Rilke on History

Lonely bloom along the back trail of the site - Choeung Ek, Kandal

Lonely bloom along the back trail of the site – Choeung Ek, Kandal

I decided to really gear up on the history of the Cambodian genocide, so this whole week I’ve been plowing through the meticulously analytical work, The Pol Pot Regime Ben Kiernan. Not exactly light reading, so I was very generous with taking breaks. Such breaks consisted of: running while drowning my ears in what’s now hot in American music, staring into space while drinking coffee and sampling pastries, taking deliriously heated post-lunch naps, and lastly, on an afternoon’s whim, reading Rainer Marie Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. Yes, Rilke is totaly outside the context of Cambodian history. Don’t accuse me of being anachronistic. I’m just trying to maintain a balanced lifestyle here.

So I read it, and it was the best afternoon I had all week. Rilke earnestly waxes on about art, writing, love, solitude, some more about solitude, and then even more about solitude. I was on a copy+paste rampage while finding quotes and paragraphs I found particularly soul-pleasing. I’m sure my eyes looked unnaturally large and crazy during this couple of hours.

There was one passage I found especially profound, when Rilke starts on a string of thoughts about the role of humans in the passage of time:

And yet they, who passed away long ago, still exist in us, as predisposition, as burden upon our fate, as murmuring blood, and as gesture that rises up from the depths of time.

I thought, what a brilliant image of how both physical and internal memory is transferred from one human to another in history. My mind was blown. Whoa Rilke. Apparently having the constitution of a poor, sickly, lonely hermit pent up in some tiny house in the bare mountains of some forsaken rural hamlet during early 20th century Europe was not so bad after all. Introverts everywhere, take note.

I promise I’ll explain the whole flower picture. I think it’s pretty. But I didn’t post it just because it was pretty.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s