Saturday, August 13, 2011

Work of the heart -- a Saturday reprise

In 1914, at age 39, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke had a substantial body of published work behind him. "Work of sight is achieved," he wrote; "now for some heart work."

That's more or less what I have been doing on this site for the past three years: heart work. For seventy years it was sight work: looking, reading, teaching, writing books. Now I'm more interested in trying to discern the contours of the journey, the shape of the landscape I have traversed. How did the things seen fit together? How did the fit determine what things were seen? Heart work.

It's a pleasant task, and these daily posts are part of it. It is, as you have suggested, the sort of work that takes place on the porch of life. I imagine a broad summer verandah, perhaps in the south, with cicadas singing and constellations of fireflies mimicking the stars. A pink moon rising in the east. From afar off, the flicker of heat lightnin'.

In Letters To A Young Poet, Rilke advises: "Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." Good advice, and I would like to think that now is that time far in the future when whatever answers might be found will reveal themselves. But they will come, I am sure -- if they come at all -- in solitude and silence and love. A meteor streaks the mirroring sky. An alignment of planets in the west. Listen! A whisper. A calling into the thick of things.

(This post originally appeared in May, 2007.)