Life and Death

“Death is our friend precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love…”               – Rainer Maria Rilke

Shared from Maria Popova’s weekly newsletter, BrainPickings  , a most wonderful literate compilation of writings on human existence. In this week’s edition, she draws from Joanna Macy’s book on Rilke, A Year with Rilke: Daily Readings from the Best of Rainer Maria Rilke.

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote a letter in 1923 to a dear friend and countess in deep grief.  His words speak to me, echoing the words of great sages and gurus, that it is when we seek to choose what happens in life that we suffer. When we avoid or shun events or the opposite, attach, when we say, “this is good and this is bad, this not that”, then we are not in the flow of life, and we suffer the experience.  In this, there can come a desire to push death away, to treat it as the enemy when it can be our best teacher and friend, our moment for deepening into life, opening into love, understanding who we truly are.

Here are Rilke’s words …

The great secret of death, and perhaps its deepest connection with us, is this: that, in taking from us a being we have loved and venerated, death does not wound us without, at the same time, lifting us toward a more perfect understanding of this being and of ourselves.

I am not saying that we should love death, but rather that we should love life so generously, without picking and choosing, that we automatically include it (life’s other half) in our love. This is what actually happens in the great expansiveness of love, which cannot be stopped or constricted. It is only because we exclude it that death becomes more and more foreign to us and, ultimately, our enemy.

It is conceivable that death is infinitely closer to us than life itself… What do we know of it?

… So long as we stand in opposition to Death we will disfigure it. Believe me, my dear Countess, Death is our friend, our closest friend, perhaps the only friend who can never be misled by our ploys and vacillations. And I do not mean that in the sentimental, romantic sense of distrusting or renouncing life. Death is our friend precisely because it brings us into absolute and passionate presence with all that is here, that is natural, that is love… Life always says Yes and No simultaneously. Death (I implore you to believe) is the true Yea-sayer. It stands before eternity and says only: Yes.

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