David Whyte

David
Whyte
1955

English Poet

Author Quotes

Anger is the deepest form of compassion, for another, for the world, for the self, for a life, for the body, for a family and for all our ideals, all vulnerable and all, possibly about to be hurt. Stripped of physical imprisonment and violent reaction, anger is the purest form of care, the internal living flame of anger always illuminates what we belong to, what we wish to protect and what we are willing to hazard ourselves for. What we usually call anger is only what is left of its essence when we are overwhelmed by its accompanying vulnerability, when it reaches the lost surface of our mind or our body?s incapacity to hold it, or when it touches the limits of our understanding. What we name as anger is actually only the incoherent physical incapacity to sustain this deep form of care in our outer daily life; the unwillingness to be large enough and generous enough to hold what we love helplessly in our bodies or our mind with the clarity and breadth of our whole being.

Face It is the province of poetry to be more realistic and present than the artificial narratives of an outer discourse, and not afraid of the truthful difficulty of the average human life.

If in your mind it was possible to take a year's sabbatical from work to reassess your life, what would you do and where would you go?

Love is the conversation between possible, searing disappointment and a profoundly imagined sense of arrival and fulfillment; how we shape that conversation is the touchstone of our ability to love in the real inhabited world.

Poetry carries the imagery which is large enough for the kind of life we want for ourselves.

Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn that anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.

The great tragedy of speed as an answer to the complexities and responsibilities of existence is that very soon, we cannot recognize anything or anyone who is not traveling at the same velocity as we are. We see only those moving in the same whirling orbit and only those moving with the same urgency. Soon we begin to suffer a form of amnesia, caused by the blurred vision of velocity itself, where those things germane to our humanity are dropped from our minds one by one. We start to lose sight of any colleagues who are moving at a slower pace, and we start to lose sight of the bigger, slower cycles that underlie our work. We especially lose sight of the big, unfolding wave form passing through our lives that is indicative of our central character. On the personal side, as slaves to speed, we start to lose sight of family members, especially children, or those who are ill or infirm, who are not flying through the world as quickly and determinedly as we are. Just as seriously, we begin to leave behind the parts of our own selves that limp a little, the vulnerabilities that actually give us color and character. We forget that our sanity is dependent on a relationship with longer, more patient cycles extending beyond the urgencies and madness of the office. A friend falls sick, and in that busyness we find their interruption of our frantic lives frustrating and distracting. On the surface we extend our sympathies, but underneath we are already moving in a direction that takes us far away. We flee the situation even if we are sending flowers every day; we rejoin, thankfully, the world that is on the go, on the move, untouched by mortality. Once we ourselves are touched by that mortality, however, through whatever agency it arrives in our lives?a broken limb, the loss of a loved one, the collapse of our business, a moment of humiliation in the doorway of a meeting room?our identities built on speed almost immediately fall apart and disintegrate. We find ourselves suddenly alone and friendless, strangers even to ourselves.

The Well: Be thankful now for having arrived, for the sense of having drunk from a well, for remembering the long drought that preceded your arrival and the years walking in a desert landscape of surfaces looking for a spring hidden from you so long that even wanting to find it now had gone from your mind until you only remembered the hard pilgrimage that brought you here, the thirst that caught in your throat; the taste of a world just-missed and the dry throat that came from a love you remembered but had never fully wanted for yourself, until finally after years making the long trek to get here it was as if your whole achievement had become nothing but thirst itself. But the miracle had come simply from allowing yourself to know that you had found it, that this time someone walking out into the clear air from far inside you had decided not to walk past it anymore; the miracle had come at the roadside in the kneeling to drink and the prayer you said, and the tears you shed and the memory you held and the realization that in this silence you no longer had to keep your eyes and ears averted from the place that could save you, that you had been given the strength to let go of the thirsty dust laden pilgrim-self that brought you here, walking with her bent back, her bowed head and her careful explanations. No, the miracle had already happened when you stood up, shook off the dust and walked along the road from the well, out of the desert toward the mountain, as if already home again, as if you deserved what you loved all along, as if just remembering the taste of that clear cool spring could lift up your face and set you free.

To seek out beauty in our work is to make a pilgrimage of our labors, to understand that the consummation of work lies not only in what we have done, but who we have become while accomplishing the task.

What is precious inside us does not care to be known by the mind in ways that diminish its presence.

