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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Both a Breath and a Shout

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Liu Xiaobo's empty chair at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony


For the record:
Thank you to the powers that be and have been these two hundred thirty-four years. For being able to use words the way I want. For John Milton, John Locke, and John Stuart Mill. For Noam Chomsky. (Even for Julian Assange?) For Rainer Maria Rilke who wrote: "Maybe we're here only to say: house, / bridge, well, gate, jug, olive tree, window — / at most, pillar, tower ... but to say them, remember, / oh, to say them in a way that the things themselves / never dreamed of existing so intensely." For all words spoken and written. For blogging. For Blogger! For free, and for freedom. For you. For me. And especially today, for Liu Xiaobo.

Both a Breath and a Shout
by Rainer Maria Rilke

I want to praise him.
Loud as a trumpet
in the vanguard of the army,
I will run ahead and proclaim.

My words will be sweet to hear.
My people will drink them in like wine
and not get drunk.

And on moonless nights, when few remain
around my tent, I will make music as soft
as a last warm wind that hovers
late and tender before the winter's chill.

So my voice becomes both a breath and a shout.
One prepares the way, the other
surrounds my loneliness with angels.


~ from The Book of Hours, 1899-1903
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49 comments:

George said...

Beautiful, Ruth! Loved both the quote and the poem from Rilke. One voice at at time, perhaps one word at a time — that is how we change the world. We must remain grateful for courageous voices like those of Liu Xiaobo — and, as always, I am grateful for the breath and shout of your own voice.

Ruth said...

Hallelujah, George! We just have to pause and be grateful for what we have. It has come at great cost to many individuals the world over. As much as you and I ache over the failings of our country, we can be deeply grateful for one reason citizens of other countries line up for visas to the U.S.: freedom of speech.

California Girl said...

That's lovely Ruth. I guess I'm going to have to read Rilke as I never have and your posts make me want to.

Wonderful masthead. Perfect for winter.

Ruth said...

Thanks, California Girl. Pleae do read Rilke. Every time I pick him up, there is something new and astonishing, about finding the mystery in ordinary things. With words.

I'm glad you like the header!

Vagabonde said...

What a lovely poem. Your picture is very expressive too. Such a shame that China is not letting Liu Xiaobo come to Oslo. I think it is the senior people in that country who want to keep the status duo, just like old white men are doing here. We went into that beautiful room in Oslo, where they give the awards. We visited with the mayor and his assistant gave us a great historical tour. I was going to do a post on it, but then I traveled somewhere else. I’ll get back to it in 2011 because I have many pictures of the Nobel Peace hall.

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, the video clip in the linked Guardian article of the ceremony is poignant. As someone said on the radio yesterday, China may have accomplished the opposite of their wish to squelch this man and the Nobel, since far more people in China and the world know about Liu Xiaobo now than ever did before.

I noticed in that video clip also how beautiful the hall is, really splendid. The sound must be nice too. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about it and seeing your photos, what a privilege to visit.

Dan Gurney said...

Lovely post Ruth. It got me to thinking....

A breath, a shout, and a song.

For us to gather the courage, wisdom, and kindness to make needed change, we must sing together, sing with feeling, sing with beauty, sing with purpose, as some of us did in the thirties (with Woody Guthrie) and in the sixties (with Pete Seeger).

Cait O'Connor said...

Beautiful, I will drink to all that you write. And it is so good I must re-read.

deb said...

you know, I was thinking, after I read this , ( I always think after I visit here :), thank you for that btw ),
how we probably do take our freedoms for granted, and I am thinking lately how this applies to access to information. At least we are able to form our opinions and ideals based on a myriad of sources. So many countries don't even offer the opportunity for research and learning let alone a difference of opinion.

I learned yesterday that someone famous was not as heroic as I had assumed , or at least the debate exists, and I was so gloomy all day , disappointed yes, but also upset that we can be swayed so much by the media. By the lack or absence of information.
And I wonder in the end if this a huge contributing factor in so much of the world's hatred, desperation, corruptness, etc. Just learning how much of the world is corrupt leads me to seek solace in poetry and song and art. And again, look at the diversity and abundance we are able to glean from, be inspired by, and share.

Jane Lancaster said...

Rilke and angels=pure beauty.

As for free speech Julian Assange=let's get current!

