‘DIVE: Odes for Lighea’ – music for a contemporary Opera/Sonic Theatre

Curiosity & Vulnerability Pt.2: When is it safe to be vulnerable?

We held our first Curiosity Lab on ‘Curiosity & Vulnerability’, viewing Brene Brown’s ‘The Power of Vulnerability’, and then launching into a fascinating discussion, with some marvelous attendees.

Brene Brown’s talk, which is truly worth a watch is, at heart, about the life affirming and revivifying benefits of living vulnerably.  She clarifies that this takes courage, and reminds us that the roots of the word ‘courage’ come from the French ‘couer’, meaning ‘heart’.  For her the definition of courage is “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.”  Which is also what it is to live vulnerably.

What keeps us from living this way is, according to Brown, uncertainty with regard to our own self-worth.  People who have intrinsic self-worth believe that what makes them vulnerable makes them beautiful.  People who lack this sense of self-worth find vulnerability excruciating.  For them vulnerability risks exposure to criticism, bullying, ridicule, loss of status, ostracisation … simply stated, fear and pain. They don’t experience vulnerability as liberation, but as a potential avenue to disconnection and isolation which, as Brown drives home, are the foundations of shame.  Shame is the gatekeeper of our personal prison cells and bunkers. It chokes out our vulnerabilty.  Brene Brown is a bold advocate of vulnerability.

Miriam, one of our bold participants in the Lab, persisted in posing the question,
“When is it safe to be vulnerable?”.
I’ve been following this question for a few months, and don’t anticipate this particular expedition to end anytime soon.  You could say easily enough that ‘it’s never safe to be vulnerable’ because the very nature of vulnerability is uncertainty and risk.  But the results of someone telling the story of who they are will be very different depending on what their story is, and who they’re telling it to.

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Ride the comet

“If your project has real substance, ultimately the money will follow you like a common cur in the street with its tail between its legs.”
Werner Herzog, ‘A Guide for the Perplexed

Patterson Ewen - Hailey's Comet

Patterson Ewen – Hailey’s Comet as seen by Giotto

I’m thinking that this statement, while controversial and easily disproven in a variety of cases, holds some truth. And I think it holds a truth for the pursuit of happiness.  If you life has real substance – courageous relationships, meaningful work – happiness will follow.

Chasing money or happiness is like pursuing the tail of a comet: you’re always chasing something that has already passed by and has no substance of its own.  Money and happiness are the ephemeral lingering trails of something substantial that has already passed by.

Ride the comet.

“Disappointment is the best chariot on the road of the dharma”

If, as Chogyam Trungpa wrote, “Disappointment is the best chariot on the road of the dharma”, does that mean that enlightenment is best defined as ‘ultimate disappointment’?



When I dare to be powerful…

“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
– Audre Lorde

Silver Salmon

Silver Salmon

O good song,
drop down my throat
into my heart of sound
and dangle my soul
over my dark vibrato.
Crack my armour,
melt my stones,
down in that dark heart
I’ll sing my way home.

I cough and I hack
what’s holding me back
then the air rushes into my lungs.
The bones in my back
go crickety-crack
then my guts they come unstrung.
When the rock in my crux
is wracked and wrung,
when the tremoling has begun,
then the knots in my soul come loose;
ropes running writhing,
swinging fists of pain,
striking and striking my heart bell again and again,
and then I’m ringing, I’m ringing, I’m ringing,
then I’m a black bell singing, singing, singing.

O good song
you breathe into
my whole body

O good song
you breathe me into
a clanging, knelling,
temple gong.

O good song:
your sounding dives down
to find the elusive silver salmon.
Find it with your singing,
find it with your ringing,
chase it down with your dark vibrato,
a bright silver flashing,
a shaft of light flick’ring,
a ripple, a glimpse of muscle
flexing in the deep.
No catching, no latching,
no holding, no grasping,
wily, slipperish, she must always run free.

O good song,
you brave dive down
soul hoping only to ride
the wild fish wild;
no reins, no bit, no bridle,
she’ll only let you ride her
if you give, if you give, if you give,
all of you,

She is onely,
she is whole,
complete, unbroken,
and you own
only one thing to her worth heeding,
only one thing, maybe, she’s needing,
your pain, your fears,
your secret tears,
your terrors and taboos,
your screws come loose,
your trembling gashes
which are always bleeding.

She is onely;
ever unbroken, ever wild,
and the only way she’ll let you ride
is if you show her all you hide,
only let you know her name
if you display your most crippling shame.
She’ll let you near
if you expose your most dear fear.
You win by losing, pay out your victory dues,
Maybe you’ll succeed, seduce, if you offer up your wounds;
your scars, your cracks, your tears,
Your grooves’ll groove her.
Bare the throat of your being
and there, here, now she is,
wild and bare, loosed hair,
but don’t stare.
Nor even look.
‘Cause everything wild either freezes or flees before man’s rapacious glare;
snake’s alive,
she’ll eat your flesh, your bones,
turn you into stone.

O good song
breathe me into
my whole body

O good song
breathe me into
a clanging, knelling,
temple gong.

You wish only to ride
the wild fish wild
for then you know
your song sings true.
Only when you ride
the wild fish wild,
only when you ride
the wild fish free
will your song sing true.