I get by
HELP is strangely, something we want to do without, as if the very idea disturbs and blurs the boundaries of our individual endeavors, as if we cannot face how much we need in order to go on. We are born with an absolute necessity for help, grow well only with a continuous succession of extended hands, and as adults depend upon others for our further successes and possibilities in life even as competent individuals. Even the most solitary writer needs a reader, the most Machiavellian mobster a trusted lieutenant, the most independent candidate, a voter.
Not only does the need for help never leave us alone; we must apprentice ourselves to its different necessary forms, at each particular threshold of our lives. At every stage we are dependent on our ability to ask for specific forms of help at very specific times and in very specific ways. Even at the end, the dignity of our going depends on others’ willingness to help us die well; the sincerity of their help often commensurate to the help we extended to them in our own life. Every transformation has at its heart the need to ask for the right kind of generosity.
There are two kinds of generosity or help for which we must ask: visible help and invisible help. Visible help is practical or transactional help, asking for visible help we ask for help with what we can see is troubling us or we pay for a bed and a meal on our onward way or we pay someone to work for us. But it may be that it is the second less easily recognizable and invisible help which is most crucial at stepping into the unknown. Though we can think of invisible help in the old sense of an intervention from angelic or parallel worlds, we can also think of it in a an every day practical way: invisible help is the help that we do not as yet know we need. Invisble help is the help we are not quite ready for and all we can do is shape our identity toward revelation, toward being surprised, toward paying attention to what is just about to appear over the horizon of our understanding.
This overwhelming need for visible and invisible help never really changes in a human life from the first day we are brought from the womb calling lustily for those commodities. We need extraordinary physical help to get through our first years, continued help through our childhood and extraordinary emotional help and good luck to get through our adolescence. After that the need for continual help becomes more subtle, hidden as it is by the illusion that we are suddenly free agents able to survive on our own, the one corner of the universe able to supply its own answers.
It may be that the ability to know the necessity for help; to know how to look for that help and then most importantly, how to ask for it, is one of the primary transformative dynamics that allows us to emancipate ourselves into each new epoch of our lives. Without the understanding that we need a particular form of aide at every crucial threshold in our lives and without the robust vulnerability in asking for that help we cannot pass through the door that bars us from the next dispensation of our lives: we cannot birth ourselves.
To ask for visible and invisible help and to ask for the right kind of help and to ask in a way in which we feel that it is no less than our due, that, in effect, we deserve a visible and invisible helping hand, may be an engine of transformation itself. Our greatest vulnerability is the very door through which we must pass in order to open the next horizon of our lives. In the very end comes also another beginning, the ancient sense of a door opening to some final unknown, some invisible voice attempting to help us come to terms with our own disappearance, the hand extended to help us over a horizon equally as mysterious as the one we crossed at our birth.
The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.”
© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press 2015