A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

O Trees Of Life

O trees of life, how far off is winter?
We're in disarray. Our minds don't commune
like those of migratory birds. Left behind and late,
we force ourselves suddenly on winds
and fall, exhausted, on indifferent waters.
Blooming makes us think of fading.
And somewhere out there lions still roam, oblivious,
in all their splendor, to any weakness.

RILKE Duino Elegies: The Fourth Elegy (Translated by EDWARD SNOW


Wendy said...

With apologies to Rilke, I wonder how things would change (at least in our perceptions but maybe, too, in the way we interact with the rest of the world) if instead of always bemoaning our lack of connection, our myth of being a forlorn and forgotten creature - we tried to remember and (even if such recollection couldn't be found) if we IMAGINED that we were included and welcomed and equally splendorous as every other bit of creation.

Wouldn't that hopefulness just inspire us to look for the ways we could live up to that?

The Solitary Walker said...

I think Rilke tries to imagine this himself, Wendy, and he does try to reach a harmony with nature, and a reconciliation with suffering and death — but the reality is that attaining this can be difficult for human beings, afflicted as they are by self-consciousness, religious doubt, philosophical game playing, and a tendency to destroy each other and the world. It's the human condition, as so many 'modernist' writers (and artists of all kinds) — from (even as early as the 19th century) Kleist and Büchner through Rilke and Sartre and Camus and the Existentialists to more recent writers like Lowell and Plath and Snyder and a million others — have recognised.

I am impressed by your idealism! And yes, it's great if we can reach that connected and included state. But perhaps it's necessary first to explore and understand the difference between ourselves and the animals and angels, as Rilke does, before we can attempt to repair our divided selves and the divided world.

Wendy said...

Truly, that's something I like about Rilke - that things speak to him and he's willing to listen, and that he's an active partner in the translation of that experience into human language.

I find, though, that our actions indicate that not only do we feel separate, as a general rule (speaking culture-wide rather than on individual basis), we don't care that we feel separate from the rest of the natural world (witness shopping malls and the glazed desperation of people searching for SOMEthing to make them feel better) and I wonder if a shift in attention to other types of imagery (other than that which posits our human condition as being inevitably separate and alone) might help.

Of course, to add a disclaimer, I am reading a text on the phenomenology of sight in the context of ecopsychology so that has some bearing on my comments. :-)

The Solitary Walker said...

'. . . that things speak to him and he's willing to listen, and that he's an active partner in the translation of that experience into human language.' Yes.

Thanks for this extra comment, Wendy.