20 April 2013

the force of gravity is irresistible

"What meaning does it find in my awareness," asks Rilke of a rose in a porcelain vase on his desk. "It too should not be here, / it should have bloomed or faded in the garden / outside, never involved with me. But now it lives on in its small porcelain vase." (from Requiem to a Friend)

In his meditation on mortality and the transient nature of being, Rilke examines the subject of a thing's meaning with him present. The entire life cycle of this rose is altered when it was cut from its branches, its thorns shed, and brought indoors in a isolated, unmoving space. For inside, we can prevent the world from tightening its grasp around us. Sure, dust settles. Books shift. The mystery and magic of the universe breathes into the stillness of our unattended clothes on hangers, our nicknacks on shelves.

What I'm curious about is not what meaning Things find in my awareness, but in my absence. Reality, as we perceive it, can only exist as what's directly in front of us: what we can know with our senses -- these things are real. But what of the shadows and husks of our days, when we move out of our routine and into variance? This previously unknown-to-us world has always existed, but its tangibility has meant little to us until we are in it. Does a rose know that it is a rose when we are gone? Or does it simply stand, as it always does, only to find meaning when people ascribe it?

With this, and the tension of yesterday's events in mind, I find myself questioning. I know the police chase was real - I know someone who lives nearby. I know that people died - their mortality blooming in blood like the pollen on these springtime trees. And in the end, after a long, taut day a man was apprehended. These things are real, and yet in the images displayed on screens, the text in tweets online, I find myself disconnected. Shouldn't I feel something other than confusion over the presentation of events, meditating meta-awareness?

Despite my confounded state, this is a new day. "The force of gravity is irresistible" as we are all pulled into the weighty epicenter of a tragedy. I think now of what's to come, and of the inevitability of life -- not of the supposed felt realness of events. Memories and silhouettes in our minds are as real as anything when life is taken senselessly and abruptly. Smoke lingers after a flame is extinguished.

As we move through the world, it continues moving - as it always has.