Fr G. spoke about the “nous” last week. I know this word already. He spoke of “nous” as being the “eye of the soul.” This is the metaphor I’ve heard employed in the past. Everyone who has given that description has explained that it is incredibly lacking. What the “nous” represents to us is so much more which is why the loss of it’s meaning in our lives is so great. We’ve lost this incredible part of ourselves and most people do not even recognise it was ever there.
To say it’s “lost” perhaps is not accurate. The “nous” isn’t gone from any of us. In my estimation we cannot live without this part. Maybe this is what God breathed into us at the start. I am searching for a metaphor that fits and it’s not coming yet. It might be because I feel so disconnected from my nous. I actually do know it is there. I can picture it in me, dirty, in need of attention. I am too busy to spend the time to do the upkeep on my nous. I am consumed with upkeep on my house, my marriage, my children, my intellect, my writing. If I don’t keep THOSE things up the sky will fall, I feel so convinced of this.
And yet…this is a completely wrong headed thought. This argument is akin to saying that I don’t have time to breathe because I’m too busy or I don’t have time to let my heart beat because I don’t have time, I don’t have time to digest food because I’m too overwhelmed. These are things my body does automatically. I don’t will myself to breathe or pump blood or process fuel. I don’t even will myself to think or not think. Even while I sleep my brain is at work. So if these things are true about me and if I believe (and I do) that these things are not purely physical, that all things in my work together body, mind and spirit, then the nous is that way too. It is there, it keeps functioning no matter what I “do” or “believe.”
See, this is the thing…I breathe without thinking but I can choose to breathe well, to not smoke, to pay attention. I pump blood without thinking but I can choose to be active, to keep my heart strong, to pay attention. I digest food without thinking but I can choose my fuel, to be wise in my choices, to pay attention. And the nous? It is the lens with which I view myself and also the lens with which I am viewed. It is how I understand all the parts of me working together and how I am understood. It is not just the seen but the seeing. I can choose to be mindful in this.
Each time I turn away from that which tears me down and moves me away from the One who made me I am paying attention, getting stronger, getting clearer…making myself vulnerable and open to hearing truth, loving God…it is a frightening process for me…cleaning the plaque from my spiritual arteries…but I don’t want to die this way…I want to truly live fully. I am ready for that.