Consolations

WORDS: Help by David Whyte

November 12, 2018

From Consolations Help is strangely, something we want to do without, as if the very idea disturbs and blurs the boundaries of our individual endeavors, as if we cannot face how much we need in order to go on.  We are born with an absolute necessity for help, grow well only with a continuous succession of extended hands, and as adults depend upon others for our further successes and possibilities in life even as competent individuals.  Even the most solitary writer needs a reader, the most Machiavellian mobster a trusted lieutenant, the most independent candidate, a voter. Not only does the need for help never leave us alone; we must apprentice ourselves to its different necessary forms, at each particular threshold of our lives.  At [...]

WORDS: Ground by David Whyte

November 5, 2018

From Consolations Ground is what lies beneath our feet.  It is the place where we already stand; a state of recognition, the place or the circumstances to which we belong whether we wish to or not.  It is what holds and supports us, but also what we do not want to be true; it is what challenges us, physically or psychologically, irrespective of our hoped for needs.  It is the living, underlying foundation that tells us what we are, where we are, what season we are in and what, no matter what we wish in the abstract, is about to happen in our body, in the world or in the conversation between the two. To come to ground is to find a home in circumstances and in the very physical body we inhabit in the midst of those circumstances and above [...]

WORDS: Genius by David Whyte

October 29, 2018

From Consolations Genius is something we already possess.  Genius is best understood in its original and ancient sense: describing the specific underlying quality of a given place as in the Latin Genius Loci, the spirit of a place, it describes a form of meeting, of air and land and trees, perhaps a hillside, a cliff edge, a flowing stream, or a bridge across a river.  It is the conversation of elements that makes a place incarnate, fully itself.  It is the breeze on our skin, the particular freshness and odors of the water or of the mountain or the sky in a given, actual geographical realm.  You could go to many other places in the world with a cliff edge, a stream, a bridge, but it would not have the particular spirit or [...]

WORDS: Friendship by David Whyte

October 22, 2018

From Consolations Friendship is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness.  Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another’s eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn.  A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them.  An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy.  All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness.  Without [...]

WORDS: Destiny by David Whyte

October 15, 2018

From Consolations Destiny always has a possessor, as in my destiny or your destiny or her destiny, it gives a sense of something we cannot avoid or something waiting for us, it is a word of storybook or mythic dimension.  Destiny is hardly used in everyday conversation; it is a word that invites belief or disbelief: we reject the ordering of events by some fated, unseen force or we agree that there seems to be a greater hand than our own, working at the edges of even the most average life.  But speaking of destiny not only grants us a sense of our own possibilities but gives us an intimation of our flaws, we sense, along with Shakespeare, that what is unresolved or unspoken in human character might overwhelm the better parts of [...]

WORDS: Crisis by David Whyte

October 8, 2018

From Consolations Crisis is unavoidable.  Every human life seems to be drawn eventually, as if by some unspoken parallel, some tidal flow or underground magnetic field, toward the raw, dynamic essentials of its existence, as if everything up to that point had been a preparation for a meeting, for a confrontation in an elemental form with our essential flaw, and with what an individual could until then, only receive stepped down, interpreted, or diluted. This experience of absolute contact with an essential hidden dynamic, now understood to be essential to our lives, often ignored but now making itself felt, where the touchable rawness of life becomes part of the fabric of the everyday, and a robust luminous vulnerability, becomes shot [...]

WORDS: Courage by David Whyte

October 1, 2018

From Consolations Courage is a word that tempts us to think outwardly, to run bravely against opposing fire, to do something under besieging circumstance, and perhaps, above all, to be seen to do it in public, to show courage; to be celebrated in story, rewarded with medals, given the accolade, but a look at its linguistic origins is to look in a more interior direction and toward its original template, the old Norman French, Coeur, or heart. Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future.  To be courageous is not necessarily to go anywhere or do anything except to make conscious those things we already feel deeply and then to live through the unending vulnerabilities of [...]

WORDS: Besieged by David Whyte

September 24, 2018

From Consolations Besieged is how most people feel most of the time: by events, by people, by all the necessities of providing, parenting, or participating and even by the creative possibilities they have set in motion themselves, and most especially, a success they have achieved through long years of endeavor. To feel crowded, set upon, blocked by circumstances, in defeat or victory, is not only the daily experience of most human beings in most contemporary societies; it has been an abiding dynamic of individual life since the dawn of human consciousness.  In a human life there is no escape from commitment: retreat to a desert island and the lonely islander will draw up a Robinson Crusoe list to make the place habitable or begin building [...]

WORDS: Beginning by David Whyte

September 17, 2018

From Consolations Beginning well or beginning poorly, what is important is simply to begin, but the ability to  make a good beginning is also an art form.  Beginning well involves a clearing away of the crass, the irrelevant, and the complicated to find the beautiful, often hidden lineaments of the essential and the necessary. Beginning is difficult, and our procrastination is a fine ever-present measure of our reluctance in taking that first close-in, courageous step to reclaiming our happiness.  Perhaps, because taking a new step always leads to a kind of radical internal simplification, where, suddenly, very large parts of us, parts of us we have kept gainfully employed for years, parts of us still rehearsing the old complicated [...]

WORDS: Alone by David Whyte

September 10, 2018

From Consolations Alone is a word that stands by itself, carrying the austere, solitary beauty of its own meaning even as it is spoken to another.  It is a word that can be felt at the same time as an invitation to depth and as an imminent threat, as in “all alone,” with its returned echo of abandonment.  “Alone” is a word that rings with a strange finality, especially when contained in that haunting aggregate, “left all alone,” as if the state once experienced begins to define and engender its own inescapable world.  The first step in spending time alone is to admit how afraid of it we are. Being alone is a difficult discipline: a beautiful and difficult sense of being solitary is always the ground from which we step into a [...]