– Maria Popova —www.brainpickings.org
Maria’s words “…protecting your radiance” means standing strong in your pursuit of answering the two most fundamental questions of our lives:
• Who am I really?
• What do I have to give the world?
These two questions lead us toward our promise: The promise of genuinely being ourselves; and the promise of utterly and completely expressing ourselves—in our existence, and in the giving of our unique talent—that, by its very nature—benefits self, others and the whole. Our desire to help, to contribute, is hardwired.
Caveat emptor! Pursuing these questions adds levels of complexity to our lives. Our cultures support and expect conformity not individuality. Our cultures shunt our energies to others’ ends and not to our uniqueness nor its attendant and awaiting expression. Whether seeking, finding and expressing our gifts, or in living lives of conformity, we encounter unpredictable pressure waves in our daily lives. Yet, I offer another spoiler alert: The alternative to pursuing our own life has costs too: we live lives fraught with the vicissitudes of confounding feelings of being unexpressed accompanied by an incessant and illusive sense of emptiness.
In the greater scheme of Life, one way of living is no better than another. Yet, each path renders consequences. One is a path of Wisdom. One is not. One is expansive. One contracts. Looking at our wold today through these lenses, we see the effects of the paths of the majority.
Being genuinely ourselves and expressing our unique talent fills us. Makes us more. We become whole. In this we are changed. In expressing the radiance of being ourselves expressing our gifts, others are changed. Yet too, we do not find ourselves nor give our gifts to change others. Rather, we become and express of out of the necessity of our soul. Anything less lends toward folly.
The word pentimento is, in part, a lovely word. It means a visible trace of earlier painting beneath a layer or layers of paint on a canvas. There are traces of earlier painting on the canvas of each of us. These traces are our ineffable Self. Our radiance. And, they are the paintings of our attendant and unique gift or talent–these brushstrokes issue from the Mystery’s palette. This is what we are to find with our questions of Who am I really? and What do I have to give the world?
Our pentimento is almost entirely concealed beneath the pigments of our ancestry, families of origin, and the cultural mores of our upbringing, education and training—the forces of our conformity. Culture renders our lives less vivid and less vital. Culture moves us away from ourselves and our great gifts. This is paradoxically necessary while simultaneously perilous. It is from this precarious layer we begin our search.
The not so lovely aspects of the word pentimento lie in its root: repentant. Little wonder so many of us apologize for who or how we are. Little wonder we often find it impractical to roll the rock of our becoming up the steep hills of our culture. Conforming seems easier.
Yet the Mystery orchestrates the placement of people and ideas and books on our path that, by virtue of their presence, rouse our awakening. Our remembering. They stir our self-discovery and becoming. Their visitations are vitally important. So too, there are people in our lives who see the loveliness of our pentimento when we ourselves have yet to find them. These people remind us apologies are devices of the culture and are ill-suited for us. They invite us to seek out who we are and our gift to give.
Yet, this discovery is, of necessity, our own undertaking. At times we require the assistance of others and we need ask for it. Help clearing impediments to our path. Too, they expand our awareness. Once we’ve sensed our gift, many of us must develop its expression through self-disciplinary arts that change us yet again in its process.
And you? Who are those people? those ideas? those books that rouse your radiance? Is it time to revisit them? Are you asking the fundamental questions of Who am I really? What am I here to give the world?