Lately I’ve been listening to a series of talks by Irish poet, philosopher and writer John Whyte. The series has the provocative title, “What to Think When Waking.” In between his musings on life and tales of growing up with the wild Irish moors at his backdoor, he quotes his own poetry and many of the best poets who ever wrote in English: Keats, Yates, Browning. For Americans, or maybe others too, there is something musical about listening to a full-bodied Irish voice, even when no poetry is involved. Perhaps the dramatic landscape and history of Ireland and the Celtic language created that musicality. In any case, Whyte is a master. Each time he recites a poem, he will repeat it again, or repeat key lines, sometimes three or four times. At first I thought he had made a mistake on the CD. Didn’t he just say this? Then I realized it was a technique. Listening to a poem you can’t go back over the words as you would in a book. So the repetition forces you to go back and listen and you realize you didn’t catch many important phrases the first time around. Poems are meant to be read slowly and Whyte’s slow repetition forces you to slow down, think again, catch a new meaning.
One of Whyte’s best points is actually to refute the oft-stated mantra: There is no free lunch. You’ll have to do it all yourself. He said he often hears this repeated at workshops when just next door there is a free lunch waiting for all the attendees. He goes on to point out that we are all given many things: we were given many free lunches from mother, from father, from grandparents, and uncles and cousins. Then there are the schools we have, set up and built by some devoted and hardworking people from another time, and the roads and infrastructure that we use. Even the air we breath is free. We do get a lot of unseen help.
Help comes in many forms and often it’s a mystery. Whyte doesn’t go so far as to talk about heavenly help, but I believe that is an active force as well. In little and big ways God helps us through our days. It might be the small help of being aware of the bicyclist who just cut into our path while we are driving and the ability to avoid a collision. Or it could be a bigger form of help. Today I lost all the photos on my computer. Somehow all those wonderful photos of family vacations and holidays recorded since 2004 vanished. My photo program was empty. How could this have happened? Fortunately, I made a backup of my hard drive a few months ago. At least most of my photos can be rescued. Also, not long ago a friend gave me the name of a techie who came to my house earlier this month to fix a similar disaster. Although frustrating, and a bit costly, I didn’t have to completely panic. I trust that help will come soon.
If you go about your day aware of the hidden help, you will find it. Do you have a story of hidden help? I would love to hear it.