Intimacy, says the phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard, is the highest value.
I resist this statement at first. What about artistic achievement, or moral courage, or heroism, or altruistic acts, or work in the case of social change? What about wealth or accomplishment? And yet something about it rings true, finally — that what we want is to be brought into relation, to be inside, within. Perhaps it’s true that nothing matters to us more than that.
But then why resist intimacy, why seem to flee it? A powerful countercurrent pulls against our drive toward connection; we also desire individuation, separateness, freedom. On one side of the balance is the need for home, for the deep solid roots of place and belonging; on the other side is the desire for travel and motion, for the single separate spark of the self freely moving forward, out of time, into the great absorbing stream of the world.
A fierce internal debate, between staying moored and drifting away, between holding on and letting go. Perhaps wisdom lies in our ability to negotiate between these two poles. Necessary to us, both of them — but how to live in connection without feeling suffocated, compromised, erased? We long to connect; we fear that if we do, our freedom and individuality will disappear.