“Hiding is a way of staying alive. Hiding is a way of holding ourselves until we are ready to come into the light…Hiding done properly is the internal faithful promise for a proper future emergence. – David Whyte: Consolations
Three days before the end of school, the 8th grader who refused to sing all year long practiced a song for her graduation sharing and it was gorgeous. The boy who kept himself in some cocoon of non-communication spontaneously did a little rap and was smiling and outgoing. Another hiding his intellectual promise admitted to a teacher that he had an “inner geek.”
In my musical world, we encourage everyone to express themselves fully and in public, expect everyone to take a solo and have their moment when they stand out from the crowd.
It’s a worthy goal. After all, each of us without exception carries our unique form of light and our job is to generously shine it into the darkness and illuminate a corner of the world previously hidden. But there is a timing to it, there is a preparation for it, a long process of getting ready for it that is necessary and right and it can’t be forced. A little nudging is okay—like the girl who kept refusing to sing while clearly saying in subtle ways, “Please make me do it!” I did and she did and it was a breakthrough moment. But it’s a delicate matter, knowing when it’s the right time for revelation. In the fairy tale, Iron John, the hero hides his golden hair under a scarf and works in the kitchen, underground, as it were, until the moment comes to reveal his royal lineage. There is a wisdom to the waiting.
Back in the 60’s and ‘70’s, when the counter-culture was trying to break through the accumulated levels of repression, when hiding was lying (Nixon) and all were encouraged to “let it all hang out,” you could meet someone at a California party who would be telling you about their messy divorce within the first minute of conversation or “honestly” let you know that they had father issues and your mustache reminded them of their father so they couldn’t relate to you. In the name of honesty and immediate revelation of intimate details, much damage was done.
Hiding is also a developmental process, clearly a survival strategy in the confusing brutality of young adolescence, where an offhand comment from a peer or a purposeful public ridicule can send us looking for the knight’s armor that will cover our fragile vulnerability. That so many of the 8th graders in our school are willing to speak in public and express their edgy thoughts and play that xylophone solo means that we have both helped prepare them to do so eloquently and created a safe environment of support. But still they are 13.
“Seek” is the other part of the old “hide and seek” game and is the necessary complement to the hiding. One of the jobs of the teacher is to help the students seek precisely what they’re prepared to reveal and when they’re ready to do it. And just how does one know when that is? There is an intuition to it all and I imagine it is almost never a conscious decision. It’s the hidden part of ourselves that knows deeper than we do when it’s fully cooked and ready. Like the snake shedding its skin, something tells us the time is ripe and we’re ready. Then comes the hibernation period for the next waiting revelation.
What part of you is waiting to step forth into the light?