Posts Tagged ‘Rilke’

The Dyer’s Hand

August 15, 2011

The wall of my office is a patchwork of quotations, scotch-taped cutouts hanging from the bookcases every which way. One of them has been reaching out to me for days.

My nature is subdued to what it works in, like the dyer’s hands.
-William Shakespeare

The unconscious works interestingly, in that I have been hearing in my mind the words, “the dyer’s hands.” For days, maybe some weeks, the phrase drifts in. I had a sense of what that quote means to me, but finally thought, “Ok, just sit down and think about this, pay attention. Why do the words keep coming into my head?”

“My nature is subdued…” Start with that. Is nature always subdued to what it works in? Does it mean that no matter where one goes, what one does, nature is both amplified by that and subdued at the same time? I believe it means that. My nature is Nature. It is as big and complex and endless and multivalent as that. Of course it has to be trained, domesticated and subdued to live and work in the human manufactured world.

What part of my nature has been subdued by living alone on a mountain for these past 7 years? The mountain colored everything, like the dyer’s hand is colored. Now I am living in town half of the time. What part of my nature is subdued by being in that landscape? It also colors everything. Doing dreamwork has a hue, being part of a business networking group has a hue, my new Tae Kwan Do practice has a hue, friendships add their color. Is it so that none of these are “me” or my nature, they are the color on the outside, like dye on the dyer’s hand.

So what is my nature? That’s the question. Wash away all of the colors and what do we see? For some reason my psyche has been urging this question.

Perhaps if I live into the question for a bit, I will stumble into the answer, as Rilke suggests.

Uses of Sorrow

September 19, 2010

I am suspicious, I must say, of too much of the “positive thinking” trend nowadays, as if there were no point to true melancholy or utter sorrow. I don’t think life can be without them, nor do I think I would want life without them. This is a world of opposites, and you can’t have one without the other, one can’t exist without the other. Buddha calls for the middle path, but there is no middle path without experiencing fully the opposites. These thoughts have been with me in recent experiences of deep grief.

Rilke wrote in a letter to Madame M.R.:
“What you say of your life — that its most painful event was also its greatest — that is, so to speak, the secret theme of these pages, indeed the inner belief that gave rise to them. It is the conviction that what is greatest in our existence, what makes it precious beyond words, has the modesty to use sorrow in order to penetrate our soul.”

I was reading today about initiations in the Mithraic mysteries and other forms of initiation. The intent of these rites is transformation, as from caterpillar to butterfly. To achieve the metamorphosis, the initiate passes through tremendous ordeals, and through them experiences otherwise unavailable ecstasies and wisdom. I believe life works this way.

I don’t invite sorrow, nor do I wish it upon anyone, but when it is delivered I respect it as itself. Sorrow is not a problem to solve but a great power.