Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dark Beginnings

shifts again in the discussion with Jenna St. Hilaire and Mr. Pond

"When you go to bed, don't leave bread or milk
on the table: it attracts the dead."
   ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Jenna's generously given me an opportunity to write the opening posts for a while, and we've decided to delve into the thoughts of others for our inspiration, at least for a while. In Advent we discussed silence, solitude, and ritual, three things I find essential for life in general, and for art especially; before Advent, we were discussing mythology, and it seems, enjoying very much the comfort of many shared thoughts and feelings on the subject. Next week, I have longer quotations, specifically on art and writing to begin trotting out, but this week I'll keep it low-key, somewhat.

I love Rilke and his dark, Catholic imagination, I love the thought of the dead surrounding my table, opening their mouths wide to catch the slightest flavor of life-as-it-was. But these are the things I avoid doing in reality, because waking up under a full moon to walk on crunching snow towards a dark outhouse makes thoughts of open-mouthed dead too real for comfort. Especially when I think I see them flittering between the birches. The sacramental imagination is full of these dark hauntings, it is part of what makes life rich and full and real, contrasting so completely with the good which lives under the sun. I've heard again and again on the radio, in conversations over coffee after Liturgy, and at parties the problem with myth and magic in fiction is the darkness, the spirits, and the sense of evil lurking that they feel in the background. I know a few families that avoid fairy-tales altogether, thinking it safer in the straight and narrow world of facts. They make up reading lists for children that studiously avoid the haunting things, they stock their shelves with morality tales. I think we are afraid of the mysteries, afraid to grasp hold of the dark aspects of beauty and study them in the flicker of one small candle.

“Deeply I go down into myself. My god is Dark and like a webbing made of a hundred roots that drink in silence.”

   ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

What do Jenna and Mr. Pond think? We've touched a bit on darkness before, is there a line that shouldn't be crossed? When does myth and magic become occult? When do fairies become demons?

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”

   ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

I don't know that I've ever found a story so dark that I didn't see the flickering light, a well-written book will always give a glimpse of redemption, because it is the nature of man to reach for the light. Even the ugly and terrifying will give way into beauty, given a chance by writer and reader.

“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
  ~ Rainer Maria Rilke



  1. Oh, mercy, why didn't I hand you the baton months ago? This is fantastic. I'll have a great time writing a post on this.

    Interesting quotes by Rilke--I particularly like that last one...

    Thanks for starting us off!

  2. Thanks Jenna!

    Your response was fantastic as well!