Saturday, August 29, 2015

Blowin' in the Wind: Rainer Maria Rilke

(Blowin’ in the Wind is a regular feature on my blog consisting of an assortment of nature writings – hymns, songs, excerpts, prayers, Bible readings, poems or other things – pieces I may not have written but that inspire me or have given me joy. I trust they will do the same for you.)

I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say:

May what I do flow from me like a river,
the way it is with children --
no forcing, no holding back.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

~~Rainer Maria Rilke            

For many years I’ve run across quotations in larger writings from the pen of poet Rainer Maria Rilke, have often even received or sent art cards featuring lines from his work. It finally got me to thinking: who is this guy who so often seems to reflect contemplations from the depths of my spirit? And so I long ago determined I needed some day to track down a bit of his work and spend some time with it, and, the present being a time of personal sabbath, I thought this could be that time. I 
                                                                                 did not have to look far.

I casually asked my older sister, with whom Gail and I often stay in Chicago, if she was familiar with Rilke. “Oh, certainly,” said Carolyn, “I have several of his books,” and she soon proceeded to lay a half dozen before me. I chose Letters to a Young Poet, one I recall having often seen referenced, and another, unique to him that my sister liked, a novel, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. (He wrote far more poetry than fiction, though this one is somewhat autobiographical.) They have been enjoyable reads.

Rilke was born in 1875 and wrote during the first quarter of the 20th Century; he lived a fairly eccentric life as a poet artist, often surrounded by others of Bohemian lifestyle. As a devout Catholic, however, Christian themes dominate his work. Interestingly, New Age and self-help genres have often picked up his material, though I am, of course, not a fan of these genera. He died relatively young, of leukemia in 1925.

The above quotation is an excerpt from Rilke’s Book of Hours, a modern translation of his original The Book of Hours, published in 1905. The passage, which I ran into earlier this summer in yet another book, catches me during a personal season of unique life transition; it speaks firmly to me of the yearning to release into God’s hands total control of one’s life and work, as waters emptying into a sea. Of course, for the Christ follower this ought not be a seasonal yearning at all, but rather a life-long pursuit. Yet there are times of extraordinary change in one’s life where this simple longing seems more acute. Such is this time for me. Nothing in particular is ‘rocking my world,’ as they say, I just sense something significant happening as I look to a new season.

May you yearn in a like manner! May you be freed to let God’s fullness of life flow through you (Psalm 16:11, John 10:10), without forcing, childlike, that even in the midst of life’s perturbations, you might find yourself singing more and releasing more into God’s amazing and expansive grace.

~~RGM, August 29 2015

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