What's on the far horizon of your life?
One of those authors who has been used, times over, to open up and create some space in my creative soul is David Whyte. His insights come from his being a "business poet." At least, that's the first way I begin to define him to those I mentor.
Partly, this is written for any good soul who wants to read it; who wants to be as prepared as possible to influence and contribute to our world. Partly, this blog post is written for a place to send those I've the sacred privilege of mentoring to find some fodder for our February mentoring moments between us.
I was speaking at a small, but potent, conference near Buena Vista. Because those gathered needed some "family time," I drove west to the top of Cottonwood Pass. The breeze was crisp, as fall was definitely in the air. The silence remarkable, except for the faint shrieks of a few feathered friends. I welcomed the moment that no one, absolutely no one knew exactly where I was. Except our Triune God. Of course.
I had Whyte's book with me. I read the pages to follow. I did not see a burning bush. But as pondered long and deep where my own life was headed with my own life's work (vocational dimension of the Circle of Life) a fire flickered into flame in that moment. Not a roaring fire. But a truly astonishing flame flickered into existence in 2012, that is now turning into a fire in 2014.
Read on. Lengthy, but well worth it
Read when you have some ponder time in your life.......
Crossing the Unknown Sea:
Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity
by David Whyte--pp 169-172
The real well-being of our person, whether it is in conversation with our doctor over the direction of our health or in conversation with ourselves over the direction of our life, is measured by a sense of freedom and spaciousness. Good health confers a sense of participation in everything around us, as does good work. Sickness is exile, in work and in play. In order to continually re-imagine ourselves through our work lives, we must have a part of us that belongs to something beyond the status quo. Something over the horizon or, paradoxically, beneath us, in the ground of our life. Something as yet hidden, yet be brought to light. Something which is governed by other laws than the ones we so assiduously obey every day. Something to do with the laws that govern the way we belong to this stubborn and beautiful world.
THE OPENING OF EYES
That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out,
I knew then, as I had before,
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages in a great book
waiting to be read.
It is the opening of eyes long closed.
It is the vision of far-off things
seen for the silence they hold.
It is the heart after years
of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air.
It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven
and finding himself astonished,
opened at last,
fallen in love with solid ground.
God’s utterance is heard from the burning bush, telling Moses to take off his shoes. “You are standing on holy ground,” the voice insists. I have always been compelled by the immensity of this biblical image and have long thought that Moses’ revelation was not the immediate shock of hearing God’s voice from the bush but the moment he looked down and realized not only that he stood in God’s presence but that he had been standing in that presence all of his life. Every step of his life had been on holy ground. The outlaw from Egypt was an outlaw because he had always felt the call of a higher legislation.
Once, after I recited The Opening of Eyes at a Boston reading, a Hasidic student approached me as I left the stage and asked if I knew the original translation of God’s words to Moses. The question was rhetorical, and I waited with some fascination for the translation to be supplied. “The verb that God used when he asked Moses to remove his shoes was the ancient word for an animal shedding its skin. God said, ‘Shed your shoes.’'”
The image seems true to me. Like most of the creatures of creation, we humans go through a periodic molt, except that our molt is an invisible one and because of the lonely invisibility of the transformation, necessitates a particular form of courage, a courage we are never sure we have in our possession. Shedding the carapace we have been building so assiduously on the surface, we must by definition give up exactly what we thought was necessary to protect us from further harm. Words will not convey that vulnerability to others; action is often inappropriate, neither can any evidence be proffered that you will grow beyond the line of your old shell. We find ourselves in the desert without food, water, or shelter. The frontier occurs in that desert, alone, the events fiery, clothed in a radical language and in a simplicity that frightens us.
It is Moses in the desert
fallen to his knees before the lit bush.
In a sense, at crucial and difficult thresholds in our life, the part of us that is most at home is the part of us that for most of the time has no home at all. The part of us that lives outside the normal rules. If we have no familiarity with this outlaw portion of ourselves in the normality of the everyday, then it can be very difficult to bring it to the fore when in the raw times of difficult change it is most needed.
Why are the stakes so high in our work? Why do we work long hours, ignore our children, neglect our spouse, spend enormous amounts of time away from home, and, at our worst, stoop to theft, bribery, threats, and bullying to get things done? Somewhere in the midst of work is a hidden trove of imaginative treasure that we hope can give us self-respect, independence, and the ease we desire. But to grasp any of these qualities is to attempt to touch the essence of freedom, and freedom can rarely be obtained by using methods and bully-boy tactics that imprison us by their very use. The outlaw is the radical, the one close to the roots of existence. The one who refuses to forget their humanity and in remembering, helps everyone else to remember, too.
To live with courage in any work or in any organization, we must know intimately the part of us that does not give a damn about the organization or the work. That knows how to live outside the law as well as within it. We do this not to create a veneer of protection through cynicism, but so that we can meet the powerful structures that inform our existence on equal terms, and in a real conversation of equals. In a conversation of equals, there is all to play for. Something can occur that neither side could anticipate; predictability, routinization, boredom, and powerlessness are all in abeyance. With a healthy outlaw approach, we are outside the laws of predictable cause and effect and inside the intensity of creative originality. We have a gleam in our eye; we look to the edges of things; no one really knows what we are up to. We see with the eyes of those who do not quite belong. We are dangerous again, and glad to be so.
* * * * * * *
For anyone in leadership anywhere of any kind, the creative content of this whole book is well worth the read, as is Whyte’s book, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America
Both books are--
Unique. Timeless. Potent.
Thought provoking. Life-changing.