to the heart of the patient — and the heart of the case.

The day-to-day complexity of reality mixed with multiple images is what can make relationships of all kinds so often daunting. But surely human life IS relationship, not isolation. If we do not engage with fellow human beings, we do not live fully, and we risk never discovering who we really are. Solitary quests for self-knowledge, self-help, self-improvement, although sounding laudable, have limits and can lead us up blind alleys. Monks, nuns and hermits are escape artists, not people engaging fully with life.

So what do we do? Perhaps, as homeopaths, we almost need to learn “on the job”. We may learn to be effective healers only by throwing ourselves into the healing relationship, while at the same time doing our best to throw our “self” away.
Relationships, including the one with ourselves, are at the heart of most people’s lives. And yet they may also be at the heart of most people’s problems. It is tempting at times to think life would be easier without relationships. As homeopaths, we seem to have a special responsibility not to shirk from being as self-aware as we can be, and at the same time not to neglect the importance of relationships with all those people who come to us in our practices  — and in our lives.

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What makes relationships so important to us, why are they so problematical, and can we change ourselves in order to make them work?

NS: What are our expectations from personal and intimate relationships? Are they fundamentally any different now than they were 500 years ago?

RJR: The world has changed fundamentally and in every way in the past 500 years, so yes, of course relationships have changed in that time. One major change is that we did not use to live as long as we do now, so when we committed to living out our days in a marriage, we were probably expecting 20 years tops. And the concept of “romance” did not exist 500 years ago, either. Do you know when and why marriage first became an institution?

NS: I would disagree that the world has change fundamentally – and thus I think what human beings seek from personal and intimate relationships may not have changed that much. But I take your point about longevity – that certainly adds something to the relationship mix – and perhaps we could go into that. I don’t think anyone really knows when marriage began as an institution, since in most cultures it seems to go back to ancient times. Presumably, a major reason for it was procreation and child-rearing – certainly not romance (which I think was a medieval invention). Sex and companionship may have been other factors. And marriage was also tied up with forging alliances and ties between families and communities.

RJR: I am surprised that you think the world – or the people living on it, shall we say? – have not changed fundamentally in 500 years. I suspect even on an animal instinct level, we have evolved dramatically. I remember being told once that marriage came about as a result of the convenience of land exchange. And the concept of romanticism came long after, and has become a lucrative commercial enterprise since our brains have been washed by the media. So do you feel we have the same expectations out of our relationships than those of our grandparents, for example?

NS: Human technology has changed. But I cannot see that people have changed in 500 years – or in several thousand years. If you read Shakespeare or Chaucer or Homer or the Book of Moses, do you not think the human being today is still the same as those portrayed there? The ideals or the fashions associated with relationships have changed. But the fundamental needs of people don’t seem to have changed: sex, closeness, intimacy, friendship, companionship, sharing (and the problems associated with all these things haven’t changed, either). One woman I discussed this question with suggested that romanticism has been there longer than we tend to think, ie that alongside marriage, in all its earliest and various forms, there has also been “romance”. In crude terms, men and women have married, for all sorts of cultural reasons, and then had extramarital relationships of all sorts, some governed by lust and some by love – or a mixture of the two. Our grandparents may have lived with reasonable expectations of greater stability in relationships than we can hope for now, and they may have been satisfied with fewer marriages, fewer relationships, fewer partners. On the other hand, they may have been caught up in the same confusion of permanent and impermanent relationships. How can we know how many affairs our grandparents had? It seems we are in uncharted territory – both in the past and now. What do we expect today from relationships? Can we even answer that? Is it perhaps that all we need is a hand to hold as we clamber down slippery slopes and walk through the dark?

RJR: I understand all that you say, but I am not convinced by your argument. Men’s and women’s roles have changed dramatically in the past 20 years, and this has encouraged a lack of commitment when the going gets tough, as a new relationship can be bought on-line, in secrecy, with a “no returns policy” on consequences.

NS: I agree that relationships do now appear to be more fragile and that technology has played a part in this. But do you not think that people have always found ways to have the kind of relationships that you refer to here? One can look at contemporary relationships on a surface level and see the predominance of fly-by-night liaisons and a lack of willingness to commit; one can also see successful long-term relationships based on hard work – and love. But deep down, why on earth do we get involved in relationships? What is it that we get from them? What is it that we give in them? And can they be a way of finding out what we ourselves are?

