I went back into poetry because I felt like scientific language wasn’t precise enough to describe the experiences that I had in Galapagos. Science, rightly, is always trying to remove the “I.” But I was really interested in the way that the “I” deepened the more you paid attention. In Galapagos, I began to realize that because I was in deeply attentive states, hour after hour, watching animals and birds and landscapes — and that’s all I did for almost two years — I began to realize that my identity depended not upon any beliefs I had, inherited beliefs or manufactured beliefs, but my identity actually depended on how much attention I was paying to things that were other than myself and that as you deepen this intentionality and this attention, you started to broaden and deepen your own sense of presence.
I began to realize that the only places where things were actually real was at this frontier between what you think is you and what you think is not you […] But it’s astonishing how much time human beings spend away from that frontier, abstracting themselves out of their bodies, out of their direct experience, and out of a deeper, broader, and wider possible future that’s waiting for them if they hold the conversation at that frontier level. […] John O’Donohue, a mutual friend of both of us, used to say that one of the necessary tasks is this radical letting alone of yourself in the world, letting the world speak in its own voice and letting this deeper sense of yourself speak out. -David Whyte, speaking in interview with Krista Tippett (full transcript and audio)
by David Whyte
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone,
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your home
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
On Being with Krista Tippett has been one of my favorite public radio programs for many years.
Listen to the author read this and other poems.
DAVID WHYTE is a marine zoologist, naturalist, poet, philosopher, and an associate fellow at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. He is the author of The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate Americaand Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. His most recent book is The Bell and the Blackbird.