Friday, December 22, 2006

You Must Change Your Life

Archaic Torso of Apollo
by Rainer Maria Rilke

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

I love this poem because (to me) it's about what isn't there. And if we can see what isn't there, we will find the answer to what is.

Imagine life without the clutter, the backstory, the excuses, the filler. Just the power and beauty of the torso, without a head to confuse and manipulate. "For here there is no place that does not see you."

Froggydaddy is a photographer and doesn't like to shoot in color because a red barret in someone's hair can distract from the intended subject. He has to know what is in the shot, and sometimes, more importantly what is not. Black and White gives him the power to define subject, background, foreground, his intent. But a purple gum wrapper in the middle of the street, could easily change the story, disrupt and distract from the power and beauty of his picture. And who wants their story to be about a purple gum wrapper or red barret?

And with writing, the pauses, the moments when a character chooses not to speak is the real story, isn't it?

Maybe Rilke is commanding us to get rid of our distractions. Find the meat, the heart, the pulp of life. And forget about the rest. Like a life-editor, wouldn't it be wonderful if someone could just zap the unneccessary stuff we focus so intently on, while our children grow, the earth spins, and our hair greys.

If you could get rid of the distractions that take you away from your art, your purpose, your being, what would it be? What is the head on your Apollo?

"Like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,
gleams in all its power."

For the New Year, I'm following Rilke's advice; to find the brilliance from inside, quietly embrace the empty spaces, and turn my lamp to low.

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