Reflections by Jerry Webber

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Rilke Poem for Advent Darkness

This poem found me a few days ago. For me it matches the mood of Advent, the darkness and waiting to which we are each called. It calls me to a rootedness that doesn't fight the darkness, but rather allows the darkness to make me more fully and completely human.

There is a contradiction in darkness and waiting that makes us terribly uncomfortable, especially as persons who want our pain wrapped up in a tidy bow. But the task of becoming fully human is never clean. Seldom does it draw in straight lines and in perfectly square corners. Growing up is messy work. Maturity, including spiritual maturity, comes at a cost. Every experience of life has within it the capacity to be our teacher.

Rilke was familiar with darkness. As with most artists, his creativity emerged from this seedbed which was very much underground, cold, dank, still and in some ways seemed to be without life.

So this is an expression of Rilke's stance toward darkness.

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

[Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29, trans. by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows]

1 comment:

Kathryn Kelley said...

know your reading and writing; think your due for a posting! just my two cented opinion.