Wholeheartedness-June 1, 2020

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The Swan

by RAINER MARIA RILKE (TRANSLATED BY ROBERT BLY)


This clumsy living that moves lumbering

as if in ropes through what is not done,

reminds us of the awkward way the swan walks.

And to die, which is the letting go

of the ground we stand on and cling to every day,

is like the swan, when he nervously lets himself down

into the water, which receives him gaily

and which flows joyfully under

and after him, wave after wave,

while the swan, unmoving and marvelously calm,

is pleased to be carried, each moment more fully grown,

more like a king, further and further on.


In the course entitled Gratefulness: Life as a Wholehearted Journey, Brother David Steindl-Rast says of this poem:

"The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest...The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness...You are like Rilke’s Swan in his awkward waddling across the ground; the swan doesn’t cure his awkwardness by beating himself on the back, by moving faster, or by trying to organize himself better. He does it by moving toward the elemental water where he belongs. It is the simple contact with the water that gives him grace and presence. You only have to touch the elemental waters in your own life, and it will transform everything. But you have to let yourself down into those waters from the ground on which you stand, and that can be hard. Particularly if you think you might drown.”

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