Sunday, November 3, 2013

"The Fire in the Song"

The Fire in the Song

He said, “If you only stop singing, I’ll make you safe.” And he repeated the line, knowing you would hear “I’ll make you safe.”  - David Whyte in his poem “The Fire in the Song”

There’s something about that line that ran through my mind this morning as I contemplated the plight of our society. If you only stop singing, I’ll make you safe. I hear the words in Whyte’s voice and in his inflection, And he repeated the line, knowing you would hear “I’ll make you safe.”

Whyte is talking about creativity, but I am hearing the words to now mean something more. This year has been a time of question for me as I’ve researched and studied certain aspects of the past. A lot of what we were taught as history is now being found to be untrue. People, who we were taught were heroes, often had a darker, not-very-nice side. (The media, even before it was known as media, played up aspects “they” wanted the public to know. We know that goes on today.) People we were taught to look up to as having our best interests at heart, more often than not were only following their own agendas. Yes, there are those who mean to do well, but a lot of the times, the best of intentions goes by the wayside.

“I’ll make you safe” is a want in all of us when we hear about the terrorism that goes on in the world, when people kill for no good reason (that we can see) or when kids shoot up schools. The media plays up the horror until we are afraid to leave our homes. We cry out our fears and organizations are developed to make us feel safe. Mental illness or mental instability is blamed. Drugs are used to control with often horrible side effects. People are locked down, locked up, and locked in.

But do we really feel safe? I can’t help but wonder if all the hype is just a ploy to still tongues. How do we balance protection versus lack of privacy? With everything being done to “protect” us (sounds kind of mafia-ish,) terrible things still happen, have always happened. I don’t know the answers. What are we willing to give up to feel safe and how much is really necessary?

Yes, I question. Yes, I am afraid. Life has always been a big adventure in a way. You never know what’s really going to happen. Even those with supposedly mundane lives can experience a drastic change in a heartbeat. I used to swear that I would not live in fear, but I can’t help it, and the thing is, I don’t know what scares me the most; the fear of terrorism or the loss of privacy.

It upsets me that we can’t drive down the street without pictures being taken of us, that our children cannot wait for the bus without a parent present, or that armed guards are patrolling our schools. There’s a part of me that believes the more fear we have, the more we will have to fear. Fear calls to itself.

Whyte’s poem hits home for me on many levels.

The Fire in the Song

The mouth opens
and fills the air
with its vibrant shape

until the air
and the mouth
become one shape

And the first word
your own word
spoken from that fire

surprises, burns
grieves you now

you made that pact
with a dark presence
in your life.

He said, “If you only
stop singing
I’ll make you safe.”

And he repeated the line,
knowing you would hear
“I’ll make you safe”

as the comforting
sound of a door
closed on the fear at last

but his darkness
crept under your tongue
and became the dim

cave where
you sheltered
and you grew

in that small place
too frightened to remember
the songs of the world,

its impossible notes,
and the sweet joy
that flew out the door

of your wild mouth
as you spoke.
            --- David Whyte

1 comment:

  1. when I was 10, serving on the altar at church, friends said they could hear me singing from the back of the church - so I sang more quietly - I wanted safety from criticism ... and have forgotten the 'sweet joy' of life. can go many directions here - the caves of my retreats from life - sweet joys departed from, staying immature in me/dead (now?) - or to your point, maybe, of how society can stunt personal expression in favor of what it wants to hear, instead of the cries of the those outcast from the norm