Rilke's poem comes to mind as we approach the darkest days of the year:
You, darkness, of whom I am born-
I love you more than the flame
that limits the world
to the circle it illumines
and excludes all the rest.
But the dark embraces everything:
shapes and shadows, creatures and me, people, nations-just as they are.
It lets me imagine
a great presence stirring beside me.
I believe in the night.
In the shortest days of the year, and the darkest, it is a time to celebrate the light within. We see the Xmas lights and Chanuka menorahs, and groups throughout the world include the light, candles, and fire in diverse spiritual traditions. But Rilke is on to something important. Yes, it is a time to celebrate light, but it is also a time to celebrate darkness, for all things, including creation and birth, begin in the dark.
David Whyte's marvelous poem, "Sweet Darkness" is another poem that comes to mind:
Excerpt from Sweet Darkness
. . .You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
And I think to myself "ah, yes, the world to which I belong"! And where is that world?
But then the poet continues:
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
Here comes the precious pearl of poetic wisdom!
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
David Whyte The House of Belonging, Langley, WA.: Many Rivers Press, l998
At this time, we are asking ourselves, "What is too small?" "What is enough?" "Do I have enough?" "What gifts will I receive?" "What will I give?" Too often we find ourselves exhausted, depleted and feeling empty. This brings me to Pablo Picasso's beautiful picture above called "Le Soupe." We see the adult serving the soup, palms cupped around its warmth.
The bowl has the look of waiting. Author David Applebaum suggests that when empty, the bowl has the look of perfection. It was made to hold that which cannot hold itself. All bowls imitate the human hand, with palm concave and stretching toward a generosity of heaven. After a passing shower, the bowl, full with rain, quenches the thirst of sparrows, thrushes and other birds. The bowl may also be thought of as exemplifying the law of service. For one thing serves another that serves a second that serves a third, and there is a round-robin effect, in which the ones giving service are sustained.The poetry circle nourishes all who participate. The following exercise is a beautiful way to celebrate the completion of a poetry circle or a way to begin one. Place an empty bowl in the center of the circle, and prior to the event, ask each individual to bring a poem that nurtures the soul, and place it in the bowl. Each person then chooses one of the poems and reads it to the group. At the Creative Righting Center, we recently had this delicious "poem soup" and left filled. At the very end, we read this poem by Chrystos:
Ceremony for Completing a Poetry Reading (Excerpt)
This is a give-away poem
You have come gathering
You have made a circle with me…
Within this basket is something
you have been looking for
all of your life
Come take it
Take as much as you want
I give you seeds of a new way. . .
this is a give-away poem
I cannot go home
until you have taken everything
and the basket which held it
when my hands are empty
I will be full
Imaging the Word: An Arts and Lectionary Resource, Volume 3
Eds. Blain, Gouwens, O’Callaghan, & Spradling
United Press Church, 1996, p. 249