the virtues of confusion


Inspired by poet David Whyte’s exploration of soul states and phenomena, ‘Consolations’, I have begun to investigate the moods and feelings that visit me. Whyte delves into both the challenges and the gifts of emotions like regret, disappointment and despair, states like maturity, and choices like hiding or run away. His poetic descriptions recognise the complexity of our feeling life with humility. They offer pathways that guide us not out of complexity, but through the richness it will offer if we agree to traverse its territory.

With appreciation of Whyte’s inspiration, here’s my own fresh pondering on confusion:

Confusion holds us in a curious stasis. We seem stuck between a future that seems to be calling us, a sense of purpose, a choice that lies ‘out there’ somewhere, and doubt about exactly where that ‘out there’ is. When confusion descends, then it’s tempting to panic, to try anything to move out of the static phase, or we may prefer to shut down any awareness of that future which seems to be gesturing towards us, because it’s all just too hard.

Yet rather than leading us to a flurry of activity or a peremptory shut-down, we can see confusion as an invitation to sit down and let the scattered dust settle into place. Once we have allowed that settling, we begin to see more spaciously and broadly. From this outlook, we sense the wise conclusion, set off in the right direction or at least find the place to begin. If none of these options seem immediately apparent, then confusion encourages us to form the question we are trying to answer in such a way that we will welcome whatever forces, earthly or divine, are waiting to help us towards a response.

It seems then that if you or I are marooned in confusion, we must be patient, befriend the question that it holds at its heart, and as Rilke promises,

perhaps, then, someday far in the future you will gradually without noticing it, live your way into the answer.

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