Yesterday was a day for indulging the senses. I saw, heard, smelled, touched and tasted beauty just as Goethe reminds us to: A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.
My sister and I went to hear poet, David Whyte at the National Cathedral. I first discovered David's poetry many years ago through his Clear Mind Wild Heart cassette tapes. Now they come in mp3 downloads - so obviously I've been a follower for a long time. His poetry and his powerful presentations have always resonated deeply with me. "The language of poetry takes us outside of our small selves and calls us to look at ourselves and the world with open eyes,” teaches David Whyte.
I had the problem last night of deciding whether to write down the nuggets of wisdom he was sharing or just listen. If I was trying to remember what he just said long enough to get it written down, then I lost everything that came immediately after that. But some words just begged to be inscribed. The theme of the talk was the secret voice of everyday life, but as always, David just talks, letting his words and thoughts create wisdom as he goes.
He admitted to us last night that many times he too is struck but what he has said. That sometimes he doesn't know what he is revealing until he has said it and he has to pause to gather the full impact of the insight and wisdom. He allows himself to be vunerable even standing in front of hundreds. He says it is our job to share ourselves with the world by being vulnerable. At the end of the lecture, one man asked how is one to be vulnerable? David said it it is different for a man and a woman. A man must be vulnerable buy being invisible, but a woman makes herself vulnerable by being seen in the world.
That makes so much sense to me, especially as an artist and a writer. To pour my heart into image and word and then to expose them, and in turn myself, to the world. "To live at the center of the conversation you were meant for."
The grounds of the cathedral were magnificent in their spring bloom. I had been there before with my daughter's class in November 2006, so had missed the wall of trailing lilac on the Cathedral College building, the charming Greenhouse shop and the joy of strolling the grounds in the warmth of spring. Who can resist the chance to smell the fragrant lilac, which only blooms for 2 short weeks in springtime. Is all beauty so fleeting? Is it beautiful because it is impermanent?
The evening ended with dinner at Sala Thai in Bethesda, a quiet favorite, with live music on the weekends. The taste of our curry, the sound of the jazz...our "worldly cares did not obliterate our sense of the beautiful." We uttered the usual, "We have to do this more often," and then went back to our respective homes and lives.
The evening will serve as a catalyst for the change we are seeking in our lives. Our mini midlife crises. Yet something less than a crisis, a quandry perhaps? David said we must "get used to living in that beautiful confusion between what you think is you and what you think is not you." It's hard to see clearly through the confusion, especially when you are in the midst of it in your day to day routines. I'm going to buy the mp3 of Clear Mind Clear Body for my ipod. It helps to have the constant reminder and the voice of wisdom at hand. And in those quiet moment when Riley is feeding and nodding off to slumber, I will immerse myself David's new book of poetry, several of which he recited last night. Oh, and did I mention he has a charming British accent? Do you want to hear for yourself? Here is a link to his Library of Congress Poet & the Poem webcast.