Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors
which it passes to a row of ancient trees.
You look, and soon these two worlds both leave you
one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth.
leaving you, not really belonging to either,
not so hopelessly dark as that house that is silent,
not so unswervingly given to the eternal as that thing
that turns to a star each night and climbs–
leaving you (it is impossible to untangle the threads)
your own life, timid and standing high and growing,
so that, sometimes blocked in, sometimes reaching out,
one moment your life is a stone in you, and the next, a star.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
What does it mean to be human? We live a paradoxical condition in which we exist between two worlds. Just as the earth has cycles, so too does our life. We experience day and night, sadness and joy, fear and courage and darkness and light. Never one to dwell in one condition alone, I dance across the invisible barrier between and feel the pulse of this oneness. Setting aside absolutes requires an acknowledgement of this paradox with a comfort sitting in the unknowns of this same revelation.
We are all meant to live this human experience filled with silent houses and heavy stones all the while setting our intention toward the stars. It is only with this intention that we are able to float above adversity, leaning into both the darkness and light while claiming none.
Nothing is permanent. Just as Rilke writes, “Slowly the west reaches for clothes of new colors” the night turns to day and “one part climbs toward heaven, one sinks to earth.” No single experience remains. The beautiful moments in which a child is born are blurred by the many that follow in raising that child. The quiet and intensely beautiful connection of making love with a soulmate is jolted away by the commitments of a busy day. The memory of holding the hand of a loved one as they pass transforms to an acute feeling of separateness with two physical bodies now one.
Wandering the earth awake, I refuse to be claimed by any one disposition. Rather than walking on either side of a flowing spring, I prefer to walk down the middle with playful waves nipping at my ankles and murky depths below. It is only in this between I feel most like myself. Never one to find any particular identity that fits, I prefer to look to the stars even when my feet are firmly planted on the ground. The unrest that accompanies me is never far behind and the disappointment in my flawed humanness is sometimes too much to bear.
Rilke often speaks of this between expressing a longing that persists. I am grateful in finding his poems, each word speaking to my restless soul and lifting me up when all else seems an illusion. When my final moment arrives and I am moving toward the stars, I will gladly release the cords of connection to this place and fly freely to the next. It is only among the stardust and embers of the ancient that peaceful hearts resides. It is only in giving up the repeat of a single sunset that one captures the universe.