dual personalities

Tag: Rainer Maria Rilke

Flowery May, tra la

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“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.”
–  Rainer Maria Rilke

From the mail department

screen shot 2019-01-07 at 10.32.14 amI received an email, of which the following is a tidbit, from one of my oldest BFFs to whom I had sent Alleghany Uprising (1939) for Christmas.

Allegheny Uprising was GREAT!!  You would think after reading your blog for years that I would have seen more John Wayne movies, but we had only seen a few classics (Stagecoach, The Quiet Man). That is definitely going to change and “watch more John Wayne movies” may actually qualify as one of my resolutions this year!!

I ask, what could be a better new year’s resolution than that?

As the poet Fernando Pessoa lamented, “One of my life’s tragedies is to have already read Pickwick Papers–I can’t go back and read it for the first time.”  Alas, there are practically no John Wayne movies I can watch for the first time, but, readers, you can!

My son-in-law (DN) is woefully behind in his old movie watching, so I gave him The Great Escape (1963), The Magnificent Seven (1960) and The Thomas Crown Affair (1967) for Christmas–all of which he has not seen. Think of watching them for the first time!

[I must say there are some real spoilers in this trailer!]

Also from the mailbag: One of the books I bought at an estate sale last Saturday was a copy of Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, a favorite of mine. In it he recommends two books that “are always among my things…

…the Bible and the books of the great Danish writer, Jens Peter Jacobsen. I wonder whether you know his works…Get yourself the little volume of Six Stories of J.P. Jacobsen and his novel Niels Lyhne…A world will open up to you, the happiness, the abundance, the incomprehensible immensity of a world. Live a while in these books, learn from them what seems to you worth learning, but above all love them. This love will be repaid to you a thousand and a thousand times…

Sold!

I had never heard of J.P. Jacobsen before, but I will “live a while in these books.”

It’s January–try something new!

Food for thought toward the end of winter

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In the bitter cold of winter the trees stand bare and seem to be dead. But in the spring, they burst forth into leaf and flower, and the first fruits begin to appear. So it was with the Master’s death and resurrection, and so it is with all who faithfully bear the burden of suffering and death. Though they may seem crushed and dead, they will yet bear beautiful flowers and glorious fruits of eternal life.

–Sadhu Sundar Singh

Being means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything!

–Rainer Maria Rilke

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Ah, the last day of February–it is warming up but the clouds are back. Our flyover weather guru Dave Murray tells us that the “see-saw pattern of the winter” will continue into at least the beginning of the spring season. It was ever thus. Yesterday I returned a book to our west campus library–walking the block and a half there and back without a coat. The wind whipped my hair around and I arrived back at my office with that wind-blown, right-off-the-range look–a disheveled old lady. Well, I do the best I can to stay “sheveled,” but sometimes it is a losing battle.

It seems comfortable to sink down on a sofa in a corner, to look, to listen. Then it happens that two figures standing with their backs against the window appear against the branches of a spreading tree. With a shock of emotion one feels ‘There are figures without features robed in beauty’. In the pause that follows while the ripples spread, the girl to whom one should be talking says to herself, ‘He is old’. But she is wrong. It is not age; it is that a drop has fallen; another drop. Time has given the arrangement another shake. Out we creep from the arch of the currant leaves, out into a wider world. The true order of things – this is our perpetual illusion – is now apparent. Thus in a moment, in a drawing-room, our life adjusts itself to the majestic march of day across the sky.

–Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Woodcuts are by Walter J. Phillips and Erich Buchwald-Zinnwald.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”*

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I have been super busy at work lately.

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Thankfully my office is a pleasant space filled with lovely things I have brought from home.

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And thankfully I like my job.

Each day I live I thank the Lord
I do the work I love;
And in it find a rich reward,
All price and praise above.
For few may do the work they love,
The fond unique employ,
That fits them as a hand a glove,
And gives them joy.

Oh gentlefolk, do you and you
Who toil for daily hire,
Consider that the job you do
Is to your heart’s desire?
Aye, though you are to it resigned,
And will no duty shirk,
Oh do you in your private mind
Adore your work?

Twice happy man whose job is joy,
Whose hand and heart combine,
In brave and excellent employ
As radiantly as mine!
But oh the weary, dreary day,
The wear and tear and irk
Of countless souls who cannot say:
‘I love my work.’

–Robert Service

And remember: “If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.”  (Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet)

*Philippians 4:13

“Oh quickly disappearing photograph in my more slowly disappearing hand”*

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Today is the birthday of our pater, who would be 95. He died 25 years ago.

As I grow older, I realize that I take after him much more than I had previously thought. Although I was much (so much) closer to my mother, we were not as alike as my sister and she were. I was always the shy one, and my father was like that. Also, my mother was the really intelligent one of the pair. My father and I were/are just smart enough to impress some people.

My father was a historian who had his heroes, as do I.  His tended to be military heroes, like Napoleon and MacArthur and Grant. It would be interesting now to talk to him about them. What was the appeal of Bonaparte? (He was a collector, among many things, of Napoleon memorabilia.)

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I think my father would have really enjoyed the job that I have now, working at a big university in a small school where lots of interesting, intelligent people come every day to learn about interesting things without the pressure of grades or homework and the interference of parents and peers. It is the perfect place for people with minds like ours–curious about many things, but without the desire/drive to go too far. I finished my master’s thesis in great part to show him that I could (he didn’t finish his). I’m not sure if he noticed.

Well, self-knowledge is a good thing. It keeps you humble and it can keep you out of trouble.

When I toast ANCIII tonight–only once because he was, after all, a terrific alcoholic–I  will also toast the wonderful Doris Day, who turned 95 yesterday. You go, girl!

