It is dreadful, the total spiritual impotence I suffer at this time, just because it is combined with a consuming longing, with a spiritual ardour – and so without form that I don’t even know what it is I am missing.
There is an indescribable joy that is kindled in us just as inexplicably as the apostle’s unmotivated exclamation: ‘Rejoice and again I say, Rejoice’. —Not a joy over this or that, but a full-bodied shout of the soul ‘with tongue and mouth and from the bottom of the heart’: ‘I rejoice in my joy, of, with, at, for, through, and with my joy’ — a heavenly refrain which suddenly interrupts our other songs, a joy which like a breath of air cools and refreshes, a puff from the trade winds which blows across the plains of Mamre to the eternal mansions.
— Kierkegaard, Journals (tr. A. Hannay)
It was cold and windy, scarcely the day
to take a walk on that long beach
Everything was withdrawn as far as possible,
indrawn: the tide far out, the ocean shrunken,
seabirds in ones or twos.
The rackety, icy, offshore wind
numbed our faces on one side;
disrupted the formation
of a lone flight of Canada geese;
and blew back the low, inaudible rollers
in upright, steely mist.
The sky was darker than the water
–it was the color of mutton-fat jade.
Along the wet sand, in rubber boots, we followed
a track of big dog-prints (so big
they were more like lion-prints). Then we came on
lengths and lengths, endless, of wet white string,
looping up to the tide-line, down to the water,
over and over. Finally, they did end:
a thick white snarl, man-size, awash,
rising on every wave, a sodden ghost,
falling back, sodden, giving up the ghost…
A kite string?–But no kite.
— Elizabeth Bishop, from ‘The End of March’
To think means compromising yourself.
— Heidegger (via Michael Tweed)
Sei allem Abschied voran, als wäre er hinter
dir, wie der Winter, der eben geht.
Denn unter Wintern ist einer so endlos Winter,
Daß, überwinternd, dein Herz überhaupt übersteht.
Be ahead of all parting, as though it already were
behind you, like the winter that has just gone by.
For among these winters there is one so endlessly winter
that only by wintering through it will your heart survive.
— Rilke, from The Sonnets to Orpheus, II, 13 (tr. S. Mitchell)
After all things could come together, it sometimes happened. There was some interplay between what you did and what happened to you. Currents could gather under the froth of your failure. Or a strange synchronicity would reveal itself, as when random numbers start to form a pattern. It wasn’t that you made your life (only an idiot would believe that) or that life made you: but sometimes acts and events coalesced, pulling you into the world and the world into you, hiding you in the world’s inner space.
‘I couldn’t read, I could hardly think properly, it was as if I were being dismantled from within. I didn’t know which direction to go, as if my will had been taken away. A hole was how I described it to myself, like dropping into a hole and not being able to look up.’
‘One day I drew a line that meant stop and a line that meant start and stepped from line to line. I’d move the starting line every day and step across it. It was a simple question of life and death, a simple question for once! Going forward would mean to renew the ties to life, going back would be to feel the pull of death. As usual the voice was close, opening its mouth to tell me to listen, to tell me I didn’t even know how to listen.’
Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
contradictions… for the god
wants to know himself in you.
— Rilke, from an uncollected poem (tr. S. Mitchell)