Anger truly felt at its center is the essential living flame of being fully alive and fully here; it is a quality to be followed to its source, to be prized, to be tended, and an invitation to finding a way to bring that source fully into the world through making the mind clearer and more generous, the heart more compassionate and the body larger and strong enough to hold it. What we call anger on the surface only serves to define its true underlying quality by being a complete but absolute mirror-opposite of its true internal essence.

Finisterre: The road in the end taking the path the sun had taken, into the western sea, and the moon rising behind you as you stood where ground turned to ocean: no way to your future now but the way your shadow could take, walking before you across water, going where shadows go, no way to make sense of a world that wouldn't let you pass except to call an end to the way you had come, to take out each frayed letter you brought and light their illumined corners, and to read them as they drifted through the western light; to empty your bags; to sort this and to leave that; to promise what you needed to promise all along, and to abandon the shoes that had brought you here right at the water's edge, not because you had given up but because now, you would find a different way to tread, and because, through it all, part of you could still walk on, no matter how, over the waves.

Immaturity is shown by making false choices: living only in the past, or only in the present, or only in the future, or even, living only two out of the three.

Love may be sanctified and ennobled by its commitment to the unconditional horizon of perfection, but what makes love real in the human world seems to be our moving, struggling conversation with that wanted horizon rather than any possibility of arrival. The hope for, or the declaration of a purely spiritual, unconditional love is more often a coded desire for immunity and safety, an attempt to forgo the trials of vulnerability, powerlessness and the exquisite pain to which we apprentice ourselves in a relationship, a marriage, in raising children, in a work we love and desire.

Poetry gives us courage and sets us straight with the world. Poems are great companions and friends.

Sometimes you have to make a complete disaster of your life in such an epic way that it will be absolutely clear to you what you've been doing.

The hope for unconditional love is the hope for a different life than the one we have been given. Love is the conversation between possible, searing disappointment and a profoundly imagined sense of arrival and fulfillment; how we shape that conversation is the touchstone of our ability to love in the real inhabited world. The true signature and perhaps even the miracle of human love is helplessness, and all the more miraculous because it is a helplessness which we wittingly or unwittingly choose; in our love of a child, a partner, a work, or a road we have to take against the odds.

There are many tough conversations, but one of the most difficult is between a parent and an adolescent daughter, partly because as a parent we are almost always attempting to relate to someone who is no longer there.

To view work as a pilgrimage is to put our heart's desires to hazard, because merely by setting out, we have told ourselves that there is something bigger and better, or even smaller and better ? above all something more life giving ? that awaits us in our work, and we are going to seek it. We look around to see what we have for the journey and find at bottom that we possess only intuitions and imagination.

What we have named as anger on the surface is the violent outer response to our own inner powerlessness, a powerlessness connected to such a profound sense of rawness and care that it can find no proper outer body or identity or voice, or way of life to hold it. What we call anger is often simply the unwillingness to live the full measure of our fears or of our not knowing, in the face of our love for a wife, in the depth of our caring for a son, in our wanting the best, in the face of simply being alive and loving those with whom we live.

Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.

Forgiveness is a heartache and difficult to achieve because strangely, it not only refuses to eliminate the original wound, but actually draws us closer to its source. To approach forgiveness is to close in on the nature of the hurt itself, the only remedy being, as we approach its raw center, to reimagine our relation to it.

In order to continually re-imagine ourselves through our work lives, we must have a part of us that belongs to something beyond the status quo. Something over the horizon or, paradoxically, beneath us, in the ground of our life. Something as yet hidden, yet to be brought to light. Something which is governed by other laws than the ones we so assiduously obey every day. Something to do with the laws that govern the way we belong to this stubborn and beautiful world.

Magnificent. The morning rose, in memorable pomp, glorious as ere I had beheld?in front, the sea lay laughing at a distance; near, the solid mountains shone, bright as the clouds, grain-tinctured, drenched in empyrean light; and in the meadows and the lower grounds was all the sweetness of a common dawn?dews, vapors, and the melody of birds, and laborers going forth to till the fields. Ah! need I say, dear Friend! that to the brim. My heart was full; I made no vows, but vows were then made for me; bond unknown to me was given, that I should be, else sinning greatly, a dedicated Spirit. On I walked in thankful blessedness, which yet survives.

Poetry is a street fighter. It has sharp elbows. It can look after itself. Poetry can't be used for manipulation; it's why you never see good poetry in advertising.

Author Picture
First Name
David
Last Name
Whyte
Birth Date
1955
Bio

English Poet