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 ever leave us alone; we must apprentice ourselves to its different necessary forms, at each particular threshold of our lives. At every stage we are dependent on our ability to ask for specific forms of help at very specific times and in very specific ways. Even at the end, the dignity of our going depends on others’ willingness to help us die well; the sincerity of their help often commensurate to the help we extended to them in our own life. Every transformation has at its heart the need to ask for the right kind of generosity…
©2014 David Whyte
Frank Sinatra is whooping away in the background, lyrically. I’m sitting at Starbucks letting the thoughts in my brain play tag with one another; wondering if I’m going to come clean, declare myself a help-aholic, admit my powerlessness, state for the record that without the unending loving assistance of others my life would be completely unmanageable. In other words, Be vulnerable, messy, gentle old me.
The truth is that my glacial acceptance of all kinds of otherness in my life has not only made me much more alive, it has caused the beauty of my life to ratchet up exponentially with each encounter I make. I am never alone when I bear myself naked before people, set out my desired intentions, check my gut, say a little prayer, and wait patiently to bear witness to all that reveals itself as a result. Life has this quirky unfathomable whispery quality that can cause me to shake all over, (don’t be afraid), from the sheer force of it. I asked my friend Shannon once what the hell she thought that kind of connection might be. She said Divine Energy. I shut the hell up after that.
“All that we do is touched with ocean, yet we remain on the shore of what we know,” the poet Richard Wilbur states in his Eulogy to his dead friend Wilbur. I knew, the first time I read that sentence that I was pegged to the wall, no escaping the definition. But I was also damn sure, in the next consecutive moment that I was not going to remain in such a state of almost catatonic, satiated, safe, immobility.
And so I waded in, into the unknown, and started paddling around in the cool waters of a life up until then only imagined. It was weird and murky and sometimes more than just a little choppy, but I can say without question; never dull, always ultimately inspired, and I have received so much gracious, glimmery generous help with every stride forward I have made. It was just there, kind of magically, whenever, wherever, undeniably right there, as I needed it
I am now far from the distant shore that I know, and yet, as always, surrounded by help, oftentimes imperceptible and unfathomable. It reflects itself incandescently, subtle, just outside of my physical and mental connection to myself. But it’s there, I sense it deep down inside of me; as complete a truth as I have ever known. And I invert into it, co-inhere, scooping it up and pouring it all over me like some kind of sweet liquidy benediction to a life I don’t understand but know I am meant to live anyway. And I am happy.