Every angel is terrifying...
Inspiration. An etymologically rich word deriving from the Latin inspirare, to blow or breathe into or out upon. To breathe life into something; to animate with "spirit," a vital essence.
Similar to the question "Whom do you write for?" is the question "What or who inspires you?" As writers we've (hopefully!) all had the experience of being so deeply in thrall to a moment of inspiration that we seem to become vessels or channels through which something else is working. Some of us hear voices we are convinced are not our own. Some of us have visions. Some of us enter one of those deep meditative states where we rewire our brains and somehow, momentarily, tap eternity. Some of us tap into a bottle of Jaegermeister stashed in a desk drawer. Whatever it is and however we get there... don't you live for those moments? As much as the majority of what we do is on the perspiration end of the spectrum, aren't you always, always hoping for that incendiary, ecstatic spark, that bolt of lightning, that breath of air?
Rilke allegedly wrote the Duino Elegies in such a fit of inspiration; while taking a walk near Duino castle outside Trieste, he claimed to have heard a voice speaking what became the elegy's first lines:
"Wer, wenn ich schriee, hörte mich denn aus der Engel Ordnungen?" (Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angelic hierarchies?).
No doubt, the angels ceased dictating shortly thereafter and left RMR to pen the rest of the work the old-fashioned way, but it's a great story, and inspires (!) me to think about the noise we live with most of the time, both inside and outside our own heads. How do you make yourself available to inspiration? How do you make yourself the best vessel, the best conduit, the best scribe?
While you're considering that, I offer you an excerpt from the second Duino Elegy. I'll refrain from comment and let it speak for itself, as it does so admirably.
Lovers, if they knew how, might utter strange, marvelous words in the night air.
For it seems that everything hides us.
Look: trees do exist; the houses that we live in still stand.
We alone fly past all things, as fugitive as the wind.
And all things conspire to keep silent about us, half out of shame perhaps, half as unutterable hope.
Lovers, gratified in each other, I am asking you about us.
You hold each other. Where is your proof?
Look, sometimes I find that my hands have become aware of each other,
or that my time-worn face shelters itself inside them.
That gives me a slight sensation.
But who would dare to exist, just for that?
You, though, who in the other's passion grow until, overwhelmed, he begs you:
"No more . . . "; you who beneath his hands swell with abundance,
like autumn grapes; you who may disappear because the other has wholly emerged:
I am asking you about us.
I know, you touch so blissfully because the caress preserves,
because the place you so tenderly cover does not vanish;
because underneath it you feel pure duration.
So you promise eternity, almost, from the embrace.
And yet, when you have survived the terror of the first glances,
the longing at the window, and the first walk together, once only, through the garden:
lovers, are you the same?
When you lift yourselves up to each other's mouth and your lips join,
drink against drink: oh how strangely each drinker seeps away from his action.
Weren't you astonished by the caution of human gestures on Attic gravestones?
Wasn't love and departure placed so gently on shoulders
that it seemed to be made of a different substance than in our world?
Remember the hands, how weightlessly they rest, though there is power in the torsos.
These self-mastered figures know: "We can go this far,
this is ours, to touch one another this lightly; the gods can press down harder upon us.
But that is the gods' affair."
If only we too could discover a pure, contained, human place,
our own strip of fruit-bearing soil between river and rock.
Four our own heart always exceeds us, as theirs did.
And we can no longer follow it,
gazing into images that soothe it or into the godlike bodies where,
measured more greatly, it achieves a greater repose.