I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Friday, 14 February 2014

The Interpreted World


. . . how little at home we are
in the interpreted world. That leaves us
some tree on a hillside, on which our eyes fasten
day after day; leaves us yesterday's street
and the coddled loyalty of an old habit
that liked it here, stayed on, and never left.

RILKE Duino Elegies: The First Elegy (Translated by EDWARD SNOW) 

12 comments:

Bonnie said...

Oh yes. Leave me not on yesterday's street coddling an old habit! When we learn to step outside of our favoured interpretations, we step beyond the mind and into the wonder of accepting life as it presents itself.

Thank you for sharing these words of Rilke, Robert. :)

Ruth Mowry said...

These are beautiful thoughts, but not easy ones to act upon. The images are wonderful with this quote.

How do we interpret the world for ourselves, through direct, not conditioned, experience and feeling?

George said...

I instinctively like these words, Robert, but I'm curious about your sense of what Rilke is saying. When he speaks of not being at home in "the interpreted world," do you think he is referring to our conditioned state, the fact that we are born into a world that has already been interpreted for us, leaving us without the freedom to truly experience things through our individual and authentic perceptions?

The Solitary Walker said...

That was a wonderful 'interpretation' and challenge, Bonnie! Thanks so much for this.

Again, another stimulating challenge, Ruth, though the word 'challenge' I'm not sure I really like, specially now that I've used it twice.

Your question is one of the great and important questions, I feel. Interpretation automatically means indirectness, does it not? And interpretation also assumes some yardstick, some knowledge from conditioned, or certainly learnt, experience. Before I get lost in semantics and cold philosophy… perhaps we have to achieve a state more like the knowing and resourceful animals ('findige Tiere') Rilke describes just before this passage?

The Solitary Walker said...

I think Rilke is starting the first Elegy from a position of existential despair, George, with a religious and philosophical clean slate. He posits the angels (not Christian ones, more like perfected and transformed beings beyond human sympathetic intervention) straight out of a vision he had on the cliffs by a storm-tossed Duino Castle near Trieste, where he had a visitation from 'the god' and a grand inspiration… He wrote in a letter: 'A nightingale is approaching.' Then he goes step by poetic step through the isolated human condition. Yes, the interpreted state is, I think, the human state of reason, analysis, language — the world filtered through our consciousness. Even the very act of perception, or so the scientists and philosophers tell us, is an indirect, interpretative process. Rilke goes on trying to rediscover the freedom and authenticity you talk about throughout this poem sequence.

Susan Scheid said...

Beautiful lines, and a perfect photo to accompany them.

Bonnie said...

When you say, Robert: "--the world filtered through our consciousness", I immediately thought "Which consciousness?"

There are so many levels of consciousness and our habitual interpretations come surely from what you also refer to as "our conditioned state" or conditioned consciousness.

Pure, awakened consciousness, without ego, does not need to interpret, compare, define, impart meaning ... it just is.

This is hard to imagine when we have spent a lifetime acquiring understanding, imparting meaning, interpreting the world based on what we already know and loving our interpretations, and defining what matters to our limited, habitual sense of self (conditioned consciousness).

Appreciate how you share the background info of how Rilke began from the position of despair resulting from habitual consciousness ... then inviting us to accompany him on the journey to awakening and freedom ...

What a ride!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks Susan, and Bonnie for your further comment.

Amanda said...

Rilke's words are reminiscent of Castaneda's portrayal of his teacher don Juan Matus, who tells us that each human's sense of perception is via habit. If we were to stand outside that habit we would see an entirely different universe.

The Solitary Walker said...

Our habits are so ingrained, Amanda! But if we can step outside those habits — even for a short while — a radiant, seductive, and strange new world unfolds. I've experienced this myself, but only in bursts.

Thanks, as ever, for your comment.

dritanje said...

Unmittelbar Erfahrung i.e. direct experience is one of those key phrases and meanings for me. It's fascinating to read these comments and responses for I was not sure at first, what Rilke was saying - especially as the images of tree and street branch and bend, throw light and shade, in such direct ways! But yes, those glimpses of unfiltered experience let us know it is possible.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for this, Dritanje. I, too, am very interested in those direct, or unfiltered, or mystical, or peak (as Maslow called them) experiences…