There is much evidence on several levels that there are at least two major tasks to human life. The first task is to build a strong “container” or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold.
Most of us are so invested in first-half-of-life tasks by the age of forty that we can’t imagine there’s anything more to life. But if we stay there, it remains all about me.
The kitchen table had served its purpose. It had held me while I went through the first half of my journey. It had provided all of the things that were meant to be provided, and now the table was removed, because the journey was to go a different way. The journey was now within.
The same easy, black-and-white answers that comfort and reassure us now may later seem arrogant, naive, ignorant, and harmful, if we don’t move beyond Simplicity in the fullness of time.
It appears we need a goad, a wall to butt up against to create a proper ego structure and a strong identity. Such a foil is the way we internalize our own deeper values, educate our feeling function, and dethrone our own narcissism.
No matter how much life and circumstances may batter and bruise us on this journey of life, the God of our childhood is also the God of our adulthood and is also the God of our old age. God is faithful on this developing journey, ever seducing us along the way to remember who we are and from where we come.
Praying with Poetry
Father Richard finds wisdom and solace in the work of many poets, particularly when their work is spoken. He writes:
For poetry to be most effective, I believe it should be spoken and embodied. After all, God didn’t think, “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). God spoke, and creation vibrated into existence. Isn’t it just like our Creator to imprint the subtlety and mystery of creativity in the thisness of each voice? Poetry, like chant, is meant to vibrate through the uniqueness of our own voice or gestures for it to come alive. Don’t take my word for it! Find your favorite poem and see if it becomes real in a new way when you do more than read it silently.
One of my favorite poets is Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926). Here is one of his poems translated from German. If you wish, read it aloud or sign it slowly, meditatively.
I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.
If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.
Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, trans. Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy (New York: Riverhead Books, 1996, 2005), 65. Used with permission.
Image credit: A path from one week to the next—Benjamin Yazza, Untitled 13 and 7. Jenna Keiper, Bisti Badlands. Used with permission. Click here to enlarge image.
A hawk judges its environment for survival and eventually takes flight.