Archive for Rilke
Only mouths are we. Who sings the distant heart
which safely exists in the center of all things?
His giant heartbeat is diverted in us
into little pulses. And his giant grief
is, like his giant jubilation, far too
great for us. And so we tear ourselves away
from him time after time, remaining only
mouths. But unexpectedly and secretly
the giant heartbeat enters our being,
so that we scream —-,
and are transformed in being and in countenance.
I adore that poem!
I have my piece The Pregnant Virgin: Creative Vessel in this show. I hope you can see it.
The Pierro Gallery
in the Baird Center
5 Mead Street South Orange, NJ 07079
Opening: Thursday May 24th, 6pm to 8pm
Gallery Talk: Thursday, June 7th, 7pm
Regular Hours: Wednesday & Thursday 2 to 7pm, Friday & Saturday 1 to 4pm
The Pregnant Virgin: Creative Vessel
Christine over at Abby of the Arts (one of my favorite blogs) posted this Meister Eckhart quote last week, and I can’t stop thinking about it:
are words of God,
His music, His
Sacred books we are, for the infinite camps
Every act reveals God and expands His being.
I know that may be hard
All creatures are doing their best
to help God in His birth
Enough talk for the night.
He is laboring in me;
I need to be silent
for a while,
worlds are forming
in my heart.
An artist needs to be silent to create, but how to find this elusive silence?
It’s clear that the Divine Creator wants me to find silence because my life in recent years has been stripped down to bare bones, the noise and chaos cleared out. Using my health as an agent, God has sent me into exile. First from work and late-night socializing, then from volunteering and now even from my friends and family. I’ve written about this before, but last year my family and I were forced to move from the northeast, south in search of warmer winters. So here I sit with a large share of the doing purged from my life, but what of silence?
I assumed that in my exile I would find nothing but space to unfold and work. Instead I found everything that the doing was designed to suppress. I found fear and anxiety, anger and sadness- a lifetime of regrets I never had time to feel. Now after years of learning to sit with these feelings, many have processed through. I am emptier than I have ever been. But still I have resistance to entering into that sacred space. Why?
It is the same reason that has always caused artists to drink and spiral into depression and fear. It’s not that life is so dark, it is that it is so beautiful and dear. I am only beginning to be able to tolerate the tiniest drop of the joy and pleasure that God offers us. An artist brushes that pleasure each time we create.
I have emptied myself to such a degree that there is no barrier left to that deep connection with my maker, that deep intimacy and joy. I find it difficult to proceed. But for me there is nothing else left, there is my connection to God which is expressed in two ways alone: my relationships to the people I interact with (most particularly my friends & family) and my creative process.
I am terrified to pick up my brush, to mold my clay. But there is nothing else for me to do. I will take baby steps and breath, just as I learned to tolerate my fear and still function, I will learn to tolerate and embrace my joy. This is what I was born for, to be one of God’s wombs. Rilke’s advice to an aspiring poet says it all:
Go into yourself. Search for that reason that bids you to write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest place of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all- ask yourself in the silent hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity; your life even in its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it. Rilke, Letters to a young Poet, Trans. Herter Norton
It seems I have finally sorted out all my technical problems with this blog. (Knock wood!) So as a thank you for your patience, below is a beautiful Rilke poem. I recently realized that even though I am an avid reader, it has been several years since I read a new novel. I thought this is very unlike myself until realizing that my book reading has been almost exclusively poetry with a few mystical texts thrown in for flavor. So I splurged on the Amazon.com used-book market and ordered about 20 books of poetry. I love used books, esp when someone has lovingly (but sparingly) notated them. They have been arriving in dribs and drabs each day, clothed in stained and crumpled wrappings that give no hint of the precious jewels hidden inside. Here is a poem I received today.
The Winged Energy of Delight
Just as the winged energy of delight
carried you over many chasms early on,
now raise the daringly imagined arch
holding up the astounding bridges.
Miracle doesn’t lie only in the amazing
living through and defeat of danger;
miracles become miracles in the clear
achievement that is earned.
