Wednesday, December 31

the point is to live everything

I picked up Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet for a few moments at a party in October. sometimes, I behave rather anti-socially at parties. music, small talk, and hors d'oeuvres aren't always quite enough. I want my eyes to have more to look at, my hands to have some kind of project or game. so at certain kinds of parties, even though it might be weird to be embroidering while the music blares, or crocheting as the small talk happens, or browsing bookshelves inbetween hors d'oeuvres, these are things I have been known to do.

the music and food and company at this particular October party was all lovely. the bookshelf of poetry in the corner took up a small set of moments that night, but those moments popped back into my head when I came across a quote from Rilke's book earlier. recently, On Being joined the handful of podcasts on my iPod, and I have been letting old episodes play in the background of my housework and bus riding. they are sometimes a little too earnest, these soft, meandering conversations between curious, profound people. there is almost an overly-tender, tenuous idealism hanging over it all. but usually they're interesting despite this. so when a friend posted a link to the On Being blogpost of today, I let my intrigue follow it, trailing its author from Anne Hillman's poem and the Rilke quote to the five questions below-- and eventually to google where I found this digitization of all ten letters. the inspirational tidbit in question is from letter 4. "have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language," translated Rilke advises. I was talking to my clever sister about this earlier--about the complex value of holding pluralities and indeterminacy in one's head. uncertainty is precious. ignorance is room for discovery. darkness and shadows make cradles for the candles and the lightbulbs. the blogpost at On Being suggests that to not know = to be alive.

these are the questions Parker J. Palmer has come up with, remixing Rilke and Hillman into New Year's inspiration:
  • How can I let go of my need for fixed answers in favor of aliveness?
  • What is my next challenge in daring to be human?
  • How can I open myself to the beauty of nature and human nature?
  • Who or what do I need to learn to love next? And next? And next?
  • What is the new creation that wants to be born in and through me?

I love questions. how they lead to more and more and more unknown, unsettled, untraveled spaces. the idea of living in the moment, living in questions, feels excessively appealing. and here, in no particular order, are my pondering, tentative responses:
  • keep asking questions. around and about and underneath all the answers you think you might be setting in with, there are always more questions.
  • prepare for and take responsibility for the things you want, even if you aren't sure you want them, even if you aren't sure how or why or when or what will happen as a result.
  • get a haircut.
  • walk to school one or two mornings every week.
  • collect and cultivate a few more potted plants.
  • listen more selflessly.
  • write on paper. take more notes. make more connections among the books and articles and conversations.
these aren't all. I'll come back and keep pondering.

years and their turnings are indeed arbitrary temporal thresholds. every millisecond could be just as momentous as this one we're waiting for at midnight tonight. that the digit at the end of 2014 is switching by one is pretty neat, and this sort of switch does only happen once every thirty-one-and-a-half-million seconds, but given the way we quantify time, every single moment some digit of the timestamp is switching, spinning, ticking away. we could use every one of those ticks as an excuse to throw confetti, to dance, to live. every moment is a beautiful new question.

No comments: