Our reading today is titled “Vulnerability” by the poet David Whyte from his collection called “Consolations.”
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.
The teachers would walk apprehensively into the classroom, often feigning a smile here and there, or sometimes with an energy that was so clearly disingenuous and manufactured.
They would carry the heavy textbooks, visual aids, and other materials with them in and out of the classroom — it was school policy to lock up the materials so no one would steal them or deface them when class wasn’t in session. With the fake smiles or fake enthusiasm, the students would shift uncomfortably and try not to engage — but once instruction began there were bursts of laughter.
I never did figure out if the laughter was because of how uncomfortable the teachers were or if because the content was presented in such a clinical and, as a result, amusing way. Year after year, starting in Middle School, it was nearly the same content, the same awkwardness, the same discomfort from the teachers, the same crossed arms from the students, the same message over and over. We are, of course, talking about sexual education in school. Read the rest of this entry »