Sunday, November 05, 2006

NogaNote II:

A friend offered me these two poems by RM Rilke, sensing that I would be moved by them.

Initial

Out of infinite longings rise
finite deeds like weak fountains,
falling back just in time and trembling.
And yet, what otherwise remains silent,
our happy energies—show themselves
in these dancing tears.

I am too alone in the world, and yet not alone enough
to make every hour holy.
I am too small in the world, and yet not tiny enough
just to stand before you like a thing,
dark and shrewd.
I want my will, and I want to be with my will
as it moves towards deed;
and in those quiet, somehow hesitating times,
when something is approaching,
I want to be with those who are wise
or else alone.

I want always to be a mirror that reflects your whole being,
and never to be too blind or too old
to hold your heavy, swaying image.
I want to unfold.
Nowhere do I want to remain folded,
because where I am bent and folded, there I am lie.
And I want my meaning
true for you. I want to describe myself
like a painting that I studied
closely for a long, long time,
like a word I finally understood,
like the pitcher of water I use every day ,
like the face of my mother,
like a ship
that carried me
through the deadliest storm of all.

I've been experiencing with increasing intensity lately, this fear of remaining "folded". At first reading, I sensed two currents running in close parallel. One is the need to remain fully alive and fully receptive to the beauty and terror that challenge and form our being. The second is what comes from keeping oneself sentient like that: keeping up with one's will.

As always, between the "will" and the "deed" there is an unbridgeable gap, an erotic void. Deed always lags behind the will, even as it wants to overcome it, or at least keep abreast of it. Or maybe the "will'' per se, is that force that traverses the void?

It reminds me of the following passage I wrote in one of my papers some time ago, exploring the essence and demands of personal responsibility.

Viktor Frankel says,

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lays our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom."

The awareness of that space, that split second before we respond to a certain stimulus, this is where the nexus of responsibility is located. The stimulus is in the past, already, as we traverse the space towards our response, we can choose: we can turn back and rage at the past, the indissoluble, unchangeable past, or look ahead towards the future which our decisions, our choice how to respond, will directly affect. That is the moment of response that will determine how we grasp our responsibly in life. Good choices are premised on an ability to comprehend (meaning both contain and understand) the unique past, which has formed our present angst.

Between the two Rilke poems, there is an affinity. One appears to be a door into the other, expounding, explaining, describing, what it is means to be “longing”:

Initial

Out of infinite longings rise
finite deeds like weak fountains,
falling back just in time and trembling.
And yet, what otherwise remains silent,
our happy energies—show themselves
in these dancing tears.

This is, if anything, description of "longing":

I want my will, and I want to be with my will
as it moves towards deed;
and in those quiet, somehow hesitating times,
when something is approaching,
I want to be with those who are wise
or else alone.

Silence is the condition of longing, of the perpetual journey of the will towards the deed. But, like the speaker in the poem, we want an affirmation, a friend, who will:

"always to be a mirror that reflects [our] whole being ".

A friend can only reflect ourselves back to us by speaking, by breaking the silence. But sometimes friends join their silence to the silence of our longing.

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