Thursday, January 31, 2008

Answering Apollo's torso

Do you know Rilke's poem "Archaic Torso of Apollo"? It's the one where the speaker is looking at an ancient statue of Apollo, a statue that is reduced to just a torso, missing the head, presumably the arms, and stops somewhere mid-thigh. But in the poem, because the head is missing, because the eyes are not there to see us or to transfix us, this torso instead becomes suffused with Apollo's power and, as Rilke says, if the head were there, the torso

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.

When I first started hearing about this poem, people talked about with almost a hush of wonder. I didn't see it for many years as something like what these other people, mostly poets, did. But, it would keep showing up in things I read, conversations I had, and I started to find my way through it. I see it as the speaker being confronted with not just an incredible work of art, but a work of art that seems so infused with the power of the god (and no accident it's Apollo, right?) that we can only bear to look at it because it is only a torso. And faced with this brilliance, this star-like beauty and power and grace...well, we have to change our lives. We have to live like this torso is "living" - it has made a demand on us.

I find this poem often in my mind these days because it feels so true for me. There are things I want to make room and time for, things that have not quite fallen by the wayside in the past few years, but that certainly have not played the role I would like them to. The primary one, of course, being my writing. So this is the work of 2008 for me, and I'm using various books and tools as inspiration. One of them is Sarah Susanka's The Not So Big Life. Here is a quote from her first chapter, p11:

Whether you call it quiet time, meditation, or contemplation, the point is to have a period each day when you are not thinking, socializing, or working. What you're really doing when you make a time and place just for you is inviting your inner nature to become a player in your outer life.

Not, perhaps the easiest thing to accomplish with a toddler running around (or, as is more often the case, running around while pushing a wee shopping cart). But, haven't I spent the past several years already waiting for the "perfect time" to implement some grand plan? Yes, yes I have. Perhaps it is time to admit (again) that there is no perfect time, no grand plan. Just now and what can be done now.

3 comments:

nora said...

I tagged you! Can I add your blog to mine?

mek said...

Of course!

chris said...

This is sooooo true! How do you think I was able to write all this crazy music in the past 10-12 years?? Because I made time for it. And you gave me a lot of YOUR time, which I will always be grateful for. You have to make the time; it doesn't make itself for you.