RJR: I think a smaller proportion of the population were promiscuous in the past. We get involved in relationships because we are not complete without them. Clearly we are not hermaphrodites. But incompleteness emotionally, and forming relationships in order to fill up and feel complete seems to be part of our culture and era. This creates endless dissatisfaction and a need to refill in one way or another. I can understand the point of view that we learn about ourselves from being in relationship, but I also think it is a very unevolved way to evolve.

NS: On the evolution question, I would still argue that human beings have not evolved since the time of the Minoans, the Aztecs and the ancient Egyptians. But maybe we should try a slightly different tack for a moment, and also follow what you have said. Why do we feel incomplete without relationships? And are we actually complete in relationships?

RJR: You really think we haven’t evolved mentally, emotionally, spiritually or even physically? As individuals we evolve or dissolve, if we chose to or not – throughout our lives – but I am happy to move the conversation on… We feel incomplete in relationships because of two main reasons. First, we were created as two halves of a whole, and second, because we are conditioned to seek fulfilment in and of life with someone else. The first point probably doesn’t need exploring, but I am happy to discuss it if you feel there is mileage. The second, however, is very much of interest to me. We can work at being fulfilled in all aspects of our life, but when it comes to sex, there is nothing like the connection with someone whom you love and fit with. I am not talking about romantic love. I am speaking of that infallible and inexplicable feeling that one gets when all our energy points, our chakras, are aligned with someone we love and the energy flows from within out, from the source through us to ground in the earth. It facilitates us to be absolutely present, in the moment, connected in all ways, as if nothing else matters… and nothing else does….

NS: We were created? By what? By whom? There are two reasonably distinct genders that are generally required for procreation, as in many other species. But where does the idea of two halves being somehow deeply fulfilled in each other come from? I think, as you say, we are conditioned to think in these terms. The primary function of sex, whether we like it or not, is procreation. Who or what has turned it into the thing that has assumed such importance for human beings? There are arguably many things that are like the intense connection with someone you love… like the stillness of wild places at night, like being on tops of isolated mountains, like being absorbed by the sea or the stars… all of these things are surely love/beauty/truth, aren’t they?Is it not possible that chakras are a concept dreamed up by imaginative humans? Yes, great sex gives one the feeling that nothing else matters… isn’t that why humans spend so much of their time pursuing or thinking or reading or writing about great sex? Such sex provides the (temporary) ending of the self (something most of us can’t do in any other way, except perhaps to get out of our heads on booze or drugs). That ending of the self through orgasm is an ecstasy. But it does not last… desire is temporarily satisfied… then the act has to be repeated for that ecstatic release once more. Sex is dressed up by so-called tantric practitioners as if it might lead to some awareness/enlightenment… but in reality it leads to nothing… except more sex… Doesn’t sex tend to be just one more escape from the emptiness within… as with all addictions, philosophies, religions, politics? And if that is so, what is it that makes for real relationship between human beings?

RJR: We were definitely created. I am not saying we were created by God. But we came into being and therefore we were created, even if only by evolving chemicals and an inner desire for evolution and life. And we were created in a way that we could procreate in order to continue life. As for the two halves and deep fulfillment – maybe it is a case of you have to be there to experience it! I have clearly conditioned myself and I am happy with that. Sex is pleasurable and addictive, and purposefully so. If we did not enjoy it so much, we wouldn’t do it, and therefore we would not procreate. The two go hand in hand. It has assumed such importance because those who experience how wonderful and fulfilling sex can be know it. We all know it collectively, even if we have not experienced it ourselves. I agree that a very real sense of fulfillment can be achieved by being with nature, but again it is a connection with that something else that is separate yet fundamentally part of ourselves. As for chakras, I have personally experienced the sensation of chakra connection through sex and I can assure you it was not my mind’s invention. And tantra therapists practise reaching self-actualization through tantra and it is certainly not all about orgasm and destination. Perhaps that is where you are limiting yourself. It is all about the journey and it surprises me I need to remind such a well travelled man as yourself. As for addiction, I agree that sex and love are chemical addictions in a similar way to drugs and alcohol. My thoughts and process on addiction are forever evolving; having been more black and white about the subject in the past, I am now open to a new way of thought. Perhaps we can view addiction in a more holistic way rather than just seeing its dark side. Chemical addiction to substances which alter our own fine balance is clearly not a useful way to evolve in this world. But chemical addiction to other human beings… the oxytocin release when a woman breastfeeds her babe, bonds them in a way no words can describe. We are not empty vessels. Sex does not fill us. We are full anyway. We are receptive, though, to chemical reactions, within ourselves, and with others. It is how we connect on a profound level. And it is worth living and dying for.