Liu Xiaobo=courage.

lakeviewer said...

Beautiful, Ruth. You captured all of our sentiments today! Thank you.

The Solitary Walker said...

For the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

(Yes, even for Julian Assange, for knowing the truth is freedom.)

For sun, moon, sky, snow, river, sea, dove, rainbow.

For what is.

"Tell me poet what you do? I praise."

ds said...

Yes, that empty chair shouts more loudly than Liu Xiaobo ever could (though it would be nice to have him there, all the same).

And Rilke! Ahhhh...

So long as you keep breathing, and writing, and occasionally shouting, Ruth, there will be a voice of purity (I think that is what I mean--grace) in this world. Thank you.

Char said...

gorgeous rilke quote...and yes...a well awarded prize

Ruth said...

Dan, you're talking about what arises from the people, the folk. I wonder why the people in our country have not wielded our voice as other folk have in other countries. Poetry, song, whatever is the people's voice, we need to own it again. Thank you so much for this idea of song.

Ruth said...

Cait, we plow ahead, we write and post, and do we even think about, acknowledge and appreciate this gift of free speech?

Ruth said...

Deb, thank you. I don't know what to think about the thinking thing. Sometimes I would like to stop thinking, and making people think. But I is what I is, and I share what is in my heart. If you are glad for it, then good. :)

The freedom of opinion is huge! And oh dear, the disillusionment of finding our heroes faulty. More and more, my heroes are those like Rilke who see miracle in ordinary things.

Ruth said...

Jane, I would like to know what you mean: let's get current! These are fascinating times. If Asange is found guilty of something, I think freedom of expression will take a hit. There is a broad spectrum between freedom of speech on one hand and repression on the other. In between the two there can be abuse of the freedom. But I tend to think that if the information was not state secrets, and it was accessible, then OK, embarrassing, but let's be open.

Ruth said...

Hi, Lakeviewer, there must be many conversations about this today. What a juxtaposition: Liu Xiabo and Julian Asange! So amazing to think back to the onset of the printing press and suddenly people's opinions could be published to the masses!

Ruth said...

Robert, for open hearts. For sight. For praising the truth inside us that coincides and glows with nature.

Ruth said...

DS, hello, you. I missed you. I hope you are very well.

What lies ahead after that empty chair, loud as a trumpet?

What can be done about this Rilke fellow? Only connect. Breathe. Find the majesty in a few poets. In Nature. In you. In me.

Thank you for you, and for such kind things said.

Ocean Girl said...

Beautiful..so my voice becomes both a breath and a shout..Thank you.

Ruth said...

Hello, and thank you, Char.

Ruth said...

Ocean Girl, yep. And sometimes, the breath is enough.

Barb said...

Always when there is a move to censor, the resulting attention achieves the opposite effect. In China, it seems there are sole voices brave enough to defy the government - for that they pay with years of their lives and sometimes life itself. The medal on the empty seat is very poignant. Let the wider World take notice and remember.

shoreacres said...

I was so taken with Dan's comment about a breath, a shout and a song. There are people walking among us today who were there for the Estonian Singing Revolution in 1989, who know what it means to sing our way to freedom.

One of those people, a woman named Markova Hancova, is now Dean of Students at Platt College in San Diego. In this season, 21 years ago, she had the experience of hearing a Christmas carol played publicly for the first time in her life. It's unimaginable - and yet it happened.

It's a fact that every, single word counts. That's why we must respect them, treat them with care and protect them. They are depending on us.

Dan Gurney said...

Ruth, you said, "I wonder why the people in our country have not wielded our voice as other folk have in other countries."

I've wondered why, too. My guess is that our American [corporate] consumer culture has played an important part. We've become passive consumers of music, but not active makers of music.

I plan to devote much of my retirement years to fixing this crisis one ukulele player at a time.

Ruth said...

Barb, I pray that Liu Xiaobo and others will not experience worse treatment as a result of this stand-off between China and the Nobel committee. China holds the purse strings of the world, and I wonder how much we countries who honor civil rights will be willing to impose upon them.

Ruth said...

Hello, Linda! I'm excited by the seed Dan planted here, and for what you told me about the Estonian Singing revolution, which I was ignorant of. What a beautiful, beautiful way of non-violent protest, for 10,000 people a night to pack the stadium through the month of June. I found the story here, and I see there is also a documentary film about it.

