Each torpid turn of the world has such disinherited children,
to whom no longer what's been, and not yet what's coming, belongs.
- RM Rilke, "Seventh Elegy" Duino Elegies
* * *
The Seventh Elegy is the pivot on which turns the great cycle of The Duino Elegies. Lamentation, the wooing of an unattainable beloved, the seeming negation of human agency in the face of remorseless angelic perfection is turned on its head and now becomes a song of praise for all existence. It is done with trying to search and find a remote god, and instead finds the beloved in all things, in the transformations required to move from an outward facing life, to an internal life that can contain all possibilities (including angelic ones). Its business is with being as opposed to longing.
It is the one I turn to again and again. A note, written hundreds of years ago in my own hand, at the end of the poem says simply this: "I am destroyed."
* * *
The two lines at the top of the page are as complete a definition of the fucked as I know: disinherited children to whom nothing belongs.
Let that soak in a bit. I'll wait.
* * *
It strikes me that we fucked sonsofbitches spend our days becoming experts at barking up wrong trees, mistaking the forest for all the trees and generally holding the wrong end of the telescope to our eyes. We look outward for satisfaction or a sense of identity or a purpose when those things are the very things excluded from such a view. Our inheritance, our treasure is not outside our skin but within it. Looking outside for clues as to how to live brings a poisonous overabundance of pride and ego and love of external markers of that pride and ego: materialism, narcissism, and smug self-righteousness. What's been and what's yet to come are as useless as tits on a bull.
Go back to the top of the page.
Each torpid turn of the world...
Rilke has, in those few words, damned the cult of time. The world turns regardless of your presence on the surface, regardless of your presence six feet under the surface. You are immaterial to the world's turning. But you are not immaterial to existence - your own and the infinite swelter of all who came before, of all who live while you live, of all who will succeed you. The key is to:
Move through transformation out and in...
And if the earthly no longer knows your name,
whisper to the silent earth: I'm flowing.
To the flashing water say: I am.
* * *
The Seventh Elegy is an exaltation of such a transformation, a transformation only we puny, fucked-in-the-head humans can pull off. The angelic orders may be perfect, but that cannot grow; they cannot experience the joy of moving through transformations out and in; they cannot live outside of time as we can for though we are finite we can yet transform time into life. But not everyone will see it, and of those who see it, not everyone of them will venture it, and of those who venture it not all will succeed. Rilke knows this and announces it with each torpid turn of the world.
So, what will it be my friend, my fartlet, my fucked fucker? What will it be for you? More longing for the unattainable? More focus on what is outward (and thus at the absent mercy of time)? More of the same until some kind soul erects a marker over your bones and thus does more than you to delineate the chance you had at life? What do you think life is for, paying bills and dying? Is this all you can imagine for yourself? Is this what you've become: a disinherited child?
Further on, just before the conclusion of the poem, Rilke writes:
Wasn't all this a miracle? Angel, gaze, for it's we–
O mightiness, tell them that we were capable of it–my breath's
too short for this celebration. So, after all, we have not
failed to make use of the spaces, these generous spaces, these,
our spaces. (How terribly big they must be,
when, with thousands of years of our feeling, they're not over-crowded.)
* * *
Make use of the spaces, these generous spaces that are laid at your feet. Fight against the torpid turning of the world and embrace you inheritance. It is right there. Inside you.