Goethe

Why Not Start Apprenticing Yourself Now?

Excerpt from What to Remember When Waking by David Whyte:

Maister Eckhart was asked, Where do we go to when we die? Where does a human being go to when they die? And Eckhart answered, Nowhere, nowhere. As if to say that actually there's nowhere to go because death has been alongside you all the way along in the necessities of your giving away. In the necessities that keep a conversation or a stream of affection or a loving relationship alive. You've actually had to give yourself away, time after time, in order to get to know yourself again in order to escape the imprisoning names you've been uttering that have kept you away from the frontier between you and your own beautiful disappearance. 

It's interesting to think there hasn't been a single human being since the beginning of time who has escaped this transition and this disappearance. And in that inevitability, the great question would be, If we have to give everything away at the end -- everything, absolutely, totally, including our bodies, including our felt physical presence on this earth -- then why not start apprenticing yourself now?

 That when the actual transition at the end of your life comes, if you've spent no time in preparation, the whole thing will be just too frightening. The whole way you enter that world necessitates a different language that you have to learn, and that takes years to learn, in a way, to apprentice ourselves to our own disappearance. But in that apprenticeship, not to find ourselves caught in a morbid, self-indulgent circling in of ourselves, but to have it, in a sense, as a companion. And a fierce companion who allows us to feel the intensity and vulnerability of everyday life -- and every moment of that life.   


Selige Sehnsucht
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Holy Longing
Translated by Shinzen Young

Sagt es niemand, nur den Weisen,
Weil die Menge gleich verhöhnet:
Das Lebendge will ich preisen,
Das nach Flammentod sich sehnet.

Tell it to no one but the wise
For most will mock it right away
The truly living do I prize
Those who long in flame to die.

In der Liebesnächte Kühlung,
Die dich zeugte, wo du zeugtest,
Überfällt dich fremde Fühlung,
Wenn die stille Kerze leuchtet.

In the coolness of loves evenings
Where you beget and were begotten,
You're overcome by strange new feeling
As the silent candle brightens.

Nicht mehr bleibest du umfangen
In der Finsternis Beschattung,
Und dich reißet neu Verlangen
Auf zu höherer Begattung.

No longer are you trapped and mired
In the darkened shadowings
But swept away by new desire
To a higher lovemaking.

Keine Ferne macht dich schwierig,
Kommst geflogen und gebannt,
Und zuletzt, des Lichts begierig,
Bist du, Schmetterling, verbrannt.

Distance does not pall your flight
Spellbound through the air you're borne
Til at last mad for the light
You are a butterfly, then…gone.

Und solang du das nicht hast,
Dieses: Stirb und werde!
Bist du nur ein trüber Gast
Auf der dunklen Erde.

And until you know of this:
How to grow through death
You're just another troubled guestOn the gloomy earth.

You, the Living

Therefore rejoice, oh thou living one, blest in thy love-lighted homestead,
Ere the dark Lethe's sad wave wetteth thy fugitive foot.

~ Goethe, from Roman Elegies

You, The Living
(A film about the grandeur of existing)
by Roy Andersson

“Man is the fascination of man, in big things and small. Life itself bears witness to this. Art confirms it. Spectacular and dramatic events and destinies captivate us. But so does sitting at a street café and watching people wordlessly go by. As compelling as Delacroix's passionate depictions of battle scenes are the paintings by Millet or van Gogh of peasants at work, of a pair taking an afternoon nap in the shade of a haystack, or a family sitting in a kitchen eating potatoes -- pictures that are so precise, empathetic and carefully executed as to give you the feeling that there is nothing more important to relate than this.”

The Truly Living

Holy Longing (Selige Sehnsucht)
By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Translated by Shinzen Young

Tell it to no one but the wise
For most will mock it right away
The truly living do I prize
Those who long in flame to die.

In the coolness of loves evenings
Where you beget and were begotten,
You're overcome by strange new feeling
As the silent candle brightens.

No longer are you trapped and mired
In the darkened shadowings
But swept away by new desire
To a higher lovemaking.

Distance does not pall your flight
Spellbound through the air you're borne
Til at last mad for the light
You are a butterfly, then…gone.

And until you know of this:
How to grow through death
You're just another troubled guest
On the gloomy earth.