Despair,Our Only Real Hope: David Whyte

Despair,Our Only Real Hope: David Whyte

What makes this living poet different is that he is a “working poet.” Yes, David Whyte has a job, and outside of academia. He works. He consults. He has a business. He lives smack dab in the center of the world . . .

Yet something tells us that David Whyte “lives” somewhere else, really, beyond the confines of convention and contentment. He’s found his place in the world by residing in no place. No up, no down, no better, no worse. A human being singing in the wilderness for playmates, companions and lovers who would not try to change him to fit their private dream of fulfillment. David Whyte seems to know and love who he is and is grounded in being so he can love others well.

Who are your playmates, closest companions, and lovers? Do they try to change you? Correct you? Cajole you? Counteract you? Or do they just love you, celebrate you, really “see” you? Do you do the same for them?

There are three critical questions I ask struggling souls these days.

1. Do you love?

2. How do you love?

3. From what place in yourself do you love another?

This third question—if explored— will answer the second and first. But I find that few are conscious enough to dig way down to see into this high priority question, which will organically and naturally tell us how deep enough we love and are loved, and whether or not we are living in the “dead zone”.

I have found that there is nothing we can really “do” to save a relationship. Oh, we can easily revive contractual and agreement-based partnerships. I’ll do this for you if you’ll do this for me and we’ll be fine. But if we seek genuine intimacy, we must move from that authentic place within ourselves. That’s where the real work is. A full life is not  primarily a doing at all, but a “seeing,” a “revelation” of where we love others—all others— from.

Perhaps it is good to take stock, to ask ourselves: Am I loving this person from a place of obligation? Fear? Guilt? Commitment to a contract that is no longer relevant to who I —or they— have become?  Does my love flow naturally out to this “other” who I “see” as my own, most intimate self? Sometimes things begin this way, but the problems of daily life can turn the highest relationships that once lived above the dramatic nets of illusion woven by the external world, into stone. That is unless, an intimate circle of two has chosen to ground itself in what brought it to life in the first place: Love. Real, unhindered, spontaneous, and freely moving and spinning downward and upward . . . Love. It is the only sacred work worth laboring for. But it’s an inner job only a rare few seem willing to undertake.


Self Portrait

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.

I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.

— David Whyte
from Fire in the Earth
©1992 Many Rivers Press

Everything is Waiting for You

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

The Lightest Touch

Good poetry begins with
the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from nowhere,
a whispered healing arrival,
a word in your ear,
a settling into things,
then like a hand in the dark
it arrests the whole body,
steeling you for revelation.

In the silence that follows
a great line
you can feel Lazarus
deep inside
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you,
lift up his hands and walk toward the light.

— David Whyte
from Everything is Waiting for You
©2003 Many Rivers Press

Revelation Must Be Terrible

Revelation must be
terrible with no time left
to say goodbye.

Imagine that moment
staring at the still waters
with only the brief tremor

of your body to say
you are leaving everything
and everyone you know behind.

Being far from home is hard, but you know,
at least we are exiled together.
When you open your eyes to the world

you are on your own for
the first time. No one is
even interested in saving you now

and the world steps in
to test the calm fluidity of your body
from moment to moment

as if it believed you could join
its vibrant dance
of fire and calmness and final stillness.

As if you were meant to be exactly
where you are, as if
like the dark branch of a desert river

you could flow on without a speck
of guilt and everything
everywhere would still be just as it should be.

As if your place in the world mattered
and the world could
neither speak nor hear the fullness of

its own bitter and beautiful cry
without the deep well
of your body resonating in the echo.

Knowing that it takes only
that one, terrible
word to make the circle complete,

revelation must be terrible
knowing you can
never hide your voice again.

— David Whyte
from Fire in the Earth
©1992 Many Rivers Press

  • Bill
    Posted at 15:00h, 17 November Reply

    this is very powerful.


  • Maria
    Posted at 16:28h, 26 November Reply

    Just had to write and tell you how wonderful your web site is and how much pleasure it gives me. Everyday there is something new. I have told several of my friends about this site . . . of course, for me, the visual beauty is the first obvious description.

    much love,

    • nlundgren
      Posted at 19:12h, 26 November Reply

      Thanks Maria,

      Glad you are enjoying the blogs. Feel free to comment at length anytime.

      much love,

  • KarenBeth Glunz
    Posted at 14:05h, 13 December Reply

    Please receive my entourage of gratitude (danke schoem, merci beaucoup, gracias, toda raba, xie xie, cam on, thank you) for the perceptions in this sharing. From my view, I am not a fan of the word “love”. I prefer the word “divine”…and will use the word love for this comment. I choose to believe that love/divine is an umbrella under which all that is flows. The feeling of hate, disappointment, and other shadow feelings are under this umbrella as well as the so-called positive feelings. The divine is neutral (no positive/negative, good/bad et al). I am thrilled that I choose to believe in oneness thus David Whyte is a part FOR me as I am for him. This article is delicious. I have gratefully subscribed to your blog…I look forward to perusing it. Blessings and a warm hug, Karenbeth

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