Thursday, July 10, 2008

Following My Nose

Reading lots of blogs, today I popped into Keri Smith's Wish Jar. She talked about being invited to Foo Camp, and of course I got curious and followed links. This led to a speech on the value of hackers given by Tim O'Reilly. I didn't get very far into the speech because he began it with this poem by Rilke. It is mesmerizing. I have to read it a lot more. But I wanted to park it here so I could find it again. "What we choose to fight is so tiny..."

The Man Watching
by Rainer Maria Rilke

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 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 wrestler's 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.

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