Vulnerability is one of those words that is not highly valued in North American culture. armored cars (like hummers), Iron Man, Iron Chef, new television programs — Grit, Strong, Survivor, I’m sure there are many others — that’s what is valued. It accounts for the American obsession with guns and thick skin.
But vulnerability happens when you’re open to the world. When you decide to be honest and turn your own delicate, amazing, living — pulsing heart, mind, soul — whatever you want to call that core being within you — toward the world. The decision to live with any real authenticity drags that being in you to the surface.
Somehow I cherish this idea that if we could live these open, honest, authentic lives — we would have the full wisdom and creativity held within us. And if we could live these open, honest, authentic lives, we would have a chance at being real with one another. And if we were real with one another we would have a chance at moving our wisdoms and creativities together. And if we truly brought those gifts within us together, I believe that there would be hope for the world — and, at worse — tremendous beauty, love, and tenderness to carry us through our hopelessness.
These are long held beliefs of mine. I do appreciate the work of Brene Brown — a shout out to her. I was shaken and thrilled, recently, with the brilliance of David Whyte’s words on Vulnerability. So I share them with you —
David Whyte wrote these wise words VULNERABILITY
“Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition, or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice , vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding under-current of our natural state. To run from vulnerability is to run from the essence of our nature, the attempt to be invulnerable is the vain attempt to be something we are not and most especially, to close off our understanding of the grief of others. More seriously, refusing our vulnerability we refuse the help needed at every turn of our existence and immobilize the essential, tidal and conversational foundations of our identity.
To have a temporary, isolated sense of power over all events and circumstances, is one of the privileges and the prime conceits of being human and especially of being youthfully human, but a privilege that must be surrendered with that same youth, with ill health, with accident, with the loss of loved ones who do not share our untouchable powers; powers eventually and most emphatically given up, as we approach our last breath. The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance, our choice is to inhabit vulnerability as generous citizens of loss, robustly and fully, or conversely, as misers and complainers, reluctant, and fearful, always at the gates of existence, but never bravely and completely attempting to enter, never wanting to risk ourselves, never walking fully through the door.”
© May 2014 David Whyte
Preach it brother! The line I am most attached to currently is the phrase “generous citizens of loss.” Damn — it is so true. It is the estate of being human — and worthless to pretend otherwise.
That doesn’t change the reality that we are also citizens of wonder — showered with a beautiful world we don’t earn (and might utterly screw up — but that’s another story) and surrounded by lives and the stories of lives of stunning worth and restorative power and endowed with selves that can deliver to us constant adventures of spirit within us and outside of us –using only the muscle of the heart.
Vulnerability seems to me to be the willingness to open to that wonder, while tenderly knowing all the loss our lives, our hopes, our wonder entails.