Thursday, May 08, 2008

Freelove Matteson

I can't remember if I'd written about this before, but I have an ancestor who was named Freelove Matteson, one of the favorite details of the family tree on my dad's father's side that my great-aunt gave me 15 years ago.  She was born on 4/24/1755 in East Greenwich RI, and died around 1830, possibly in Clarendon VT, although that is not clear to me from the chart.  She and her husband had a child they named Lord Alanson Congdon (Congdon was her married name), which is an awfully strange name for a kid.  From stuff my great-aunt noted on a map, that branch of the family was originally from Ireland, although most of the other ancestors on that side are from England.

We were helping the kids prepare for International Night at school, which always makes me feel uncomfortable.  Roger's family is Jewish, and they all fled Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe for excellent reasons.  My family is mostly English and French (apparently some Irish) and some Swedish.  They all, too, left their home countries for excellent reasons, and a lot of them were here by 1700.  Considering the fact that most of my kids ancestors had no reason to look back with fondness at the old country, I've had no nostalgia for the English, certainly, nor really, for the French.  Through my grandmother, we all come from French Canada, so were generally outcasts of French society of the 17th and 18th centuries.

But Freelove Matteson has always interested me, because of her name.  How do you end up with a name like Freelove in 1755?  It's got to have something to do with the fact that most branches of my family seemed to have settled in Rhode Island pretty early--even the ones that came from the Plymouth/Duxbury MA area in the early/mid-17th century.  Which seems to indicate that they were fairly radical Protestants and free-thinkers.  Roger Williams' Rhode Island colony was heretical to the Puritans.  I think Williams, for example, believed that even unconverted Indians had souls.  Shocking.

I am a very bad yoga student, because I am never really able to clear or calm my "monkey mind."  If they suggest I should have an intention for my practice at the beginning, I do, and then I think about it the whole time, getting distracted and forgetting if the teacher called right or left leg or arm.  I was meditating on love today, and how the single word covers so much ground.  Our love gets channeled into these pretty rigid relationships: parents/children, man and wife, etc.  But in terms of adults, anyway, there are so many permutations of emotional and sexual love.  But we're just supposed to block out the ones that don't fit into the "appropriate" categories.  

And it seems that most cultures have love progress from physical love to spiritual love, and never back.  The lowest chakras are sexual.  The ladder of love in English neoplatonism starts with the body and advances beyond it.  Yeats writes about lying down "where all the ladders start/ in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart."  

I chose to go ahead and fulfill my biological destiny by having kids.  Kids begin in the sexual experience.  Kids begin in the female body.  My love for my kids seems "bodily"--the hugs, the kisses, the needs they have to be cuddled, even as they approach the pre-teens.  It seems all blended together, for me, the physical and the spiritual.  There never seems to be some progression to "higher planes" that go beyond the body.  The same thing for mature love between adults: it feels all blended to me.  I don't have a desire to "progress."  Deep emotional caring often has physical manifestations, stirrings.  Why do we want to hug our close friends?  It's not sexual, but the physical bonding is still an integral part of expression.  Why do deep emotional connections among adults of all sexual orientations become physical?  Or yearn for physical expression?  Is the 'ladder of love' some kind of perverse denial of what love is?  A religious correction of sorts?  

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