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Self-Reflexivity, Consciousness and Rilke’s angel

July 5, 2011


In her dream she gazed at a screen and with a jolt realized what she had done.
She had just merged two layers together unintentionally creating a tiny illegitimate break in the space-time continuum.
It was as if she had clicked into existence a small 3-D virtual reality image using something resembling an Adobe Photoshop layering tool with 3-D capacity.
Time froze at the instant when they/she simultaneously witnessed her clone appear.
The existence of the double threatened the existence of the unique.
The reflection was not virtual but embodied and far too real.
The woman’s eyes were locked unto the small digital notebook screen.
The woMan Watching saw the two locked into a wrestling hold.
With equal strength they held onto each other like Delacroix’s Jacob Wrestling the Angel.
Except they were mirror image.
Perhaps they fought until dawn.
Perhaps they are still wrestling.


The Man Watching

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can’t bear without a friend,
I can’t love without a sister

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on
across the woods and across time,
and the world looks as if it had no age:
the landscape like a line in the psalm book,
is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestler’s sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings (Rainer Maria Rilke 1875 – 1926)


Authorized King James Version
“And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two women servants, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford Jabbok. And he took them, and sent them over the brook, and sent over that he had. And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank (Genesis 32:24).”

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