Monthly Archives: December 2017

Rilke, the Christmas concert, and creativity

                                           for here there is no placegarden 1

that does not see you. You must change your life.

A few evenings ago, I attended a concert that was so uplifting it inspired me to think of the spiritual aspect of things, which led me further to the question: what is creativity?

Timing has something to do with my turn of thought, I suppose. Not only was I directed  to the concert by the season but if, as the song says, there’s a time to be born, a time to die, a time to sow, reap, and so on, Christmas is certainly the time of birth with implications of rebirth.

The concert audience led by the Corpus Christi Male Chorale was invited to share in the singing which they did with obvious gusto and pleasure causing me to think that they or many of them had tapped into something inside themselves, that they had embraced their own inner light.  For a few moments I was surrounded by a hotbed of creativity.

Which brings me to Rilke’s poem  Archaic Torso of Apollo which, it goes without saying, is a religious poem but also an exploration or study of creativity.

Although we never knew his lyric head

from which the eyes looked out so piercing clear,

his torso glows still like a chandelier

in which his gaze, only turned down, not dead,


persists and burns. If not, how could the surge

of the breast blind you,

 . . . .

 If not, this stone would stand all incompact

beneath the shoulders’ shining cataract

and would not glisten with that wild beast grace . . .

 The nature of creativity, it seems, is to render the inanimate animate. To make life where there was no life. The head may be absent but the torso must have had a head and eyes, and a gaze. What we have here, quite simply, is the transformation of stone into a work of art by the gaze of eyes we cannot see, i.e., a creator.

Easy for god – a gaze, a wave of the hand, a flick of the wrist, and so on – but how about the rest of us? This question has interesting implications for those in the business of creativity.  Is there a recipe for it?

If there is, seeing or awareness must be a major ingredient.

We are told in scripture that there was no room at the inn. That means that the inn was full of patrons who were unaware that a major historical event, some say a divine event, was taking place out in the barn, metres away. What a thing to miss! What a thing to not see!

What a crises of awareness!

And yet that describes most of us most of the time as we go blundering about in our blind  way.

If we could see like god, or if you don’t like that word, if we could partake of an energy greater than ours that is all around us and of which we are unaware, it would help us in our quest to breathe life into the lifeless.

Awareness is just another way of saying open your eyes.

The poem also makes a powerful statement about the value of art, the effect of a work of art on an observer, a reader if you like, for here the creation has led the poet into awareness. Although he cannot see the head he becomes aware of it and of its gaze. The sculpture is proof of god’s existence and he is transformed. He must change his life.

This year make yourself a present of you.

Good luck and merry Christmas.