Working Together: Poet and Philosopher David Whyte’s Beautiful Ode to Our Mutuality with the World
“We shape our self to fit this world and by the world are shaped again.”
By Maria Popova
“Relationship is the fundamental truth of this world of appearance,” wrote the great Indian poet and philosopher Tagore — the first non-European awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature — in his 1930 meditation on human nature and the interdependence of existence. Nearly a century later, the English poet, philosopher, and redeemer of meaning David Whyte gave shape to that relational inextricability of our lives in his beautiful poem “Working Together,” found in his collection River Flow: New & Selected Poems (public library).
In this recording from Krista Tippett’s altogether sublime On Being interview with Whyte, he reads this simple, transcendently wakeful poem of supreme relevance to our divided world:
We shape our self to fit this world
and by the world are shaped again.
The visible and the invisible working
together in common cause,
to produce the miraculous.
I am thinking of the way the intangible
air passed at speed round a shaped wing
easily holds our weight.
So may we, in this life trust
to those elements we have yet to see or imagine,
and look for the true shape of our own self,
by forming it well to the great
intangibles about us.
Complement with Whyte on anger, forgiveness, and what maturity really means, friendship, love, and heartbreak, how we enlarge ourselves by surrendering to the uncontrollable, and when it’s time to end a relationship, then other splendid recordings of poets reading their own work: Adrienne Rich reads “What Kind of Times Are These”; Elizabeth Alexander reads “Praise Song for the Day”; Sylvia Plath reads “Spinster”; Mark Strand reads “The End”; Langston Hughes reads “We Are the American Heartbreak.”
Published April 3, 2017