We spent our Tuesday time in various forms of personal address: between a human and a stone, between a human and a human, between a human and a divinity. To be met is to be destabilized, reterritorialized: alarming if you’re not up to it, rejuvenating if you are.
Any good-willed address brings with it the threat of love.
Along the way, we considered how very much Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus are based in second person address. As if to overemphasize this, Rilke begins some of the final first-series sonnets with a double use of the three forms of “you” (Dir, Dich, Du: Sonnets 20, 25 and 26, respectively). But the miracle of “you” permeates many of his poems. In particular, Rilke’s fascination with death has to do with risking the extremes of encounter: between a living and a non-living human, between humans and angels (those “nearly deadly birds of the soul”), and especially that intensified pure relationship toward all existence that occurs when we are cleansed by our wrestling with death.
We may return to the way Rilke engages these themes, but for the moment, we’re sticking with the Blue Cliff Record. Here’s the 59th Case:
A monk asked Chao Chou, “’The Ultimate Path has no difficulties – just avoid picking and choosing. As soon as there are words and speech, this is picking and choosing.’ So how do you help people, Teacher?”
Chou said, “Why don’t you quote this saying in full?” The monk said, “I only remember up to here.”
Chou said, “It’s just this: ‘This Ultimate Path has no difficulties – just avoid picking and choosing.’”
The monk is quoting a saying of Chou’s own. Chou challenges him to quote it “in full,” but then what he offers as the “full” version is shorter than what the monk previously quoted.
How can this be? Maybe it has to do with the living encounter between the two of them. Something passes between them that requires fewer words – certainly not those words having to do with the uselessness of words. Maybe the meaning between them happens best with fewer and fewer words, then finally with no words at all, like the game we used to play with the song, “John Brown’s Body.”
All blessings to all,