A dear friend wrote to me this morning:
I felt compelled to write you this morning in response to your most recent blog post. … I appreciate and recognize your courage and honesty in being able to BE there… to witness the pain, darkness, and craziness of our times. AND, I want to reassure you that that is not the whole story. I know you know this but I feel compelled to remind. … [there is] darkness, but there is every bit as much light. … [Focusing on darkness] must be done. Someone must do it. Many who do are richer for it. You are richer. I see that. … And there comes a time to focus on the light. I am NOT suggesting that you need to focus on the light. I am only reminding you that it is there, as you already know and experience. My letter is about love and encouragement. As you do this incredibly important work of staring unflinchingly into the eyes of darkness, I simply write to remind you of the light and how strong, bright, pure, and healing it is. And that light is in you, my dear. I see it.
To be seen and heard in this way moved me very much. Do you know what moved me the most, in this message? “I am NOT suggesting that you need to focus on the light.” It’s a relief to not receive an exhortation to be more “positive.” I don’t have to be strong. I don’t have to pretend. I don’t even have to think about when or how I will find my way through this thicket. I can tell it like it is, for me. That’s what I’m doing here.
I was thinking today, why am I so driven to write all these thoughts on my blog, rather than, say, a private journal? What is that about? Wouldn’t it be safer and more contained to put it all down where nobody can see it? But that’s the point, right?– I can’t cling to that false sense of safety any more. There is no containing it. I need witnesses. I need to be heard.
I have no real sense of who is reading my words, unless someone tells me directly. I do like to hear from people, to know that my words have been seen, to hear a bit about how my writing might have spurred someone’s thinking. But in the end, with every post that’s sent on its little electronic path, I have to sit back and release it completely. I have to trust that by giving my thoughts form through language, that they will be received, unwrapped, taken in, given shelter. I have to let the words go even if I don’t know where they’ll end up or if they’ll ever be heard.
What is the urgency that continues to fuel this need to be heard? There is a quote that several friends on Facebook posted recently that spoke directly to me. I don’t know very much about the originator of the quote, Ken Wilber, but I feel like his words were placed before me as a way to understand what’s happening to my heart and to my voice.
And therefore, all of those for whom authentic transformation has deeply unseated their souls must, I believe, wrestle with the profound moral obligation to shout from the heart—perhaps quietly and gently, with tears of reluctance; perhaps with fierce fire and angry wisdom; perhaps with slow and careful analysis; perhaps by unshakable public example—but authenticity always and absolutely carries a demand and duty: you must speak out, to the best of your ability, and shake the spiritual tree, and shine your headlights into the eyes of the complacent. You must let that radical realization rumble through your veins and rattle those around you.
Because, you see, the alarming fact is that any realization of depth carries a terrible burden: those who are allowed to see are simultaneously saddled with the obligation to communicate that vision in no uncertain terms: that is the bargain. You were allowed to see the truth under the agreement that you would communicate it to others (that is the ultimate meaning of the bodhisattva vow). And therefore, if you have seen, you simply must speak out. Speak out with compassion, or speak out with angry wisdom, or speak out with skillful means, but speak out you must.
And this is truly a terrible burden, a horrible burden, because in any case there is no room for timidity. The fact that you might be wrong is simply no excuse: You might be right in your communication, and you might be wrong, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter, as Kierkegaard so rudely reminded us, is that only by investing and speaking your vision with passion, can the truth, one way or another, finally penetrate the reluctance of the world. If you are right, or if you are wrong, it is only your passion that will force either to be discovered. It is your duty to promote that discovery—either way—and therefore it is your duty to speak your truth with whatever passion and courage you can find in your heart. You must shout, in whatever way you can.”
― Ken Wilber, One Taste