Our inspiration for today comes from the Austrian poet and mystic, Rainer Maria Rilke. Born in 1875 in Prague, Rilke’s parents divorced when he was nine, at least partly due to his mother’s belief she’d married beneath herself. He was raised a Catholic, but he later left the church because of what he saw as his mother’s superficial relationship with religion. Yet, he frequently returned to themes of God and the spiritual life in his work.
Here is Rilke’s poem titled “A Walk.”
by Rainer Maria Rilke
My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has its inner light, even from a distance–
and changes us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on,
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.
Rilke is reminding us that the spiritual life is a journey. It’s the process of moving toward something that changes us. “We’re grasped by what we cannot grasp.” Something to think about as we chart a new course in the new year.
* “A Walk” by Rainer Maria Rilke. Public Domain. For more of Rilke’s work, see Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke by Robert Bly.
A few other inspirational nuggets for today
- On this day in 1788, the Quakers in Pennsylvania emancipated enslaved persons in their communities. It would take another 75 years for Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to free enslaved people across the rest of the nation. In the years that followed, the Quakers led one of America’s most successful faith-based justice movements — the Underground Railroad. Working alongside free Black people, abolitionists and enslaved people who risked their lives to help others, the Quakers helped free as many as 100,000 enslaved people between 1800 and 1865.
- Today is also the birthday of Betsy Ross. Born in 1752, she was a recently widowed 24 year-old when she was supposedly approached about the idea of creating the first American flag. When Washington asked for her help, she reportedly told him: “I’m not certain if I can, but I’ll gladly try.” I think that’s a pretty good attitude. Maybe it will do some good for you today.
Be kind, God bless and we’ll see you soon.