Besides absorbing books like a sponge, I also loved solving math problems as a kid. And playing piano. And the way stories always resolved themselves like cadences in a classical piece. In other words, I liked things that eventually figured themselves out. It soothed me with a kind of satisfying, interior release.
Except that's not how life operates on an actual, day-to-day level. Things don't resolve themselves at the end of the day. They don't work out like some elaborate geometric proof. With the 798,067 variables at play in our lives at any one moment, isn't it somewhat outlandish to hope we can somehow make sense of it all?
Well, maybe. But maybe not. Check out what David Whyte has to say about it in his Crossing the Unknown Sea:
We need a sense of spaciousness and freedom, but find we can claim that freedom only by living out a radical, courageous simplicity -- a simplicity based on the particular way we belong to the world we inhabit. The genius of an individual lies in the inhabitation of their peculiar and particular spirit in conversation with the world. The task is simple and takes a life pilgrimage to attain, to inhabit our lives fully, just as we find it, and in that inhabitation, let everything ripen to the next stage of the conversation. We do this because that is how we make meaning and how we make everything real.
According to this view, every person has a unique genius to uncover and offer the world, and it is a gift that must be found and offered or else the world will be much less without it. Uncovering it, though, means meaning-making, sorting through the past that has led to this actual moment and then garnering enough strength to cut our lives down to the simplest common denominator that is only ours to claim.
My own path has led to me to this cliff's edge now, and as of Friday I will step into the wide unknown to take a chance on building something that will bring my "simplicity" to life. It's an exhilarating step, knowing that I'll be inhabiting that truer claim on my identity, and yet it is a terrifying feat. Thankfully, David Whyte has encouraging words to offer on that score, too:
Taking any step that is courageous, however small, is a way of bringing any gifts we have to a surface, where they can be received. For that we have to come out of hiding, out from behind insulation. Wherever our edge of understanding has been established is the very place we should look more intently, but it is also the very place that fills us most with fear. Once we begin to engage those elemental edges through daily courageous speech, we start to build a living picture of our own nature.
It's good to know other good pilgrims further along on the journey have set down truths for the rest of us newer, greener sojourners to find that light the way.