Whyte on Heartbreak
Poet and philosopher, David Whyte has written, among many beautiful works, a book entitled The Three Marriages, in which he delves deeply into the intimate relationships we have with a partner in life, with our vocation and with our deepest self.
Recently, he delivered a keynote address at the Psychotherapy Networker convention in Washington, D.C. My good friend Kirk was there, bought a recording of the talk and lent it to me.
Here's an excerpt from David's keynote:
"When you think about it, there is no journey of sincerity that a human being can take in life without having their heart broken. And there's no love affair you can follow, without that imaginary organ being rent asunder at one time or another. And there's no marriage, no matter how happy it is, that won't leave you helpless and wanting at times, leaving you literally with a broken heart.
"Not only that, there is no work you can follow without having your heart broken. If you are sincere about your vocation, you will get to thresholds where you will not know how to proceed, and where you will forget yourself, and where you will start to imprison yourself with the very endeavor that was first a doorway to freedom.
"And then, in that third marriage with the self, a really sincere examination of the old interior substrate should, if you are sincere, lead to existential disappointment. And, if you don't become disappointed in yourself, you're not trying.
"So, it's interesting to think that there is no path a human being can take with real courage that doesn't lead to real heartbreak. It's astonishing to see how human beings actually spend an enormous amount of their time and energy turning away from that possibility and trying to arrange for a life where you won't be touched and you'll be left immune by the great forces and elements of life.
"And, of course, when you leave those forces and elements behind, you leave the very genius at the heart of what you're attempting to bring into the world, to incarnate into the world, including the incarnation of your own presence."
By the way, I don't think David is trying to romanticize heartbreak. As I listen, I hear an invitation to soften to heartbreak, to make room for it rather than run from it, to appreciate its teaching, to keep a sense of humor about it, and to cultivate what he calls "robust vulnerability" – a necessary courage for those who aspire to live in integrity.