Sonnets to Orpheus II, 13 – Rainer Maria Rilke
Be ahead of all parting, as if it had already happened,
like a winter which even now is passing.
For beneath this winter is a winter so endless
that to survive it at all is a triumph of the heart.
Be forever dead in Eurydice, and climb back singing.
Climb back praising as you return to connection.
Here among the disappearing, in the realm of the transient,
be a ringing glass that shatters as it rings.
Be. And, at the same time, know what it is not to be:
Let the ground of everything that changes bring you to completion,
let the emptiness inside you vibrate in resonance with the world around you.
Use that emptiness for once.
To all that has run its course, and to the vast unsayable
numbers of beings abounding in Nature,
add yourself gladly. And cancel the cost.
When we’ve integrated our own mortality into the fabric of our daily lives and our decision-making, when we’re no living in denial, when we’re no longer living (and thus loving) as if life goes on forever, when we’re better able to choose our battles (instead of vice versa—instead of our battles choosing us) because we know how to begin with the end in mind and keep the end in mind throughout the day and use the knowledge of that end—the knowledge of our own and others’ mortality—to help us choose our battles, then we are truly ready for a relationship and to be part of something truly remarkable and loving and wonder-full.
David Deida, in his book “Instant Enlightenment” outlines a sort of guided meditation wherein you visualize your beloved and what’s going on beneath what the eyes can see. He leads you to consider her bones, her skeleton hidden beneath all of the parts you lust after—breasts, hips, stomach, neck, ear lobes, lower back, legs, vagina—he leads the reader to consider the corpse-likeness of one’s beloved, and her bowels, and the digestive process, et cetera—all of the underlying reality that we don’t think about or that we airbrush over and ignore.
But so long as we do this—continue ignoring our own and our beloved’s mortality, finitude, fragility, and briefness—we will not be ready to truly love another person.
Real love demands that we recognize the basic transient, impermanent nature of the other person as well as ourselves—our own and the other’s mortality. Because it’s not until we truly get how fragile someone is, how someone could be taken from us at any moment, that we begin appreciating the other person and properly valuing him or her. That is the type of love that, if we’re truly alive and not sleepwalking through this life, we’re meant to live in—and all of the time!—a love full of appreciation and gratitude, not one of pettiness, ungratefulness, taking each other for granted, living as if life goes on forever, living and loving without perspective and without the end firmly in mind. When we live and love as if death were something far off, as if it were not a real possibility, then that is the definition of going through life asleep.
Waking up means deeply recognizing our own and others’ mortality, and integrating that foreknowledge into the fabric of our daily relationships.
When we have started learning how to better do this, then we’re ready for a truly loving relationship. Because then we’ll be much more grateful—we’ll climb back with gratitude and appreciation.