March 28, 2011

Life's Other Half

Rilke, artist unknown

I am not saying that we should love death, but rather that we should love life so generously, without picking and choosing, that we automatically include it (life's other half) in our love. This is what actually happens in the great expansiveness of love, which cannot be stopped or constricted. It is only because we exclude it that death becomes more and more foreign to us and, ultimately, our enemy.

It is conceivable that death is infinitely closer to us than life itself. . . .
What do we know of it?

Letter to Countess Margot Sizzo-Noris-Crouy
Epiphany, 1923


  1. I agree with Rilke on this. Life and death are two sides of the same coin, each giving meaning to the other. Ultimately, however, we must come to love the unfolding of the process itself, the rising and falling, the mysterious evolution of life. What would be more terrifying that physical life without end?

  2. Yep, this was the sentiment which filled the latter Rilke: that a full expression must embrace both life and death at once.

    I was thinking yesterday of the decade of Rilke's wandering between the first Elegy and the completing ones -- and the Sonnets as well -- a wounded, wandering time for sure, the words inaccessible as their angels (not that he didn't write, just that he couldn't find his way back to the highest aerie of the Elegies).

    Rilke says little that I've seen in his letters about this European holocaust (he fled far as he could from it), but the devastation of the continent to modern warfare with its trenches and machine guns and mustard gas and battles killing tens of thousands of young men every day. How could the register of so loud a Death -- to millions, to a culture, to a continent -- not form the basso register of Death's magnitude in Rilke's mind?

    He had his protections, to be sure, sticking as I said to neutral territories, devoted so to the Inside, his extremely strict walls of work ... but it wasn't until several years after the last howitzer sent fire shrieking across the sky that Rilke heard again the Voice, now deeply stained with Death. - Brendan

  3. The Eagles Aerie? is that what your talking bout Brendan?


"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!