The Other Side of the Wall

Recently I read in one of Rilke’s poems the following beautiful words. The image has stayed with me hauntingly. Talking to God who Rilke imagines living in the room next door he writes:

I know you are all alone in that room.
If you should be thirsty, there’s no one
to get you a glass of water.
I wait listening, always. Just give me a sign!
I’m right here.

As it happens, the wall between us
is very thin. Why couldn’t a cry
from one of us
break it down? It would crumble
easily,
it would barely make a sound.

The picture this put in my mind has caused me to listen differently, especially as I am waking up in the morning. Just on the other side of these walls, who stirs? Are you there?

To add to the power this held for me, just a couple of nights ago I watched an extraordinary movie directed by Jane Campion, Bright Star. Her movies regularly contain images that come out of the screen and take up residence with me. This film is about the poet John Keats and his love affair with Fanny Brawne. When Keats was ill and staying in her family home, she would go to bed at night knowing he was just on the other side of the wall. Woven through the story, Campion keeps going back to shots of Fanny touching the wall lovingly, putting her ear to it with a tender and seraphic expression on her face.

Then tonight we had an especially strong experience in our dream group. Driving home, these images spoke again to me. Dreamwork is like listening through the wall, as Rilke listened for God, as Fanny listened for any breath coming the one she loved so strongly. The wall of the dream can feel so thin, the murmurings so intelligible. Other times the wall feels thicker and we have to hold the posture of listening more intently, waiting for a flutter of meaning to flow through.

It is a posture to hold for living. I want to keep a mental picture of the actress, Abbie Cornish, listening through the wall as she did to remind me that it isn’t always having of what we long for that matters, it is the longing itself that keeps us vibrantly hopeful and alive.

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