The poet David Whyte famously said, “Poetry is language against which you have no defenses.” Truly Whyte has mastered the art of using language in a way that transports us deeply and efficiently into a core experience of our feeling, our wondering, our humanity. For example:
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
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
So often I find myself grasping in vein to find words to describe the ineffable, the brilliant, the beautiful emergence of Self that can take place in psychotherapy. For me, David Whyte’s Self Portrait sums up our profoundly human challenge to know ourselves, to find belonging and connection with others without compromising ourselves, all the while while holding awareness of our finite nature and the unyielding paradox of love and loss. There is also the flavor of the victorious in these words, though, because we can and do succeed. We can and do rise to this challenge. Resiliently. Resplendently. All right here. 129 words.