is a way of staying alive. Hiding is a way of holding ourselves until we are ready to come into the light. Even hiding the truth from ourselves can be a way to come to what we need in our own necessary time. Hiding is one of the brilliant and virtuoso practices of almost every part of the natural world: the protective quiet of an icy northern landscape, the held bud of a future summer rose, the snow bound internal pulse of the hibernating bear. Hiding is underestimated. We are hidden by life in our mother’s womb until we grow and ready ourselves for our first appearance in the lighted world; to appear too early in that world is to find ourselves with the immediate necessity for outside intensive care.
Hiding done properly is the internal faithful promise for a proper future emergence, as embryos, as children or even as emerging adults in retreat from the names that have caught us and imprisoned us, often in ways where we have been too easily seen and too easily named.
We live in a time of the dissected soul, the immediate disclosure; our thoughts, imaginings and longings exposed to the light too much, too early and too often, our best qualities squeezed too soon into a world already awash with too easily articulated ideas that oppress our sense of self and our sense of others. What is real is almost always to begin with, hidden, and does not want to be understood by the part of our mind that mistakenly thinks it knows what is happening. What is precious inside us does not care to be known by the mind in ways that diminish its presence.
“Hiding is an act of freedom from the misunderstanding of others. Hiding is the radical independence necessary for our emergence into the light of a proper human future.”
Hiding is an act of freedom from the misunderstanding of others, especially in the enclosing world of oppressive secret government and private entities, attempting to name us, to anticipate us, to leave us with no place to hide and grow in ways unmanaged by a creeping necessity for absolute naming, absolute tracking and absolute control. Hiding is a bid for independence, from others, from mistaken ideas we have about our selves, from an oppressive and mistaken wish to keep us completely safe, completely ministered to, and therefore completely managed. Hiding is creative, necessary and beautifully subversive of outside interference and control. Hiding leaves life to itself, to become more of itself. Hiding is the radical independence necessary for our emergence into the light of a proper human future.
From CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.
2016 © David Whyte:
“Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single
friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore
I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds
or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of
praying, as you no doubt have yours.
Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit
on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds,
until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost
unhearable sound of the roses singing.
If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love
you very much.”
― Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems Art
I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree. A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast; A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray; A tree that may in summer wear A nest of robins in her hair; Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain. Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.
In my mind, I’ve understood the importance of boundaries for a long time. But really feeling it with my heart only happened this year. Suddenly boundaries were no longer prickly things to put up when I’m upset or feel threatened. Now they are beautiful flowing lines of love that I hold with kindness and understanding toward everyone around me. That was a huge revelation. Thanks (again) to Alan Seale.
I woke up this morning to the news that Leonard Cohen has died. I was 16 when I discovered his music (I’m Your Man). When no-one was watching, I’d stand in the lounge, music full blast, singing along to every song imagining I was one of his backup singers. I know the lyrics to every song on that CD by heart. Few musicians have moved me as much since and today I lost one of my favourite poets. No words I come up with can do him justice. So I leave it to Tom Robbins, another writer I greatly admire, to do so:
“He was rowed down from the north in a leather skiff manned by a crew of trolls. His fur cape was caked with candle wax, his brow stained blue by wine – though the latter was seldom noticed due to the fox mask he wore at all times. A quill in his teeth, a solitary teardrop, a squirm in his palm, he was the young poet prince of Montreal, handsome, immaculate, searching for sturdier doors to nail his poignant verses on.”
The guardian gets why I loved his work: “…It wasn’t that he knew the answers but that he never stopped looking. He searched for clues in bedrooms and warzones, in Jewish temples and Buddhist retreats, in Europe, Africa, Israel and Cuba. He tried to flush them out with booze and drugs and seduce them with melodies. And whenever he managed to painfully extract some nugget of wisdom, he would cut and polish it like a precious stone before resuming the search.”
Leonard was right when he recently told his muse Marianne on her deathbed “I’ll be following you soon”.
I wish you’d stayed around a little longer to seduce us, Mr Cohen.
But today it’s our turn.
So long, Leonard. Thank you for all the beauty you brought to our lives.