|Breaking Through - Page 5|
don't take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
you don't want to take.
(from "Start Close In")
Our society strips us of soul, says Whyte, because it takes away the human sources of soul-nourishment—the sense of ancestors still present in our lives; the sense of being deeply rooted in the community, culture, and chronicle of a particular place; the sense of deep connection with the natural world. By these measures, Whyte's childhood was steeped to the gills in soul.
The son of a down-to-earth, practical English father—an electrical engineer—and an imaginative, storytelling mother who loved to sing, Whyte was born in West Yorkshire, England, a moody landscape of hills, fields, moors, and fast-flowing streams. The region was a palimpsest of cultures—neolithic, Bronze Age, Roman, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, Norman. As a boy, Whyte could walk to an old Celtic stone ring, the ruins of a Roman fort, and the 13th-century nunnery where, according to legend, Robin Hood was murdered and buried. He roamed the same moors and brooding landscape as did the Bront' sisters.
When he was about 7, he pulled a book of adult poetry off a library shelf, took a look inside, and voila—a vocation was born. It probably contributed to his literary future that he had an inspired English master (teacher) at the local free grammar school, who took literature seriously and made sure his pupils did too. This was a teacher, Whyte remembers, who saw literature not as a cultural abstraction or an intellectual pursuit, but as living flesh and blood, with the power to transform lives, societies, whole cultures—also the power to get you jailed or shot. You should perhaps be a little afraid in its presence. One of this teacher's pedagogical techniques was to lift up a student by his shoulders, push him into a corner, and say with fierce intensity something like, "Colin, you're going to meet people in your life who hate you, and they hate you for no other reason than the cut of your face!" then release the pale, shaky boy and continue, "Now we're ready to talk about Iago, and why he destroyed Othello's life."