I have a bit of a tendency toward thinking about the morbid. As I type this, my black lacquered nails tap the keys furiously.
This morning I found out that a friend is in very critical condition. I’m thinking about death and about losing two legs and how the unconscious self recognizes the shearing off of self.
This all started with reading Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Rilke’s “Requiem for a Friend”. Upon reading this poem for the first time, I felt such a deep resonance with its direct addresses, its wanting to speak of the usually unspeakable. There is an intimacy and childlike pleading that occurs within its confines that plucks me like a string. Its beauty is tragic in a loss that feels without bottom. I am taking my time re-reading it and want to invest the time to get into the poet’s perspective of life after several months of not having that person in it. What does the five month mark look like? The 12 year mark?
As my father put it so eloquently, you get to a point where death is seen as a positive option. When you’re young, there is an interesting dichotomy of reckless immortality mingled with the delicacy of not being fully formed yet. You think or know you will get a chance to experience everything that is ours to enjoy before the final closing of the eyes. You think.
Poetry speaks to those unknowns; it blankets the chill of the uncertain by giving voice to the scary truths and possibilities that for some echo in the deepest chambers and for others are on the cusp of the line of vision, dictating how their steps play out.
This translates to how faith works itself out, for me personally. I have a quote by Lesslie Newbigin on my desk that drives it home for me:
“I do not want to suggest that faith is easy. There are black hours when faith seems to die, when illusions seem true and the truth seems an illusion. But I know that they will pass, not because I have a firm grasp of Him, but because He has His grip on me and I know that I cannot evade Him. He is the living Lord, who was dead and is alive forevermore and has the keys of death and hell. I believe in Him: I can do no other.”
And so the best that I can come up with is to live in the potential of the day. To drill down in the poetry we need to fully realize this life. Rilke included.