Friday, 22 April 2016

Bending before the storm - whatever your storm may be

It was clear to the occupants of the little village that a terrible storm was going to sweep down upon them, a taifung. Knowing that their fragile dwellings would be swept away, along with their lives, people ran out of the village and began tying themselves to the biggest, strong-looking trees they could find.

Except one man, who led his wife and his son into a bamboo grove and made them tie themselves to the three strongest bamboos they could see.  

Other villagers, running past them, cried out that the man was mad, they would all die, how strong is a bamboo compared to the trees on the hillside?

Night fell; the wind grew relentlessly in its power, until it roared and screamed through the village, destroying all in its path. The three bamboos were flattened to the ground, with the man and his family tied to them. They wept in terror.

Eventually, dawn broke on a scene of utter devastation.The storm had rushed on and left them. The family untied themselves from the three bamboos and looked around them, wide-eyed with horrified wonder. There was nothing of their village left standing.

Where the great trees had stood on the hillside, there were only holes in the ground, smashed branches, tree-roots....


     The Man Watching 
I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can't bear without a friend,
I can't love without a sister.
The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.
What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great.
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.
When we win it's with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers' sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.
Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.
                           Rainer Maria Rilke trans. Robert Bly
Thanks to Annee for passing this on from Cindy Cooper to whom it was passed by her friend Rosie, and the line goes back through who knows how many others to Robert Bly, and so on back to Rilke...a community mostly unknown to itself that has thought about and felt  something profound, immediate, practical.

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