Wednesday, March 20, 2013

the life being lived

And yet, though we strain
against the deadening grip
of daily necessity,
I sense there is this mystery:

All life is being lived.

Who is living it, then?
Is it the things themselves,
or something waiting inside them,
like an unplayed melody in a flute?

Is it the winds blowing over the waters?
Is it the branches that signal to each other?

Is it flowers
interweaving their fragrances,
or streets, as they wind through time?

Is it animals, warmly moving,
or the birds, that suddenly rise up?

Who lives it, then? God, are you the one
who is living life?

— Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Hours II, 12


  1. It gave me a great boost and feeling of comfort reading this familiar, much-loved poem this morning. The deadening but unavoidable daily necessity; the mystery of life being lived; the God in every living thing.

    To live the quotidian with awe and awareness of and delight in the mystery: that's the thing!

  2. why are we ourselves so removed from the living of life? i think the answer is so much more incredibly complicated than we understand, or perhaps can understand. everything that establishes our opportunity to experience life also renders more distance between us and the living. the paradox is endless.

    i sit still and consider your photograph which tells me where you are in life and how it is you live, or at least the image of how it is that you live, an important distinction. i consider the photos of a few days ago, the small boy in the horse stall, the sign upon the garden gate. i say, this is ruth's life. ruth lives close to the earth and yet i know of your struggle to become closer and closer. i know how daily living is an awl to living itself. we have to struggle through the body toward the earth. i think of the line from li-young lee's hurry toward beginning, "Are days the offspring of distracted hands?" the body one distance and time another. i think of vilem flusser's investigation of photography, of the image, and how he explains, "Images are mediations between the world and human beings. Human beings 'ex-ist', i.e. the world is not immediately accessible to them and therefore images are needed to make it comprehensible. However, as soon as this happens, images come between the world and human beings. They are supposed to be maps but they turn into screens: Instead of representing the world, they obscure it until human beings' lives finally become a function of the images they create." i think the same can be said of language and thus each bridge toward, becomes a bridge away from.

    rilke's final question, "God, are you the one who is living life?" would even god suffer the distance? this calls to mind yves bonnefoy's riveting poem, still blind. an excerpt from it:

    "The theologians
    Of that other country
    Deem that God does exist, but is blind.
    That he searches, groping
    Between the narrow walls we call the world
    For a little body crying, floundering
    With eyes still closed,
    That will allow him to see-
    If only,
    With his clumsy hands from before time began, He can open its eyelids...

    No, God does not seek
    Adoration, the bowed forehead, the spirit
    That invokes him, that questions him - no, not even
    The shout of revolt. He simply seeks
    To see, as the child sees: a stone,
    A tree, a fruit,
    The vine below the roof,
    A bird alighting on a cluster of ripe grapes.

    God the eyeless
    Seeks to see the light, at last."

    and then i think of yet another poem i read the other day about our imposed distance, our inability to live in the center of life but rather how we have constructed a fake life, a system of sepulchres in the form of a machine, very much like the second river i referred to with you some months ago. (i'm sorry. i get excited by this. THIS is in fact life, one very real way of being present, isn't it? thinking, seeing, gathering ideas, examining closely.) oh damn! i can't find it. i'll have to type it in the next comment box:)

  3. The Way by William Bronk

    There is the world, we say, and mean a kind
    of mechanism, big machine that stands
    there mornings when we come on. We check the gauge
    and pull a lever we learned to pull, and wait,
    and stuff comes out. We put stuff in. And Wait.
    Nights, we go home and rest. After a while of this,
    we stop; and, mornings, someone else comes on.

    This is a way we made to look at things.
    The way is always there, you can bank on that,
    though the flow of the slot is fuller here or there
    or it dwindles away. We scheme then, over moves
    to make more stuff come out, or a trick technique
    to overlay whole sections like a new
    machine, devise a way: it works somehow.

    These changes are written down: what ones were made
    and who served where and when - how many days.
    It makes it seem more real except that real
    is what it doesn't seem at all: the skips
    at night, the end a blank. What went wrong?
    It isn't the way things are, but only a way
    we made to look at things, among various ways.

    It has rewards: the pellets of food we get
    are the soothing boon of problems and problems solved
    because they were solvable. We grasp at that.
    We wish it might be so who sleep and die
    - do what we call those names, not knowing what
    we do, yet wanting a life outside the one
    that sleeping drifts towards, death illuminates.

    jesus! how do wake?


  4. an unplayed melody in a flute. Sigh.

    The whole post is so inviting and the baby chicks I'm sure are yours... What is truly tragic is when people don't ever escape the strain of "daily necessity" ... and what's more, don't realize that half of what is on their plate (if not more) isn't really even necessary - the struggle is of our own making.

    Simplify. That is key in order to appreciate living.


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