is the hallway of presence, a doorway to new desire, the first necessary step in the maturation of an unexpected life and arises from the sudden, sometimes unwanted and difficult grounding that undergirds our experience of awe. Shyness is the sense of a great unknown, suddenly about to be known, and suddenly become immensely personal, addressing us as if we might know what to say, where to put ourselves, or in the case of romance, what to wear. To feel shy is to look five ways at once: to the beckoning new life in front of us, to the line of retreat behind us, to alternative possibilities of escape to left and right, and lastly, in really difficult circumstances, the hope for a complete and sudden disappearance. Shyness is the first necessary crossroads on the path of becoming.
Shyness is underestimated and neglected as a necessary state when first approaching the new, the necessary and the overwhelming. Without shyness, our over-confidence precludes us from the appropriate confusion, awkwardness and helplessness that accompanies the first stage of revelation. Without shyness we cannot shape an identity ripe for revelation. Our visual media, especially television, tells us that shyness is unnecessary and thus corrupts our sense of what constitutes a real exploration. Likewise, in our virtual travels it is rarely possible to meet many beautiful representations of shyness through social media, but physical shyness tells us through our very vulnerability, that we are at last in the presence of the mystery, of some thing, some place, or some one we deeply desire or that represents what we desire, though we do not as yet, in our essential physical helplessness, know how to bring it about. Shyness is the exquisite and vulnerable frontier between what we think is possible and what we think we deserve.
Without shyness it is not possible to apprehend the new. Total confidence at the beginning of a new phase of life means we are misinformed, that we are deeply mistaken, that we think we know what is about to occur and who we are about to become. Shyness is an invitation to a dance with the unknown, to a far form of perceived beauty about to become proximate, an art form to be practiced and cultivated, shyness is our friend, the annunciation that it might just be possible to walk through the door of all our present besieging difficulties and make a new beginning.
Excerpted from ‘SHYNESS in “CONSOLATIONS:
The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.”
2015 © David Whyte