Friday, November 01, 2013
We are the consciousness of the universe
The leaves are raked and bagged. The grass is mowed for the last time. The geraniums smile weak goodbyes. Now, as if by some law of compensation, the curtain opens on the sky. The great starless spaces of autumn fall like a black velvet drape into the west. The show opens. The sky begins.
As the Sun sinks beneath the horizon, the Pleiades rise in the east, heralding the arrival of the spectacular winter stars. Aldebaran, the red eye of the Bull. Sirius, the Dog Star. Rigel and Betelgeuse in Orion. Castor and Pollux, the Twins. Old Capella, the She-Goat, with her Kids. And Jupiter, blazing this winter in Gemini, hanging at the zenith like a celestial lamp when I go out to fetch the paper in the pre-dawn dark.
"For one can always watch," said Rilke in the Duino Elegies, "we, spectators always, everywhere, looking at, never out of, everything."
Rainer Maria Rilke turned often to the stars in his poetry. "There, look: the Rider, the Staff, and that fuller constellation they call Fruitgarland. Then, further, towards the Pole: Cradle, Way, the Burning Book, Doll, Window." New, because he newly named them.
When we have stopped watching, stopped naming, then the things of this world will be only their visible selves, said Rilke. The winter stars will be only winters stars. Those most ancient of our household gods, those experienced lights, will have become indifferent. "The most visible joy," he said, "can only reveal itself to us when we've transformed it, within." It is we who must transform the stars. It is we who must give them an invisible reality, beyond the visible. By watching. By naming: Rigel, Betelgeuse, Capella, Aldebaran. They depend upon us, said Rilke, we are their transformers, "our whole existence, the flights and plunges of our love, all fit us for this task."