There exists a place in our minds where records play. That is an obsolete term, I know. I could say internal itune, but somehow record seems to fit, perhaps because of its rotational motion. I've just finished revising the novel for Calyx Press and now I've got nothing to do but wait for the delivery of my twins. I am at this gray place again; it is March and I am in the house alone. I always seek this downtime and then when it comes, all I do is play the same record of worry, insecurity and discontent in my head. I'd rather not indulge myself in the lyrics. So, in order to pull the needle off the record, I've decided to spend lent rereading Rilke's Book of Hours (Love Poems to God).
I have discovered, within the last year, that my spirituality is more transcendental than dogmatic. This blog has helped me do that. Although I respect and miss the traditions and ritual that go with religion, it seems the bad outweighs the good. Religion for me, seems to be patriarchal, confining, perfunctory, and political. I find more inspiration from a poem than I do a prayer. The link to God exists when I create or walk the woods, not when I piously bow my head in a pew. When I read the following poem by Rilke, my spirit soars. This is different from the confinement I feel at Church where I am a follower and a repeater, repeating the words I am told to repeat, executing motions I am told to execute.
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world
I may not ever complete the last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God, that primordial tower.
I have been circling for thousands of years
and I still don't know: am I a falcon
a storm or a great song?
Joanna Macy, a renown Buddhist scholar and social activist writes about her discovery of this poem in the preface to the centenary edition of Rilke's Hours:
I felt a sense of release, as if I had been let out of a cage I had not known I was in. Rilke's images lent some pattern, even meaning to a life I thought had failed in its spiritual vocation...Rilke reminded me that if my spiritual appetite was greater than the tedious, cramped theorizing of the theologians, so was God. I could almost feel again the sense of belonging and purpose that I had thought I had forfeited.
I wholly agree with Macy about being “let out of a cage” and feeling “again the sense of belonging and purpose,” but it is a solitary effort. There is no sense of guilt to keep you in check, no demands of a community to keep you going back. You must go back by your own convictions and sometimes the record that plays in your head convinces you otherwise. It's doing that right now as I write this. I cannot, however, deny the line “I live my life in widening circles”; this speaks directly to the spirit and its maneuverings. It is a truth; the spirit is a seeker. And it is such a truth that parts the needle from the record, that sets you back on the creative/spiritual path. I need to remind myself now of my own words:
The purpose of being a writer is to rid yourself of the ambiguous, the gray, to pronounce your words with clarity and conviction. To crawl up from the void. To achieve the miraculous voice of unique self despite all the other amalgams of voices speaking in your ear.
Rilke himself told a friend in one of his letters that the process of writing “strengthened and stimulated the inspiration.” I agree with this entirely; the work of writing is itself inspiration. When I don't do it, I feel as if I have failed myself in some way. This is why I am somewhat conflicted about raising babies. Over and over again I ask, How do I keep this allegiance to myself?