Friday, September 20, 2013

Let Everything Happen

Let everything happen to you: 
beauty and terror.
Just keep going. 
No feeling is final.

- RM Rilke, "God Speaks"

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I first read Rilke when I was in my mid-twenties. I'd found a copy of Stephen Mitchell's translation of Letter's to a Young Poet and knew I'd found a voice I needed to listen to. The intensity of his desire to form into words the things he'd come to know were a bulwark against my lethargy and his words drove me on: Duino Elegies, Sonnets to Orpheus, The Astonishment of Origins. 

The trajectory of my life changes direction after seeing Wings of Desire - a retelling of the Duino Elegies and I work to find a way into the movie business. Once there more changes arrive: a wife, children, divorce, the wilderness and the words I leave behind here. It is safe to say that without Rilke there is no me.

* * *

The fucked life is a stuck life, a fearful life, a life of dread and worry and anger - all the emotions of a captive. We chafe at our chains believing we have been shackled by others, by circumstance and all there is for us to do is draw attention to the weight of our burdens, the sorrow of our plight.  We wear our fuckedness like a sack-cloth badge of honor. And time slips by and by and by the change we have so long resisted, believed we'd made to heel, overtakes us: dust to dust, over and out.

What the fuck are we thinking?

Here's a possibility: we have come to believe all feeling is final.

At any moment your life could be running in a greased groove, could be motoring along without a thought or care in your head, or could be diresome with loss, riddled with despair and when it falls off the tracks, when the terror comes along we freeze in the moment and so fuck ourselves just that much deeper. We fall in love with our pain, believe it to be complete, perfect in its own way and so we don't disturb it or challenge it or fight with it. Our various forms of failure become more desperate and so fail more desperately and there we find proof that nothing will change. This suffering is a permanent stain.  Sure, once in a while we rally, read a few holy words and set out ready for God to save us and when nothing changes we slip back into our hole and curse the God we never really believed in anyway.

Now go back a minute. All this unfolds because we have come to believe the moment we are living in - filled with all the worry, fear, anger and despair we feel - is the final statement on our lives. What arrogance! What unbridled self-serving, self-important bullshit!

No feeling is final. Knock it off.

Think for a minute, who and or what is served by staying fucked? No one, right? Wrong. Your ego and pride are stoked. Bearing false suffering is like all those 19th century generals with a chest full of medals they've given themselves for making other men die on their behalf. There is genuine suffering in this world, soul-searing suffering that can hardly be described except by those who survive it. Don't confuse your pain with another's. Don't draw equivalences. There are none. Each has to walk his own road. So walk yours.

Things change.

* * *

The few lines pulled from Rilke are enough to get started on, to play with, to consider. It may help draw you out of the place you're in. I hope so. Usually, when this bit of poetry is quoted the quote ends where I have ended it: No feeling is final. And if those four words soak into you, you will be changed and your life will start moving again. But there is another line that follows. It reads:

Don't let yourself lose me.

Rilke has imagined the poem in the voice of God, as the last bits of advice God has for us before sending us out into the world. The line - Don't let yourself lose me - can be read as God pleading that we remember our connection for his sake. But that belies Rilke's spirit. Rilke, in his imagined God's voice, is telling us who we are, to not lose ourselves as we undergo the seriousness of life.

Don't let yourself lose yourself - no matter your circumstance. Now is not forever. It will change. So will you. When you cling to any moment you fuck yourself. You have to let go in order to hold it, to be part of it. You are part of it. So go play for a while. Be home before it's dark. Supper will be waiting.


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