And the story of Markova Hancova hearing a Christmas carol for the first time, it is stunning.

As time goes on, my respect for blogs and blogging expands. We are part of a powerful and thrilling time in history, to be able to put our words here, and to be able to read each other's.

Ruth said...

Dan, thanks for coming back. I think your word "passive" is key. I have been trying to understand why we, I, don't take to the streets in protest. In India, if the price of rice goes up a couple of rupees, people take to the streets. In the U.S. we have vast reserves of freedom, but we also have a lot to change. I marched to our state capitol back before Bush attacked Iraq. That's the only time I've marched. Is it apathy? A sense of helplessness?

I really love your way of putting it, that we are passive consumers of music (and so many things, I might add), and the thought of being active music makers, and you wielding your ukulele, is inspiring! Please read Linda's (Shoreacres) comment too, about the Estonian Singing Revolution, which is just brilliant!

Ruth said...

Linda and All, I should have checked Linda's (Shoreacres) blog first, before linking the article about the Estonian Singing revolution, for she has posted an amazing piece about it here

Pauline said...

What a marvelous post! Thank you for words, indeed! Yours are some of the more beautiful and powerful that I read.

Friko said...

I can never get enough of Rilke and to quote his words to praise the freedom to use words is inspired.
Sadly, in each and every country on this earth there are powers which try to stop us from expressing ourselves freely, the USA and UK included.

Ruth said...

Pauline, big heartfelt thanks to you for those kind words!

Your story just read of the sledding contest has planted a big ole smile on my face. I am absolutely delighted with your story telling ability. Wow.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Friko. I found Rilke's poem in a new volume called A YEAR WITH RILKE and was so pleased to find the connection with this post on freedom of speech.

Yes, as I wrote this, I kept hearing a voice saying, but . . . . But you know, just like anything, we just have to keep maintaining what we have, give it attention, take care of it. Love it.

Finding Words said...

The cost of his words is a precious frail reminder to those of us who have always had the freedom to use ours.

Marcie said...

So beautifully said..and so much to be grateful for the gift of words.
Thank-you for this!

Terresa said...

Love the breath & the shout today, Liu Xiaobo inspires!!

positive affirmation said...

I forgive myself
As I forgive myself. I leave behind all feelings of not being good enough, and I am free to love myself.

Ginnie said...

Different times over the last few days, Ruth, I have been glued to the CNN Int'l TV channel here in Holland. It's been so inspiring to follow this story in spite of the potential repercussions for some. As with love, I pray freedom will reign!

Ruth said...

Finding Words, yes, thank you. Welcome to blogging, and all the best to you.

Ruth said...

Marcie, it's incredible isn't it? to think that anyone on this planet is not free to speak and write what they wish.

Ruth said...

Hi, Terresa, thank you. I loved this from the article about him:

The most emotional passages of the address were addressed to his wife. "Your love is the sunlight that leaps over high walls … stroking every inch of my skin, warming every cell of my body," Ullmann read, "allowing me always to keep peace, openness and brightness in my heart, and filling every minute of my time in prison with meaning."

Ruth said...

positive affirmation, that's the best spam I've seen.

Ruth said...

Boots, yes, I pray that love and freedom will work their magic. I pray that the publicity over Liu will do much good.

Dutchbaby said...

I see that we are synchronizing here.

This story is a reminder that China's leadership still has a lot of work to do. I think it's great that they are now beginning to enjoy enough economic success to feed, clothe, and shelter its people. It's time, high time, to take a long look at human rights. I love what my son said when we listened to the news story on the radio: "You know you're doing something bad when you lock up the person who has won the Nobel Peace Prize." Let's hope that this event has caused at least some self-examination.

Ruth said...

Yes, Dutchbaby. I was so taken with your post about Oslo and City Hall and all the beauties of that building where the Nobel is awarded.

China is on the brink of phenomenal change, if they will sit up and recognize their opportunity for it. Let's pray that they will. Imagine the thousands of years of breathtaking history and culture they have to draw from. I hope they will rise to their own greatness.

Oliag said...

What a wonderful poem and quote...I always have something to think about after visiting your posts:)

Ruth said...

Thank you, Oliag, I'm glad you agree with me about Rilke. Like Mary Oliver, the more I read of his, the more I am astonished at his breadth of work and depth of insight.