December 21, 2011

Necessary Experiences

abstract photo by George McHenry of Transit Notes

Two inner experiences were necessary for the creation of these books (The Sonnets to Orpheus and The Duino Elegies). One is the increasingly conscious decision to hold life open to death. The other is the spiritual imperative to present, in this wider context, the transformations of love that are not possible in a narrower circle where Death is simply excluded as The Other.

Letter to Nanny von Escher
December 22, 1923


  1. Thanks again, Ruth and Lorenzo, for featuring one of my abstract photos. As for Rilke's letter, I suppose this is the great balancing act we all face—to be open to death, rather than live in constant fear of it, and yet to live in a way that offers the world transformative love. I might quibble a bit with the notion that death can be excluded in this life as "The Other." It seems to me that life and death are always dancing intimately with one another—two sides of the same coin, each side, by contrast, providing meaning to the other.

  2. George, it has been a real honor and delight to “shop” the gallery of your photos that you openly shared with us to use here. As you know, I first posted this today as a “painting” only to discover from you via email that it is a photograph. That is so wonderful, that you see as a painter what the creator has given.

    This year of Rilke readings has helped me see life and death more open to one another in the blend of experience; that may be what I have learned more than anything from him. In fact I did not think that he was saying here that he would ever exclude death as The Other, but that some do, in a narrower circle exclude it.

  3. You are absolutely right, Ruth. Unfortunately, I misread the statement by overlooking the "not" in the last line.

  4. (I'm glad I'm not the only one who misses things like that . . . )

  5. I like the photo. The colors and the layers. Kind of transparent. Almost feel a texture. All done by camera? Pretty cool.


"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!