Holy Longing

Yesterday’s writing on Absence and Presence brought out deeply poetic responses from a few readers, which move me to say a bit more about what I was experiencing, and include Rainer Maria Rilke’s voice on my musings. I knew in the state I was in that picking up his Book of Hours would bring comfort and insight to me.

Longing is what I was feeling; a longing so profound it is voiceless, it dare not speak or rise toward the surface. Longing to be held in a quiet cave, like atomic power. Does the sun long for the earth? Yet should it merge with earth it would destroy it. Does the earth long for the sun? Yet she keeps a careful orbit and spins and dances the seasons to display her longing without racing toward him.

My longing causes me to want to jump, like the moth, into the flame and dissolve. It is a power to be respected, and managed, to be felt but not fully released, to be contained without dangerous oppression or compression. Sitting with it is sometimes all I can do. This sitting can be the most exhausting labor of all my life.

I found this stanza in one of Rilke’s poems:

You, my own deep soul,
trust me. I will not betray you.
My blood is alive with many voices
telling me I am made of longing.

And this poem:

You, God, who live next door —

If at times, through the long night, I trouble you
with my urgent knocking —
this is why: I hear you breathe so seldom.
I know you’re 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 wouldn’t a cry
from one of us
break it down? It would crumble

it would barely make a sound.

One Response to “Holy Longing”

  1. Joy Parker Says:

    Thanks for the expansion of yesterday’s blog. When I read Rilke’s poem, I recognize the heroism of anyone willing to “stay” with their darker emotions long enough to allow them to “speak clearly.” Honestly, people who do that should be hailed as heroes. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through some of the stuff that you and I have been through, but yet it has given us such rich gifts and insights into ourselves, others, and life–and continues to do so. These sorts of experiences might sometimes feel like damnation but they are really salvation.

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