January 9, 2011


Unloading a Train Car, by Leonid Pasternak
(click to enlarge the painting)

Thus the overflow from things
pours into you.
Just as a fountain's higher basins
spill down like strands of loosened hair
into the lowest vessel,
so streams the fullness into you,
when things and thoughts cannot contain it.

From the Book of Hours II, 10


  1. I've been thesis writing these last few days and missed a few of Rilke's posts, but this one seems very apt.

    A containing thought to keep us going.

  2. I am grateful for the image of concentric layers of myself, expanding to catch the abundance I think will spill out wasted. And of course the overflow doesn't just sit there at the bottom of the fountain. It gets returned up to flow down again! Maybe next time it won't be overflow, but will go straight in. :)

  3. and is there a returning system to send the overflowing fullness back through the top for a reassessment? i surely hope so. steven

  4. I don't know, Steven (though I recognize that maybe your question is rhetorical, and probably unanswerable), but if there is a returning system, it is to be found in circular-cyclical time, I think, not linear. I've noticed that life keeps repeating messages to me, and at certain points I'm more conscious and pay better attention. I recognize something that has passed by before, but this time, suddenly it is bright and arresting! It seems like a spiral. What a gift, to be given and re-given what is too valuable to be lost!

  5. Causes me to think that the more work, the more thinking, the more feeling, the more coming into contact with one another, with new ideas, with nature and the world, that if we remain open, we might receive.

    But like you, it takes a recycling sometimes. Perhaps the first pass through I was full of other things, or maybe not open enough.

    I think too, how fountains sometimes catch debris. It might not be good, what fills us some moments. But then again, perhaps there is no good or bad, just an evolution of receiving.


  6. Personally, I don't know quite how to respond to this excerpt, perhaps because the notion of an "overflow of things" pouring "into" me, rather than over me (Zen detachment), can understood in several different ways. I can say, however, that I like the life-affirming interpretation and comments of Ruth.

  7. George, if you have time and care to, I would like to hear more about overflow, and into vs. over. Or I can email you with questions about it . . .

  8. tonight when I enter silence, I will imagine being a lowest vessel

  9. The opposites "higher basin" and "lower vessel" continue for me a stream of thoughts "in opposite". Substituting "God" for "overflow of things" points to a human/divine construct. Or the fullness being the serenity from a higher force that cannot be bridled by thoughts and things. Thoughts on this passage are still forming in my mind. Rilke leaves a door open for me always....


"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!