“Sometimes a Man Stands Up During Supper”
by Rainer Maria Rilke
Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.
And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.
And another man, who remains in his own house,
dies there, inside the dishes and the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.
“An important dimension in the life of spirit, the mystical impulse, gathers around being called, or called forth, or called to. It can be a blessing, and often insists on one being dislocated from the normative and familiar, perhaps even being bloodied a bit in the process” (Dennis Patrick Slattery, Riting Mythic Writing, 2013).
So what is your “Church in the East?” What are you being called to do? What makes you doubt the calling? What makes you follow it?
Denial of the call of the heart is in my view, one of the primary causes for physical, mental and spiritual illness. Recently, when I hosted the questions of “why” and “why not” to manifest in image and story, I was visited (again) by the mythical Greek goddess Hekate who presides over “the cross-roads.” These are decision points where I question the road I feel called to take and resist following the more practical or seemingly more sensible route. Here is the poem that wrote me:
Not Again Hekate
I have learned not to unpack
when the crow flutters its wings and alights.
It is time to go again.
I have learned not to doubt.
When the crow perches on the Eastern fork of Hekate’s walking stick,
she will show me the direction.
I have learned not to question,
just begin The Walk.
Hekate walks a step ahead and I await her words.
I have learned to be silent.
Sacred silence is the only language.
The mission is assigned and she stops.
I have learned it is then that I take the lead.
Hekate walks a step behind.
I have learned to expect to be burned.
“Step into the fire and become one of the flames,” she commands.
I have learned that fire burns away the dross
while also making way and shape.
“Now you must die,” Hekate points to the stake.
And another death takes place in the Town Square.
Some rejoice and some grieve.
I have learned not to weep for my poor death
or to lament the ill treatment of the villagers.
The heart loves to die for a good cause and I participate with great reverence.
“Go where the path is steep, rocky, seemingly unnavigable,” Hekate plants her walking stick with such force that The Crow loses her purchase.
I have learned to wear sturdy shoes and to open into deprivation.