Sunday, November 25, 2012


I'm feeling a bit contemplative tonight. And so...

if you move carefully
through the forest

like the ones
in the old stories

who could cross
a shimmering bed of dry leaves
without a sound,

you come
to a place
whose only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests

conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

requests to stop what
you are doing right now,

to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,

that can make
or unmake
a life,

that have patiently
waited for you,

questions that have no right
to go away.

-- David Whyte
One of the most beautifully disturbing questions we can ask, is whether a given story we tell about our lives is actually true, and whether the opinions we go over every day have any foundation or are things we repeat to ourselves simply so that we will continue to play the game. It can be quite disorienting to find that a story we have relied on - is not only not true - it actually never was true. Not now not ever. There is another form of obsolescence that can fray at the cocoon we have spun about ourselves, that is, the story was true at one time, and for an extended period; the story was even true and good to us, but now it is no longer true and no longer of any benefit, in fact our continued retelling of it simply imprisons us. We are used to the prison however, we have indeed fitted cushions and armchairs and made it comfortable and we have locked the door from the inside.
I'm thinking a lot today about the stories we tell ourselves that are always too small to contain the truth.

I've observed that happening in a particularly brutal battle that is waging between some liberals these days on Twitter. Its all very reminiscent to me of similar battles I've fought on various blogs. The last thing any of us do in those situations is ask questions. We're too busy defending ourselves - and often with good reason.

The trouble with all of that is that getting defensive stops us from asking the questions...the beautifully disturbing questions that have no right to go away. Before you know it, we've made ourselves comfortable with the stories we tell ourselves - having locked the door from the inside.


  1. I must be missing this twitter thing entirely. I end up engaging most with people about music, followed by Buddhism, then comic books. Politics comes after.

    I will say for myself that I am not only at my best when I drop the stories I have told about myself but I'm also at my happiest. It's possible to live this way, I know.

    Thanks for the poem. I don't know if you've read Basho or not. His "Narrow Road to the Deep North" is my single favorite poetic work, edging out Blake, whose work to me in any event is more about the mixture of media than just the words. Basho brings me a deep comfort.

    Please continue to include these poetic interludes.

    1. I'll have to check out Basho.

      I never paid attention to poetry until I got exposed to David Whyte. He's become a bit of a mentor and has really demonstrated to power of poetry to me.

    2. The opening to the Narrow Road to the Deep North is on the wikipedia article:

      Every time, it nails me. I imagine you write poetry but do not share it widely...

    3. Nope - no poetry from me. I am much better at playing with ideas than I am with words.