No, I’m not going to talk about the “end times” or Armageddon. Although, after years spent in fundamentalist churches, that is what the word “revelation” conjures up for me most days.

I’d like to talk about the process of revelation as we grow, learn and wake up. Sounds like a wonderful thing, doesn’t it? But here’s a piece of art by Gerry Bannan that captures the complexities of what it has often felt like to me.

My most extreme experience with revelation came when I was just shy of 30 years old and was in graduate school. At the time, a professor had taken me under his wing and was helping me sort through alot of the confusion in my life that had resulted from the abuses of fundamentalist christianity. In retrospect, what this professor gave to me was complete and total trust. Something I had never experienced in my life. I had been taught to trust god, my parents, the church and any other authoritarian that happened to come along. But this professor gave me what I had been missing all along; the reality that I could trust myself. This changed my life forever and it was wonderful. But it wasn’t without a cost.

Years of relying on authoritarians to tell me what to do was painful in the long run. But there was a certain comfort in the lack of responsibility for myself. As long as I was playing by someone else’s rules and living someone else’s life, I was off the hook. When I decided to take charge, I found out that I was on my own. No god in heaven or daddy here on earth was going to save me. And I couldn’t rely on the rules to tell me what to do. I had to figure it all out for myself.

As this process unfolded, it stopped me in my tracks one day. I experienced, for the first and only time in my life, a full-fledged panic attack. It only lasted for about a day, but it was a real melt-down. I couldn’t function at all and didn’t know what was wrong other than that I was scared to death. I was totally and completely wrapped in fear and became immobilized. Its only in retrospect that I’ve been able to identify what happened.

So, when we wonder about where all the fear in our world comes from, this might be part of the answer. Its a scary thing to be on your own and responsible for yourself. But, as David Whyte has put it so beautifully in this poem, if we break through, we find that we’re really not alone at all.

Revelation Must Be Terrible

Revelation must be

terrible with no time left

to say goodbye.

Imagine that moment

staring at the still waters

with only the brief tremor

of your body to say

you are leaving everything

and everyone you know behind.

Being far from home is hard, but you know,

at least we are all exiled together.

When you open your eyes to the world

you are on your own for

the first time. No one is

even interested in saving you now

and the world steps in

to test the calm fluidity of your body

from moment to moment

as if it believed you could join

its vibrant dance

of fire and calmness and final stillness.

As if you were meant to be exactly

where you are, as if

like the dark branch of a desert river

you could flow on without a speck

of guilt and everything

everywhere would still be just as it should be.

As if your place in the world mattered

and the world could

neither speak nor hear the fullness of

its own bitter and beautiful cry

without the deep well

of your body resonating in the echo.

Knowing that it takes only

that one, terrible

word to make the circle complete,

revelation must be terrible

knowing you can

never hide your voice again.


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  1. the music that comes to mind is Wagner’s Liebestod. And it seems the perfect accompaniment to Whyte’s poem.

    Good Sunday morning to all!!!  

    • Edger on April 27, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    that one of the admins would put a rec button on this essay, NL.

    A great big rec button.

  2. … of having, say, a broken arm that wasn’t set properly and so had to be re-broken and set again.

    When I had my time in the crazy ward, that’s the metaphor that I ended up with, my mind had broken the wrong way and had to “re-break” to set properly, lol.

    Maybe these kinds of revelations, where we drop all the conditioned existence foisted upon us by so many different societal forces, re-breaks us into the form we always should have held, that something inside us knows what to do and just takes over, sometimes like a raging river.

    Yeah, just had first cup of coffee so perhaps this makes no sense at all!

    Nice essay, Pandora.  It hurts sometimes to be a grown-up.

    • Edger on April 27, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    I found out that I was on my own. No god in heaven or daddy here on earth was going to save me. And I couldn’t rely on the rules to tell me what to do. I had to figure it all out for myself.

    We can be made so attached to our fears by “authorities” that we can be afraid of losing our fears?

    I watch the ripples change their size

    But never leave the stream

    Of warm impermanence

    So the days float through my eyes

    But still the days seem the same

    And these children that you spit on

    As they try to change their worlds

    Are immune to your consultations

    They’re quite aware of what theyre going through

    • kj on April 27, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    on this line of Whytes’

    as if

    like the dark branch of a desert river

  3. IS the whole of the law.

    (as long as you take full, unflinching responsibility for your freedom)

    Every rule and law is created to control another persons behavior. By what right?

    As long as a man harms no other……..

    What man has the right to tell another man how to live and what to do?

    Try doing whatever the hell YOU want to do for a change.

    Fuck “The Authorities”

    You have nothing to fear. You are told and taught to fear your own desire for freedom by those who wish to control you, again, by what right? What horrible crime will you commit if you are free from authority?

    • kj on April 27, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    from telling family stories, because stories belong to the person, not the teller, and i don’t have permission… so will couch this as a general.

    There was a woman who played by all the rules.  She was very, very smart and figured out very, very early that the rules were easy to follow and she would always stay at the head of the class. So she did.  And she was given a major curve ball, and then another one as major, and she soldiered on, never once not playing by the rules, even though the rules hadn’t favored her one bit for all her following of them.

    And then one day when she was in her late 50’s… she, who had followed every single rule since birth, got dinged unfairly and actually, gasp! ‘got in trouble!’  It was a little thing, really, but it blew her mind.  And she was embarrassed, but mostly pissed, too.  Pissed enough to get over the embarrassment and tell someone who had the audacity to laugh at the situation!  And to say, “Welcome to my world.  This is called “detention.”  And the two woman laughed and laughed for a couple of years about this.  And it all worked out in the end.

    The End.

  4. I love this – like I love a lot of your essays because they hit me with the message I most needed to hear that day.  It’s serendipity.  I would have made a more substantive comment if the site hadn’t been so wonky…  now that train of thought has left the station and it is late.   So I just want to say how much I appreciate your words and trust your insight.  Thanks for helping me find my voice.  Someday I will start speaking up more!    

    Awake Enough

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