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P.S. I Watched The Outsiders (1983) and the book is better. Big Surprise.

*”Portrait of My Father as a Young Man” by Rainer Maria Rilke

“Oh, Starbuck! it is a mild, mild wind, and a mild looking sky.”*

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“Children are still the way you were as a child, sad and happy in just the same way–and if you think of your childhood, you once again live among them, among the solitary children.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

It has been a busy week. Little Lottiebelle went home.

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She also had her first appointment at the pediatrician’s office.

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The little guy had to stay in the NICU, but he got a new pair of little man boat shoes. OMG. Can you stand it?

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He came through his hernia surgery yesterday like a champ. We are hoping he’ll come home next week.

This weekend I’m going to get ready for the arrival of daughter #1 on Tuesday and then daughter #1 on Friday for a bridal shower next Saturday. You know, this means stocking the fridge/pantry with Diet Coke, white wine, leafy greens, and Flaming Hot Cheetos.

I’ll be ready.

In the meantime, did you know that S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders turns 50 this year? It may be time to re-read this classic.

“I’ve been thinking about it, and that poem, that guy that wrote it, he meant you’re gold when you’re a kid, like green. When you’re a kid everything’s new, dawn. It’s just when you get used to everything that it’s day. Like the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That’s gold. Keep that way, it’s a good way to be. I want you to tell Dally to look at one. He’ll probably think you’re crazy, but ask for me. I don’t think he’s ever really seen a sunset. And don’t be so bugged over being a greaser. You still have a lot of time to make yourself be what you want. There’s still lots of good in the world. Tell Dally. I don’t think he knows.

Stay gold, Ponyboy.”

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Have a good weekend!

*Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; the top photo is little ANC III with ANC jr. on a beach in Italy in the mid-1920s

“Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”*

What a way to start the new year! According to our local weather guru Dave Murray, The Great Flood of 2015 is a very big deal.

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Photo from FOX2 Facebook page

“During this event it has forced the closure of Interstate 70 in two locations, Interstate 44 in three locations, and Interstate 55 (at times overnight). This did not occur in the Great Flood of ’93, nor the December Flood of ’82…This flooding event is nothing less than historic and will serve as the new bench mark, the historic reference, for the Meramec River Basin, including the Bourbeuse.”

We who are high and dry take it all rather lightly, but I talked to a delivery guy at work who lives in House Springs who said he can’t even get home. That’s intense.

I am grateful that I can get home and that it is warm and dry there. All I have to do this weekend is take down my Christmas tree and box up all the decorations. This is not a small task, but it is not sand-bagging.

So a toast to and a prayer for all those who are fighting the flood and also for those newspeople who are in the field and in the studio reporting on the flood.

“And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done, full of tasks, claims, and demands; and let us see that we learn to take it without letting fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those who demand of it necessary, serious, and great things.”

–Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke, 1892-1910

 

*Brad Paisley

Food for thought: fear not

St. George window in the Princeton United Methodist Church by Tiffany Studio of New York City

St. George window in the Princeton United Methodist Church by Tiffany Studio of New York City

“How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.

So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud shadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Alexander fighting dragons, Le livre et la vraye hystoire du bon roy Alixandre, Paris, c. 1420–25

Alexander fighting dragons, Le livre et la vraye hystoire du bon roy Alixandre, Paris, c. 1420–25

Kunisada dragon

Kunisada dragon

Arthur Rackham

Arthur Rackham

'St. George and the Dragon', by Wassily Kandinsky, 1911

‘St. George and the Dragon’, by Wassily Kandinsky, 1911

 'The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun', by William Blake


‘The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun’, by William Blake

The Reluctant Dragon by Maxfield Parrish

The Reluctant Dragon by Maxfield Parrish

The secret to life

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Or as Louis L’Amour said,

“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast,
and you miss all you are traveling for.”

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Enjoy the little things…

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pillows

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And remember…

You are not too old
and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths
where life calmly gives out
it’s own secret

–Rainer Maria Rilke

Have a nice Wednesday and repeat to yourself: “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” (Emerson, of course)

Enjoying Rilke

I went through a Rilke phase in my youth and recently rediscovered him. He was a thoughtful kind of guy and a fine poet. I like his lyrical poems, especially “Ich lese es Heraus aus deinem Wort” (translated):

I read it here in your very word,
in the story of the gestures
with which your hands cupped themselves
around our becoming – limiting, warm.

You said live out loud, and die you said lightly,
and over and over again you said be.

But before the first death came murder.
A fracture broke across the rings you’d ripened,
A screaming shattered the voices

that had just come together to speak you,
to make of you a bridge
over the chasm of everything.

And what they have stammered ever since
are fragments
of your ancient name.

But I also like his prose. Rilke was a writer who was prepared to suffer for his art (perhaps a little self-indulgently) — someone who would not let mundane matters such as fame intrude in his inner life. In this passage from The Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge Rilke perfectly captures what writers go through as their work gets misinterpreted (as it so often does) or they let other people define them.

There I sat with your books, obstinate man, trying to understand them as the others do, who don’t leave you in one piece but chip off their little portion and go away satisfied. For I still didn’t understand fame, that public demolition of someone who is in the process of becoming, whose building-site the mob breaks into, knocking down his stones…Don’t ask anyone to speak about you, not even contemptuously. And when time passes and you notice that your name is circulating among men, don’t take this more seriously than anything else you might find in their mouths. Think rather that it has become cheapened and throw it away. Take another name, any other, so that God can call you in the night. And hide it from everyone.

I always think of poor old J.D. Salinger when I read that passage. Salinger was quite right to retire from the crass attention of the public and I guess Rilke felt the same way. Here’s to both of them!