January 16, 2011

Not by Grasping

Fugit Amor, Auguste Rodin

A god can do it. But tell me how
a person can flow like that through the slender lyre.
Our mind is split. At the crossroads in our heart
stands no temple for Apollo.

Song, as you teach us, is not a grasping,
not a seeking for some final consummation.
To sing is to be. Easy for a god.
But when do we simply be? When do we

become one with earth and stars?
It is not achieved, young friend, by being in love,
however vibrant that makes your voice.

Learn to forget you sang like that. It passes.
Truly to sing takes another kind of breath.
A breath in the void. A shudder in God. A wind.

Sonnets to Orpheus I, 3


  1. Again I am struck by Rilke's ideas being right out of A Course in Miracles. Rilke is much newer to me than the Course, which is why I refer to the Course as primary. But knowledge is eternal, and I can only make the connections from where I am now.

  2. I think they are both eternal, Andrew. The way A Course in Miracles is about spirituality beneath (or above) religion, Rilke's approach to life is also at the heart and soul of nonduality and living in a way that is present in this moment.

    This verse today follows well on yesterday's, and especially George's comment that "each of us, regardless of our profession, is the artist of his or her own life." Today, Rilke says, "To sing is to be." The last stanza speaks to me of annihilation of all that has been learned before, waking up every morning with new eyes, listening in the void for a still voice, and no voice, no words. Maybe the song comes before being. Maybe being comes before the song. Maybe there is no before and after, just being, now.

  3. can you imagine sitting somewhere and writing: "Truly to sing takes another kind of breath.
    A breath in the void. A shudder in God. A wind." what could you do after that?! my goodness. steven

  4. Rilke seems to be speaking from ancient wisdom texts like the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads. He knows that it is not in the grasping that we find life, not even in being in love. Life is found in the simple song of being. To sing that song, to make that song our very breath — that, I think, it the constant challenge.

  5. Lovely! There IS something about music, about singing especially, that moves us toward transcendence. Music's very impermanence is, I think, part of why it can open us to the sublime so effectively. It cannot be grasped.

    And music allows us to join with others, many others, to make something even more beautiful than we can do on our own. Music connects us. It's touch at a distance. Oh.

  6. Last year I read Joyce Rupp's wonderful "Open the Door" and I often return to it. In the section titled "Closing the Door" (death), she shared Dawna Markova's reflection in which the latter wrote, "When I die, I want to remember the pulse of life. . . I want to be well practiced in letting go over the edge of the known,. . . It's not so much about being prepared for death as it is about being full of life. I want to be so well practiced in crossing thresholds that dying is merely another step in the dance."

    As Rupp remarks, when we allow ourselves times of letting go and surrendering we achieve "a fuller appreciation of what truly counts in life".

    To let ourselves be, or as Stephen Spender wrote, to let our real selves blaze through, opens us to what we otherwise miss seeing, hearing, feeling.

    And while love (in the lower case) will not hold our song forever, Love (in the upper case) perhaps will.

  7. Beautiful, wise words. I recall lying in the middle of a country road with a friend one night past midnight, holding hands & looking up at the stars. It was a moment forever frozen in time.


  8. Rilke: "To sing is to be."
    Rumi: "Let the beauty we love be what we do." Also, put down the book and pick up a musical instrument (when I must always pick up 3 books when I come here ;) )...

    Oh, how the lyre resonates among yesterday's post here, this one, and today's (yesterday's?) Rumi Reading!
    Finding the new way of breathing is the work of a lifetime.

  9. How beautifully put. I want to read this over and over.


"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!