Rilke on Mystery and Awe (3)

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

~Rainer Maria Rilke, The Book of Hours I, 2

Maybe I’m the only one who doesn’t understand the word “primordial.” According to Merriam-Webster, “primordial” means “existing from the beginning of time, very ancient.” I wonder how many of us feel like we have been circling around God, “the primordial tower,” something ancient that has existed from the beginning of time? The reference to “circling” suggests to me a quest and a longing that remains unfulfilled even as the poet engages It.

In the midst of this “circling,” Rilke suggests self-mystery. Who are we as we circle the “primordial tower?” What are the implications for the “circling” and for living?

And, yet, even in uncertainty, the poet “give[s] myself to it.” Surrendering in mystery is what I often need to do as well.


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