July 9, 2015
“. . . the imaginative doorway that says I know you and see you and this is how I give thanks for you . . .”
— David Whyte, from Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words
I loved reading David Whyte’s new book, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. It is a collection of short essays about words, and I was constantly surprised by Whyte’s unusual twists on interpreting or finding meaning in what I normally think of as “negative” words like denial, despair, disappointment, etc. Whyte seems to greet all emotions as friends or guests whose arrival signals an opportunity for growth and transformation.
For example, here is what Whyte says about denial: “Denial is the crossroads between perception and readiness, to deny denial is to invite powers into our lives we have not yet readied ourselves to meet. . . . Denial is an ever present and even splendid thing when seen in the light of its merciful and elemental powers to cradle and hold an identity until it is ready to move on.”
And here is one of Whyte’s insights about despair: “Despair is a . . . psychological winter when our previous forms of participation in the world take a rest; it is a loss of horizon, it is the place we go when we do not want to be found in the same way anymore.”
Or consider his thoughts on disappointment: “What we call disappointment may be just the first stage of our emancipation into the next great pattern of existence. . . . Disappointment is a friend to transformation, a call to both accuracy and generosity in the assessment of our self and others, a test of sincerity and a catalyst of resilience. Disappointment is just the initial meeting with the frontier of an evolving life, an invitation to reality, which we expected to be one particular way and turns out to be another, often something more difficult, more overwhelming and strangely, in the end, more rewarding.”
I love Whyte’s take on shyness: “Without shyness it is not possible to apprehend the new. Total confidence at the beginning of a new phase of life means we are misinformed, that we are deeply mistaken, that we think we know what is about to occur and who we are about to become.”
Consolations includes Whyte’s meditations on positive attributes as well, like friendship, honesty, gratitude. These essays are equally thought-provoking. About friendship, Whyte says: ” . . . to remain friends we must know the other and their difficulties and even their sins and encourage the best in them, not through critique but through addressing the better part of them, the leading creative edge of their incarnation, thus subtly discouraging what makes them smaller, less generous, less of themselves.” He continues, “. . . the ultimate touchstone of friendship . . . is witness, the privilege of being granted the sight of the essence of another, to have walked with them and to have believed in them, and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span, on a journey impossible to accomplish alone.”
I did find solace and nourishment in Whyte’s book. It is aptly titled.
July 7, 2015
I love the serendipity of finding exactly what my heart needs in the books I am reading, frequently without deliberately searching. It feels like a gift when I stumble across a message that settles the disquiet in my spirit. Here are some words of wisdom that I plan to keep top of mind when I retire:
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
― Howard Thurman, The Living Wisdom of Howard Thurman: A Visionary for Our Time