Unlike trees
or animals, we humans have to gather
to be real. When we’re together, we look
like more than shadows, we look true, we look like we could last
much longer than the fleeting lapse we really do.

Claudia Masin, “Nazareno Cruz and the Wolf”, in Intact, translated by Robin Myers

Perhaps this is why psychologist D. W. Winnicott’s notion of “feeling real” is so moving to me. One can aspire to feel real, one can help others to feel real, and one can oneself feel real—a feeling Winnicott describes as the collected, primary sensation of aliveness, “the aliveness of the body tissues and working of body-functions, including the heart’s action and breathing,” which makes spontaneous gesture possible. For Winnicott, feeling real is not reactive to external stimuli, nor is it an identity. It is a sensation—a sensation that spreads. Among other things, it makes one want to live.

Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts