I remember my first girl-friend – one of the many crazy women in my life – who asked me – for no reason I can remember “But are you fulfilled?” I had no idea what she was talking about – but it was beginning to dawn on me that she was one of those persons who would be experiencing a drastic lack of it all her life – which would probably not be long.
I am wading through the Introduction to The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke – as I said in my posting Rilke the Wierd. I am frankly out of my depth here. So I decided to copy a paragraph, from page xxxv, – thinking it might help me too. I have chunked it up into smaller paragraphs to make it easier to read online:
The angels embody the sense of absence which had been at the center of Rilke’s willed and difficult life. They are absolute fulfillment. Or rather, absolute fulfillment it it existed, without any diminishment of intensity, completely outside us. You feel a sunset open up in an emptiness inside you which keeps growing and growing and you want to hold on to the feeling forever; only you want to be a feeling of power, of completeness and repose: that is the longing for the angel.
You feel a passion for someone so intense that the memory the memory of their smell makes you dizzy and you would gladly throw yourself down the well of the other person, if the long hurtle in the darkness would then be perfect inside you: that is the same longing.
The angel is desire, if it were not desire, if it were pure being. Lived close to long enough, it turns every experience into desolation, because beauty is not what we want at those moments, death is what we want, and end to limit, and end to time.
And – it is hard to think of Rilke as ironic, as anything but passionately earnest, but the Elegies glint with dark, comic irony – death doesn’t even want us or not want us.
All of this has come clear in Rilke’s immensely supple syntax. He has defined and relinquished the source of a longing and regret so pure, it has sickened the roots of his life.
It seems to me an act of great courage. And it enacts a spiritual loneliness so deep, so lacking in consolation, that there is nothing in modern writing that can touch it.
Try to explain that to someone who wants a simple explanation. Right away, you realize they have no idea what he is talking about.