It’s true. I do want to tell you a secret… and if you let the word out it could ruin any remaining semblance I have to the dignity of pretending to know that I know…. But then it is spring and time for the composting of what no longer serves and for honoring that which yearns to be born.
And anyway it is true: I am at last becoming the merry fool who knows nothing… and knows so. And this is so much better than being the un-merry fool so attached to my own story of pain I could not bear to live a life of wild joy, of thrivability.
Ah but this path through greater and greater failures, through the mountains of self-sabotage and through the desert of self-denigration and hatred… covered over in the world with the esteem of others and material accumulation and business success and a hidden need to prove worth and value… getting paid for what one knows… or professes to know… the Johna in me preferring the belly of a whale to being an ostracized lonely voice in the wilderness… the Elijah within so craving to be carried aloft into glory…
My failures are now so beautifully grand… my emptiness so full… my questions so pervasive… my lostness so complete and present… that I have at last become truly a wealthy man, a man in love with the world as it is and as it might become, a man in love with the abiding lover within and in the Other; yes, I am in love with you too.
For I am learning at last what it is to open to Life with gratitude… to be able to receive… and to let the mystery of this gift flow through without the need to claim ownership… to know that the giving and the receiving are but two hands of the same body…
But who will pay me for such foolishness? I can not tell you what your path into such a spirit of thrivability might be, what gift of failure you might need to encounter and what successes you might need to overcome…. No, we each have our own path… a path that invites us to integrate and transcend the cultural wounding of separation and fragmentation, of never being enough… to the self-revelation of our deepest secrets… to ourselves.
Rilke says it so beautifully this way:
The Man Watching
What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights with us is so great!
If only we could 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.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.
—Rainer Maria Rilke, from Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, translation Robert Bly
What secret is defeating you? What is yearning to be born? What must die or be transformed for this birth to occur?
Notes: Thanks to Paul T. Horan at Yesss.info, through whom I was reminded of this poem.