A TEDTalk About the Camino de Santiago

I’ve long been a fan of TEDTalksthe annual conference full of “ideas worth sharing,” presented by some of the most interesting people in the world on every imaginable topic. So I’m not sure how it’s taken me a whole month to discover that in TED2017, one of the speakers offered an ode to the Camino de Santiago. The full video is not available (yet? I’m hoping TED will eventually post). But here’s what I know:

David Whyte at TED2017. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

In a series of presentations around the theme Tales of Tomorrow, poet and philosopher David Whyte talked about “the fuzzy frontiers of the past, present, and future.” And to illustrate his point, he read  two of his poems, which were inspired by his niece’s Camino pilgrimage.

I immediately went out and found the poems in Whyte’s book, appropriately titled Pilgrim. There are seven poems in all that are dedicated to the Camino, with titles like Refuge and Rest.

This excerpt from Santiago, one of the works Whyte read in Vancouver, stood out:

…every step along the way, you had carried

the heart and the mind and the promise

that first set you off and drew you on and that you were

more marvelous in your simple wish to find a way

than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach:

as if, all along, you had thought the end point might be a city

with golden towers, and cheering crowds,

and turning the corner at what you thought was the end

of the road, you found just a simple reflection,

and a clear revelation beneath the face looking back

and beneath it another invitation, all in one glimpse:

like a person and a place you had sought forever,

like a broad field of freedom that beckoned you beyond;

like another life, and the road still stretching on.

Excerpt from “SANTIAGO”
From PILGRIM: Poems by David Whyte
©2012 David Whyte


I’ve been struggling to write about my own arrival in Santiago for the book in progress. It was, for me, anticlimactic and deeply self revelatory at the same time. Perhaps I just found a few words to help me forward.

And if anyone finds a link to the full video of Whyte’s talk, please share it in the comments!

Whyte has excerpted a different piece of this work on his Facebook page (scroll back to late April), and another writer has written about the second TED Talk poem, Finisterre, in this Huffington Post piece. (Ignore the part where he says Finisterre is in Portugal; we know better.)

Published by beth jusino

Editor. Writer. Teacher. Pilgrim. At home in the Pacific Northwest.

3 thoughts on “A TEDTalk About the Camino de Santiago

  1. Beth, I so appreciated hearing you say, “arriving at Santiago was anticlimactic”. I arrived, in rain if course, and had that feeling of acting surprised when you already knew there was a surprise party for you. I tried to conjure up the emotions everyone talked about, but kept saying, “is this all there is?” Even the cathedral made me long for Burgos. There were several “ahh” places along the Way but Santiago was not one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that image of acting surprised at the surprise party. And you’re definitely not alone. I think it’s hard for anything to live up to the anticipation of being THE focus for 30+ days. Or to be meaningful in the midst of such a crowd. “As if, all along, [we] thought the end point might be a city.”


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