NS: We evolved into creatures that use sexual union for procreation – although that necessity seems to be in the process of being overturned, with the arrival of surrogates, gay parents and the not-too-distant prospect of cloned human beings. Maybe these developments highlight what humans have done with sex. Animals also appear to get some pleasure from sex, but many of them still seem to do it to procreate and in tune with certain natural cycles. Humans seem to have taken the pleasure aspect of sex and made it something to be desired and attempted, or at least talked about, at all times. It is also something that humans have made ever-present, with sexual images, particularly of women, becoming ubiquitous in every medium. Perhaps sex can be “deeply fulfilling” but it also seems to be something that humans can’t get enough of… and is therefore more associated with addiction and frustration rather than with fulfilment. Great sex, with or without chakras, is great sex… it does not appear to be the key to enlightenment, any more than playing a great guitar solo or completing a triathlon. All can give a sense of transcendence of the self. But how can we be certain that any experience is “not the mind’s invention”? Everything is in your brain… every so-called experience or sensation is in your head. What you experience IS you. The observer IS the observed. And paradoxically, this is the most difficult – if not impossible – thing for our brain to accept. Surely the well-travelled person knows there is no “journey”… there is no route from here to something else… there is actually nowhere to go. “You can travel anywhere and hang yourself there – you’ve always got more than enough rope,” as Dylan said. The truth is always here in the eternal now… there is no path to it… only away from it, only diversions. Which leads us back to escape through “travel”, “journeys”, “experiences” and so on. Sex may be an addiction. Surely love is not an addiction? Romantic “love”, yes. But not love. You say we are not empty. Is that really the case? It seems that we can be fulfilled in relationship. But I think we are still a long way here from finding out what real relationship is. It has nothing to do with chemistry, sex, romance or esoteric flimflam. Yes, it has to be profound, and it has to be the essence of life/death. But could it be possible that we human beings have yet to embrace real relationships? And that what we currently call “relationships” are actually escapes, diversions, delusions and entertainments?

RJR: I feel you are deflecting my argument. First of all, surrogacy and cloning are not about sex and will only ever be a necessary substitute for procreation for a very few – not an argument for overturning the norm. And I am not talking about sex being mutated and manipulated by the media either. We have created ourselves an era where everyone can’t get enough of everything. Sex was obviously going to be yet another area of our lives to be over-consumed. And I did not say the answer to enlightenment is through sex. What I am saying is that it is important for us to be as complete as we can be before we are in relationship with others, and then the union sexually, and otherwise, can be very fulfilling and can take us on a journey together that can be exceptional and different from the road we travel alone. And I believe we do travel, although I understand where Mr Dylan is coming from. And he too has been on his own journey to get to the place from where he writes. I agree, there is no escape from ourselves but I do think love can certainly be an addiction. If you were to design what an evolved relationship would be, without escapes, diversions, delusions and entertainments, what would it look like?

NS: I take all those points. It does seem logical, sensible and probably incontrovertible that we need to be as complete as we can before we can be in real and sustainable relationship with others. The stumbling block is the “as we can”. If we fall short of completeness – which we all do – then ultimately relationships will contain immense difficulties for all concerned. Can there be degrees of completeness? It seems not. Ultimately, we are all alone (born alone and dying alone) and perhaps ultimately we are also all the same human being – all of us just one more attempt at that completeness. What would that wonderful “evolved relationship” be like? No one can answer that question, surely – in this world where “almost completeness” and “almost relationships” seem to be the best we can expect. It certainly can’t be “designed” from where we are now. That would simply be an idea – and no use at all. But that does not mean that that “evolved relationship” will not be…