April 15, 2011

Survival of the Soul

Two White Butterflies

What more can we accomplish now than the survival of the soul. Harm and decay are not more present than before, perhaps, only more apparent, more visible and measurable. For the harm which humanity has lived daily since the beginning cannot be increased. But there is increasing insight into humanity's capacity for unspeakable harm, and perhaps where it leads. So much in collapse, so much seeking new ways out. Room for what new can happen.

Letter to Karl and Elisabeth von der Heydt
November 6, 1914


  1. Reminds me of a line from Holderlin: Where there is danger, there, too is hope. Nothing like the outbreak of Europe's first modern holocaust to give accent to Rilke's "So much in collapse, so much in seeking new ways out." It also affords a ray of light into the present, where so much seems in inescapable decline. "Room for what new can happen." Room, inside collapse. And this: perhaps a culture survives its own dying. Rilke, a great admirer of Holderlin, perhaps saw the old foundations of Poetry collapsing in the First World War, and yet, as he wrote in "To Holderlin," found faith in that:

    ... Ah, what the greatest have longed for: you built it, free of desire,
    stone upon stone, until it stood. And when it collapsed,
    even then you weren’t bewildered.

    -- Brendan

  2. O Brendan, your comment mixed with Rilke's letter passage: perhaps a culture survives its own dying. And where else can it, but the soul? What I hope hope hope, every day, and I don't mean just in the sense of I hope this will happen, but more in the sense of believing it, is that as things worsen (as harm becomes more apparent) our souls really are what heal the dying culture, not just make it survive. If I envision a dystopia as the worst scenario, even then I can see people bonded in love and caring. Somehow ripping away the illusion of utopia maybe helps us open to the new, the hope, the lack of bewilderment.

    I'm probably just stating the obvious!

  3. How's the adage go? -- "Things got so much better when I gave up hope." Gave up the expectation. The vision. Began to see what really is there. And go with that, like an explorer, like a lover, like a futurist, like a poet. I think I'll repost today a set of writings I thought are helpful for seeing what is on the horizon. Look for "For Present (and Past) Disorders, Therapeutic Jolts of Future Shock" - Brendan

  4. Yes, death of a vision, as they say. I remember the old Bill Gothard seminars, oh there is a blast from the past ....

    I'll look for the post at Oran's Well.

  5. This is something that has been weighing on my own mind recently — the question of how an individual soul can survive, perhaps even flourish, in an increasingly hostile environment. One answer, I think, is to always live creatively in acts both large and small. The other wisdom that comes to mind is from Pascal: "In difficult times, you should always carry something beautiful in your mind."

  6. Those are both beautiful challenges, George. I want to meditate on them this weekend: what they mean, and very likely how they can function in tandem.

  7. What more can we accomplish now than the survival of the soul.

    This is epic. Rilke.


"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!