January 8, 2011

Balance

Collecting Apples, 1918, by Leonid Pasternak
(click on painting to enlarge)

Oh trees of life, when is your wintertime?
We are not in balance. Not in agreement
as migrating birds are. Late and overtaken,
we hurriedly try to catch the wind
and fall into a random swamp.
To bloom and to wilt is all the same to us.
Somewhere lions still walk the earth.
As long as their majesty endures, so does their power.

From the Fourth Duino Elegy

17 comments:

  1. Everywhere I look I see trees. Thanks for the quote!

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  2. This passage seems so suggestive yet at the same time elusive. No one 'meaning' takes shape, and I feel all the better for the uncertainty. Perhaps striving for any singular meaning is like hurriedly trying to catch the wind and falling into a random swamp. Whatever insights we find bloom and wilt at the same time.

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  3. This passage, this week, makes my breath catch in my throat, because of the terrible incident of 5,000 redwing blackbirds found fallen and dead on the ground in a one mile radius in Arkansas on New Year's morning. They were migrating birds, and there were 10,000 of them in that area. I believe the experts conclude from the nature of their injuries that they were startled from their roosts by the fireworks New Year's Eve, and because they don't fly at night, they ran into things and were killed. What strikes me about it, in the light of Rilke's passage today, is that it was a human element that caused their demise. In some way the New Year revelers caused the migrating birds to hurriedly try to catch the wind
    and fall into a random swamp. . . and wilt . .
    .

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  4. First, Lorenzo and Ruth, I want to tell you how much I am enjoying the paintings of Leonid Pasternack. Really fine work!

    I find something reassuring in this excerpt from the Duino Ellegies. For all of his wisdom and insight, Rilke finds himself at a point when he is not in balance — not in agreement — with the natural rhythms of life; he is hurriedly trying to catch the wind, rather than waiting for it to move him, and, as a result, he falls into a random swamp. This is such a human predicament. Deep in our souls, we know that we need to be in balance with the natural rhythms of life and the universe, but we are constantly "falling off the wagon," as our egos seek to redesign and control the world. Robert's posting yesterday on Zen comes to mind; we are at our best when we float through life as leaves on the wind, fearing nothing, judging nothing, just enjoying the ride. That is balance.

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  5. I'm afraid I can't hear Rilke right now. I see five thousand redwing blackbirds dead and I see us cackling at fireworks. My son whispers in my ear right now, yes mommy, and the fish. The fish were scared too and in the morning they found them dead on the shore. It is as if we do our very human and bombastic deeds and we cause nature to shriek from its very elements.

    Driving I heard a story on Canadian public radio about a woman entering through the door on a warehouse. Her name is Dyan deNaoli and the oil spill was off the coast of South Africa in 2000. But in this warehouse, a large one, where one might regularily find boats and cars, skids and boxes, there were 16 000 penguins standing still. Not one sound. Covered in oil. I can't get the image out of my mind. I can't hold that number.

    I'll come back for Rilke, but those lines, yes, Ruth, those lines,

    we hurriedly try to catch the wind
    and fall into a random swamp


    I wonder, who is it that is trying to catch the wind, and who is it causing to fall into random swamps?

    A sober Saturday morning.

    xo
    erin

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  6. And now, after just posting my response I see this line, "To bloom and to wilt is all the same to us." I read it now with a rude flavor, as though we as human beings are so dismissive of this gift of life and its gentle balance. Perhaps Rilke didn't intend it this way. Perhaps he meant that the fluctation, the balance between all is the very nature of life itself, but right this moment I taste these words, and I grimace, for we have created this new taste.

    xo
    erin

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  7. Ruth, I like your take on this passage. I wouldn't have thought of it without doing alot of thinking if at all, chuckle. I find his work somewhat hard to interpret yet the words are beautifully put together. In the interest of time, I don't really try to dissect the pieces you're publishing. Perhaps too many yrs studying, dissecting & writing in college as a Lit major makes me lazy now? What is fun, is to read the interpretations of your other readers as well as you & Lorenzo.

