On Insight

Like many women, I have a bad habit of polling the people in my life. By asking, “well, what do you think I should do?” I crowdsource insight to make choices about big and small things.

Ironically, insight is defined as the capacity to gain a deep, intuitive knowledge about something. The etymology of the word points literally to “inner wisdom” or “inner sight.” Your insight, your inner wisdom, is yours alone. It pertains to your life, your intuition, your seeing.

When I realized this, a calm washed over me. I was soothed, suddenly. Could it be that I could gather enough information about how to create a rich life within me? Could it be that only I know the answers to my deepest questions, the ones that pertain to what will make my life meaningful?

For us all, this month, I imagine, has not been easy. Rightfully so, we are worried about our loved ones, the economy, and the future of our country and world – both of which, at the moment, appear dim. And yet in the midst of literal turmoil, we have been asked to sit still, to remain in our homes, without the usual distractions, without our typical amount of movement, which I maintain is arduous work. To do nothing, to draw inward, is often painful. It reveals that which we are avoiding.

This week, I listened to a conversation between Elizabeth Gilbert and Jen Hatmaker for the podcast, “For the Love.” In it, Gilbert argued for replacing the idea of a “purpose-driven life” with a “curiosity-driven life.” I’m not sure this is a long-term plan, but for the time being, the time remaining in this lockdown (which for those of us in California will be quite a bit longer) I want to foreground curiosity.

Curiosity is a lighter word, unburdened by other people’s assumptions. It’s not compacted by shame, the way other, loftier words are. I suspect, then, that curiosity might evoke my buried insight, my truest self to express what it wants to give, what it wants to receive, what it imagines the world might need.

“Clearing” by Martha Postlewaite:

Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
patiently,
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself
to this world
so worth of rescue.