David Whyte is a brilliant human, poet, and storyteller. In his 3 week series of invitations, we meet for an hour or so each Sunday.
One of the many gifts is an exploration of a poem or two. Where was he, what was he thinking, what does it mean to him in reflection years and years later.
He began our first session by thinking about our curriculum vitae. This reminded me specifically of data science where the expectation is for a wide and dense depth of experience. The focus is on skills--not on critical thinking, problem solving, or creativity.
Perhaps you have the requisite experience and deep toolbox--and you are selected for the position. David suggests--correctly--that regardless of your cinematic expertise, there is a good chance your employer will only want a narrow part of this skill set. In an unapologetically linear manner, you are asked to perform only this narrow skill. Again and again, day after day.
All of these years later, David reflects on the poem, Faces of Braga. He thinks of the statues in the monastery. Why were they so compelling? Wooden faces in the dark--silently shriven. The flaws in the wood under the masterful skill of the carving knife. It is these imperfections that reveal the vulnerability that humans strive to mask or hide.
For me, the fear is about the beautiful and unique skills and gifts you are tempted to leave behind. Your employer never asks for them and so you disinvite them. You fall into a routine, a sameness.
David Whyte offers a chordal invitation. “Beckon yourself into a disturbance”.
I don’t want to be ordinary or do things the same way as everyone else. I doubt you do either.
"What does it mean to have an invitational presence in the world?...
Making real invitations, and asking increasingly beautiful questions of life - of others and of ourselves - is one of the foundational ways we can practice and shape a more beautiful mind. It is interesting to think that we might be able to practice shaping our imaginations, our perceptions and our minds, just as we practice a musical instrument, and that there are ways of improving ourselves that are pleasurable and rewarding in and of themselves, without necessarily having puritanical goals."
In monastery darkness by the light of one flashlight, the old shrine room waits in silence.
While beside the door we see the terrible figure, fierce eyes demanding, “Will you step through?”
And the old monk leads us, bent back nudging blackness prayer beads in the hand that beckons.
We light the butter lamps and bow, eyes blinking in the pungent smoke, look up without a word,
see faces in meditation, a hundred faces carved above, eye lines wrinkled in the handheld light.
Such love in solid wood-- taken from the hillsides and carved in silence, they have the vibrant stillness of those who made them.
Engulfed by the past they have been neglected, but through smoke and darkness they are like the flowers
we have seen growing through the dust of eroded slopes, their slowly opening faces turned toward the mountain.
Carved in devotion their eyes have softened through age and their mouths curve through delight of the carver’s hand.
If only our own faces would allow the invisible carver’s hand to bring the deep grain of love to the surface.
If only we knew as the carver knew, how the flaws in the wood led his searching chisel to the very core,
we would smile too and not need faces immobilized by fear and the weight of things undone.
When we fight with our failing we ignore the entrance to the shrine itself and wrestle with the guardian, fierce figure on the side of good.
And as we fight our eyes are hooded with grief and our mouths are dry with pain.
If only we could give ourselves to the blows of the carver’s hands, the lines in our faces would be the trace lines of rivers
feeding the sea where voices meet, praising the features of the mountain and the cloud and the sky.
Our faces would fall away until we, growing younger toward death everyday, would gather all our flaws in celebration
to merge with them perfectly, impossibly, wedded to our essence, full of silence from the carver’s hands.-- The Faces of Braga--David Whyte
“Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to save them all.”--Bodhisattva vow
Finding, curating, tidying, analyzing, and communicating your data creates many opportunities for discussion and collaboration...