I am 61 years old and it has taken me all of these years to fully understand that I do not have a say in another person’s journey. They are not a moving backdrop for me; they are not extras in my play, as David Whyte says in that old tape of his I’ve been listening to.
Whyte references Simone Weil, the French mystic philosopher from the 40s. She said, “What we love in other people is the hoped for satisfaction of our desires. We do not love them for their desires.”
Whyte adds that “…the hardest thing in the world is to love the other person’s desires because those very desires could lead them away from you. And yet you have no choice… Everyone is on this astonishing path where everything is at stake—to speak your own name—we hunger for the path.”
And this is the obvious piece I’ve been missing. My path is for me. Others may intersect mine. We may form meaningful connections. We can even inspire. But their path belongs to them. Their calling is theirs. Mine is mine.
Whyte likens life to a wilderness experience. He suggests that we stop asking for coordinates and let life come and find us—that we let the experience of living be a revelation. He adds that, “Revelation must be terrible knowing you can never hide your voice again.”
In his poem of the same name he says,
….the world steps in
to test the calm fluidity of your body
from moment to moment
as if it believed you could join
its vibrant dance
of fire and calmness and final stillness.
As if you were meant to be exactly
where you are, as if
like the dark branch of a desert river
you could flow on without a speck
of guilt and everything
everywhere would still be just as it should be.
As if your place in the world mattered
and the world could
neither speak nor hear the fullness of
its own bitter and beautiful cry
without the deep well
of your body resonating in the echo…
Whyte is saying that our place in the world does matter; that each and every one of us is vital; that we can join life’s vibrant dance, flow on without a speck of guilt and everything will still be just as it should be. The WORLD knows this as the natural order of things. But it is a journey each of us must take, to find our way—to speak our name. No one else can do this for us and no one else can stop us. It is for us, our path, imperfect as we may be, to find where we belong. Proust’s beautiful quote springs to mind here: “We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.”
This dance of life is complex. It is enough to endeavor to direct my own journey. And to those whose paths intersect with mine, those I come to love, I will do everything in my power to love their desires. Because there really is no other choice.
Revelation can be terrible knowing I can never hide my voice again.
Love to you all,