    Another gorgeous Pasternak painting. Where the heck has he been all my life????

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  8. and then there are the dead crabs in UK.... wow Erin "I taste these words and I grimace, for we have created this new taste" So gloriously put.

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  9. I am especially partial to the last two lines, perhaps because I've seen the magnificent beasts on safari in South Africa. The majesty of the universe, of our earth, endures. And that is its power.

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  10. I'm interested in that, Maureen, because in a few days there will be a posting of a famous poem of Rilke's titled The Panther, and that magestic animal is not in the wild in the poem. (You can imagine where it is, and that gets back to the point of the human imbalancing touch.) I've been thinking a lot about the poem, with the help of my German friend, who has explained to me something about the original Rilke words in German. I will try to convey what she explained, and also her own translation of the first stanza of it on that day.

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  11. Oh, dear. I focused on the words erin mentioned in her second comment--they left the same taste in my mouth...
    oh, those poor birds. Celebration and death. Wow.
    And yes, that panther.
    Somber passage, this.

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  12. ...When is your wintertime. I understand that to mean when will rejuvenation and inner nourishment - growth, occur. A shedding of sorts, a quiet time, for our soul. From previous posts, I get that he is unable to find a peace he is searching desperatey for. He feels small and alone. It's almost like he thinks it all doesn't really matter. I know you all love him, but I find myself wanting to give him a bit of a shake. I'm enjoying these posts, don't get me wrong. I will keep an open mind ... I'm sure I just need a little education. I'm not sure I buy the fireworks theory. One would think it would have happened many times in the past. I mean, birds have roosted in trees for years while fireworks go off. I think it's something else... It is very disturbing.

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  13. I'm considering this my second day here with these words, when is your wintertime? I was considering my father's hands last night, Robert's father's hands, and their lives. My father died young, Robert's father older, and I wonder if either got to live through their wintertimes? I think of myself. Am I in a wintertime now? And if so, what of later? I think of Rilke and if in fact as Margaret Bednar suggests, he needed a bit of a shake. Do we find balance in our wintertimes? Is it possible to find true balance at all or do we only oscillate if we look certain truths in the mouth? Or does it all always lie only in acceptance? Perhaps Rilke did not quite accept the oscillation but rather wanted to live in balance. This elusive balance, perhaps it is only in the entirety of a life lived, and not in moments.

    Margaret Bednar makes me laugh. I never thought to critique Rilke, but rather only to accept him. I look at my shortcomings.

    xo
    erin

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  14. I (we) see the talent this man had, much was given him. And he has a huge amount of work out there of which I have not explored. Maybe this will be balanced by something else. I guess I'm searching for hope here and I don't find it. Even in the post below about death, even though he is right (death isn't to be cheated and is unchangeable) and life lets us down sometimes... I find a soul almost giving up - accepting what is with little hope. A poet rights his anguish, his joys. Maybe this is a slice of his thoughts and feelings for the moment, part of the so called back & forth. Or maybe I just don't have a poet's soul - mind and am way off the target. The latter is probably closer to the truth. :)

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  15. Balance and hope. Was Rilke seeking these, speaking these?

    I see his words here and elsewhere as turnings. Turning our face toward something. He turns his face toward nature, and to what is within him that connects with it. I think he's turning to the deep origin of himself where truth must lie that has been hidden in society, and his own constructs. When you are looking in a certain direction, with the river that flows to the ocean, there is a relinquishment to the current. Is it giving up? In a way. But I think it is a positive action, not a fruitless one, or fatalistic. It is using the power of the river and the magnetic ocean to flow, and not resist, not hold onto a branch on the riverbank!

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  16. I pondered this a bit further. He is unprepared and does try to grasp on to the wind... The migrating birds are able to avoid the difficulties... He isn't so lucky. In his life he will have both wilting and blooming. Life goes on. And I agree with that. And I like what you said..."going with the flow" is something at times we need to do. I mean, who can really fight aging - not that that is what he is talking about here, just an example I am all to aware of these days.

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"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Go ahead, bloom recklessly!