Sunday, February 12, 2017

Chet Raymo, “The Restless Heart”

“The Restless Heart”
by Chet Raymo

“In ‘Letters to a Young Poet’, Rainer Maria Rilke writes: "We should try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue." To which I would add, let us trust the gifts that nature has given us- curiosity, attention, reason- and if our personal lives are destined for oblivion, then know that we have made of ordinary things something grander and more enduring. We are the transformers. We are bestowers of praise. "Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them," Rilke advises the restless young poet, echoing the great Catholic mystics: "And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." 

Is it enough? In the long history of humanity, no hope has been so enduring as personal immortality. At every time and in every place men and women have assumed they will live forever. It is our solace, our balm for the restless heart. Even Neanderthals, it seems, placed flowers in the graves of their dead, presumably to grace the afterlife.

But the lesson of modern biology is clear: Death is final. Do we lapse then into morbidity? Do we rage, rage against the dying of the light? We have art. We have science. Even a rhyme can thumb its nose at death, says Seamus Heaney. We can each of us try to live our lives as poetry, to add to the world an element of graciousness that is not strictly necessary, to leave behind a spoor of rhymes that marks our passage on the Earth. 

Yes, the spirit is flesh, but the spirit is more than flesh. The spirit is flesh in interaction with a universe of almost unimaginable grandeur and complexity. The windows of the flesh are thrown open to the world. The spirit is a wind of awareness, a pool stirred by angels.

Some part of the spirit will linger after the flesh is gone, as memories in other flesh, as words, music, science, rhymes- as a world nudged slightly in its pell-mell course towards good or bad. But the self is mortal: This is the existential fact that agitates the restless heart. "We are biological and our souls cannot fly free," writes Harvard biologist E. O. Wilson, summarizing what science has taught us about ourselves. He adds: "This is the essential first hypothesis for any consideration of the human condition.”


  1. Just a thought CP, but are you a poet? Have you posted any of your writing? How did you get so interested in this kind of writing? Just curious as I never took a liking to it myself.

  2. Interesting questions, LetsPlay. The eclectic nature of the blog's content merely reflects my own daily wandering the internet looking for "nuggets" of real truth, as well as poetry, music, science, etc, which then folds into a general framework of posting. I have written in the past but find it's too time consuming in this "fierce urgency of now" when so many really critically important events are happening that are simply never reported by the main stream media, whom I consider money whores to their financial masters, good only at providing lies, deceptions, propaganda and time wasting garbage. I understand very well the reading audience here is relatively small, but that's good since it's the 5% who actually think, the best I can do for them is find and provide food for thought and launching points for their own research and study. It's just me, and I don't have the resources CNN does, and wastes so badly. None of this was ever about ME, either, never wanted praise or ego stroking, or about making money, simply doing the little I could do and sharing it in the hope we can all make this a better world somehow. That you stop by and comment is the highest compliment, and I thank you and everyone else who visits sincerely!

  3. Thanks for the reply CP. Agree with your assessment of the situation on the ground. As for poetry, why not share your work? Not to be ego seeking, but to simply share something you are interested in, good at maybe. And while it might "too time consuming" I'm sure it is also a great way to relieve stress and free your mind of all the stuff that surrounds us daily. Cheers!

  4. Good points, LetsPlay, let me think about that. Would be great to free my mind of all this... Thanks always for stopping by and commenting!