Wythe Saving our Soul at Work

Wythe saving our soul at work


“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

holds our weight.

So may we, in this life

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.”

  -- David Whyte
  from The House of Belonging
  ©1996 Many Rivers Press

Written for the presentation of The Collier Trophy to The Boeing Company marking the introduction of the new 777 passenger jet.


English poet, David Whyte, works with employees and employers in the corporate arena who struggle to keep their humanity in the frantic life of the business world. Whyte believes belonging to something greater than ourselves and our creativity are at the soul of our lives. In Whyte’s book, The Heart Aroused, he explores the possibility of being at home in the world, melding soul life with work life, “reconciling the left-hand ledger sheet of the soul with the right-hand ledger sheet of the corporate world”. To find the real path, we must go off our present path and experience the privilege of losing our way even if it is ever so briefly, as we realize that despite all we have achieved we will not be immune to life’s difficulties.

 Whyte uses the story of Beowulf to describe our vulnerability and power in the workplace. This legend is about the descent of the masculine to the waters of the unconscious where the restoration of a profound inner feminine power is essential for survival. He sees the modern corporate equivalent of Beowulf’s repressed monsters below our surface as our unresolved parent-child relationships that play out into rigid company hierarchies with paternal management systems and dependent employees, unresolved abuses, a longing for self-protection and the wielding of organizational power and control at any cost to keep that protection. Wythe reminds us that modern man is just emerging from the constructs of the hunter/gatherer society. The office environment is barely a few centuries old, and the electronic age is only one generation old.

 Whyte describes the opportunities and fears we face when we attempt to be more passionate and creative in the workplace as we attempt to fight fire with fire and struggle with fire and ice, as dense smoke fills the body while it remains still unlit. Whyte believes that our voice can finally emerges from the body, representing our inner world as in the story about the mouse and the lion. A good lion knows what it is to be a mouse.

Whyte also tells the Irish story of Fionn as one who like us grapples with the balance between innocence and experience. This reminds me of the story of Parsifal and the Fisher King Wound that Robert Johnson tells in He.

Whyte concludes by believing that the first step to preserving our soul in the world is to believe that the world itself has a soul also, and that there is a sacred otherness to the world.

Joanna   joannaseibert.com