April 29, 2011


Still Life with Cabbage and Clogs

Impermanence plunges us into the depth of all Being. And so all forms of the present are not to be taken and bound in time, but held in a larger context of meaning in which we participate. I don't mean this in a Christian sense (from which I ever more passionately distance myself) but in a sheer earthly, deep earthly, sacred earthly consciousness: that what we see here and now is to bring us into a wider—indeed, the very widest—dimension. Not in an afterlife whose shadow darkens the earth, but in a whole that is the whole.

Letter to Witold Hulewicz
November 13, 1925


  1. This shines a lot of light on yesterday's sonnet, doesn't it? I'm trying to get my head round the ideas here. To look for permanence, particularly in the life-after-death Christian sense, is a false trail. For actually we should celebrate permanence, and its fragrant fragility, for what it is - which, on the surface, is all there is. However, there is some core to impermanence which makes it not as fleetingly insubstantial as we might at first think. We are not completely at the mercy of bitter-sweet temporality and transitoriness. Impermanence is, in some way, an aspect of the Divine - hence an aspect of permanence? Do I read this apparent paradox correctly? Is it a bit like the Platonic idea of all time-bound, earthly manifestations of beauty as being but fragments of some eternal essence of beauty?

  2. Solitary Walker is right -- this letter does a lot to address yesterday's Sonnet. And Ruth, your comment at the end of that post -- asking whether there is a correlation to Rilke between heart and God -- I think is also answered here, in the affirmative, though for him (and me) God has become eye-level, the scattered song of Orpheus which makes every moment glint and gleam. Heart is the vehicle of meaning which is "sheer earthly, deep earthly, sacred earthly consciousness." And I think the rose is the symbol of that organ, pure beauty, purely ephemeral, so full of radiant impermanence that so overflows the eye and nose with color and scent. See "The Rose Window" in New Poems, where he ses in a great cathedral window the heart we share with God. - Brendan

  3. Robert, I don't think I can quite get my head around that paradox myself. At certain points, I just have to let my right brain take over and not analyze it any more, though I love to parse it out, more than anything!

    This "eye-level" God — sheer, deep, sacred earthly — I call Life, which for me includes all the "permanence" of the eternal mystery that keeps the sun coming up and makes seeds buried deep and long know how to become what they become, and also encompasses the things themselves that fade and wither, becoming "food" for Life in the cycle. Maybe this is something like Robert was saying after all?

    1. Even those aspects of life , which imply a scale beyond our understanding, might change at some time. To me, the concept of permanence, feels like a mistaken perception from a human-centric mind - part of our struggle to understand.

  4. Hey, Brendan! Look what I found at Immrama, which is yours, no? This from 2004, which I found googling the poem you mentioned.

    The Rose Window (Ranier Maria Rilke)
    In there: The lazy pacing of their paws
    creates a stillness that's almost dizzying;
    and how, then, suddenly one of the cats
    takes the gaze on it, that strays now and then,
    violently into its great eye --
    The gaze that, as if seized by a whirlpool's
    circle, for a little while swims
    and then sinks and ceases to remember,
    when this eye, which apparently rests,
    opens and slams shut with a roaring
    and tears it deep into the red blood -- :
    Thus, long ago, out of the darkness
    the cathedrals' great rose windows
    seized a heart and tore it into God.

    -- From New Poems
    Transl. Edward Snow

  5. The blog is http://immrama.blogspot.com/. Maybe not you . . .

  6. I meant to write 'impermanence' not 'permanence' in the fourth line of my post.

  7. oh, the hymns are sung from the pulpit of the church of rilke. here and now and always. i'm strengthened by his passion. the chord of him, despite his faith, is wired from earth to foot to groin to soul to heavens. it is magnificent really.


  8. Yeah, Ruth, thas' me - along with 2 or 3 other blogs of earlier drafts of poems and all sorts of notes. Abandoned ritual shafts, left for others to exhume. Couldn't find the poem in Sherlock's mess of notes on my laptop, but it was squeezed there in the single file of Immrama posts. The mysterium of the great rose windows of the cathedrals is that we have slowly torn that heart out of God and brought it back home into our own -- 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!