To work with things is not hubris
when building the association beyond words;
denser and denser the pattern becomes–
being carried along is not enough.
Take you well-disciplined strengths
and stretch them between two
opposing poles. Because inside human beings
is where God learns.
-Rilke trans. Robert Bly
I love this poem because it is reminds me of the importance of living in the physical world. That we need to enmesh ourselves in life not only for ourselves, but for God. Physicality has its Divine purpose and it’s not just a race to return to our Source whether that be by death or spiritual withdraw from life. My greatest struggle has been detaching myself enough from the Divine to live fully. Ironically, now that I am really here in my body, I am more closely connected to my Source than ever.
Music: breathing of statues. Perhaps:
silence of paintings. You language where all language
ends. You time
standing vertically on the motion of mortal hearts.
Feelings for whom? O you the transformation
of feelings into what?-: into audible landscape.
You stranger: music. You heart-space
grown out of us. The deepest space in us,
which, rising above us, forces its way out,-
when the innermost point in us stands
outside, as the most practiced distance, as the other
side of the air:
no longer habitable.
Rilke-Trans. Stephen Mitchell
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
Right now I am in winter. I have experienced an enormous growth over two difficult years that included closing a business of 15 years and significant health issues. It has been a difficult yet beautiful and amazing time which bore much fruit. I feel there is very little about me that has not shifted in someway closer to God because of what I have gone through. That took everything I had. Now I am the ground that rests during winter in order to prepare for spring. I am embracing my own internal winter even as I prepare to leave the external winter for the endless summer of St. Thomas.
My suitcase is overflowing with canvas and paint. Images are flowing into my mind. What will happen? I do not know… It is a beautiful thing.
Sonnets to Orpheus XIII
Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were
behind you, like the winter that has just gone by.
For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter
that only by wintering through it all will your heart survive.
Be forever dead in Eurydice-more gladly arise
into the seamless life proclaimed in your song.
Here, in the realm of decline, among momentary days,
be the crystal cup that shattered even as it rang.
Be-and yet know the great void where all things begin,
the infinite source of your own most intense vibration,
so that, this once, you may give it your perfect assent.
To all that is used-up, and to all the muffled and dumb
creatures in the world’s full reserve, the unsayable sums,
joyfully add yourself, and cancel the count.
– Rilke Maria Rainer (trans. Stephan Mitchell)
I found an amazing website: Poet Seers. It features information on & poems of many important spiritual poets.
It has a translation of the first of Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus by Howard Landman. This cycle of poems charts the link between the Divine and creativity. Rilke makes it abundantly clear throughout that it is the transformative process that causes creation. Each poem is jewel. If you haven’t read them don’t pass up the chance. My translation from the original German is by Stephan Mitchell. It’s interesting to compare the two.
A tree ascended there. Oh pure transcendence!
Oh Orpheus sings! Oh tall tree in the ear!
And all grew hushed. But in that very silence
a new beginning, sign and change appeared.
Quiet creatures gathered from the clear
unhurried forest, out of lair and nest;
and so it must have been, their stealthiness
was not born out of cunning or of fear,
but just from hearing. Bellow, cry, and roar
seemed tiny in their hearts. And where before
there barely stood a hut to take this in,a hiding place of deepest darkest yens,
and with an entryway whose doorposts trembled –
you built for them an auditory temple.
–Trans. Howard Landman
A tree ascended there. Oh pure transcendence!
Oh Orpheus sings! Oh tall tree in the ear!
And all things hushed. Yet even in that silence
a new beginning, beckoning, change appeared.
Creatures of stillness crowded from the bright
unbound forest, out of their lairs and nests;
and it was not from any dullness, not
from fear, that they were so quiet in themselves,
but from just listening. Bellow, roar, shriek
seemed small inside their hearts. And where there had been
at most a makeshift hut to receive the music
a shelter nailed up out of their darkest longing,
with an entryway that shuddered in the wind-
you built a temple deep inside their hearing.
–Trans. Stephan Mitchell