Yesterday I met with my coach and of the many things we talked about, which usually bring on a wealth of emotion, the poem below was one of them. I am grateful that it was read aloud to me. I’ve heard it said that “not everyone has a coach, but everyone deserves one.”
Written in 1814 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, famous for Faust and Prometheus, the poem is a magical and mystical cautionary tale. There are four lines in particular that resonate very deeply with me.
1.Tell a wise person, or else keep silent, because the mass man will mock it right away
The term “mass man” can be translated as “the crowd”. He’s essentially saying to be careful who to show your freak flag to, for “the wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin” (Proverbs 10:14).
2. …obsession with darkness
I did’t expect this to hit me the way it did. I have spent way too much time here, in this place of darkness. Thinking it was a safe place to hide. Screaming at it in the dark. Sweating through my childhood dreams. Where did it come from? This construct. “Fear is the path to the dark side” – Master Yoda.
3. …a strange feeling comes over you, when you see the silent candle burning
Mediation. The breath. “You will know (the good from the bad) when you are calm, at peace.” – Master Yoda.
4. “As so long as you haven’t experienced this: to die and so to grow, you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.”
Broken open. I get it.
As an interesting side note, Goethe was not only a writer and statesmen, he was a scientist and wrote extensively about color theory and at one time had the largest private collection of minerals in Europe (17,800 samples). His theory on the spectrum of light (the colors we see) is that through a prism, it can be deduced that the color arises where the light meets the dark. He goes on to say that “light is the simplest most undivided most homogenous being that we know. Confronting it is the darkness…shade is a part of light. It sounds absurd when I express it; but so it is…colors, which are shadow and the result of shade, are the light itself.”
The Holy Longing
poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,
because the mass man will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive,
what longs to be burned to death.
In the calm water of the love-nights,
where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
a strange feeling comes over you,
when you see the silent candle burning.
Now you are no longer caught in the obsession with darkness,
and a desire for higher love-making sweeps you upward.
Distance does not make you falter.
Now, arriving in magic, flying,
and finally, insane for the light,
you are the butterfly and you are gone.
And so long as you haven’t experienced this: to die and so to grow,
you are only a troubled guest on the dark earth.
As these things tend to do, coincidences show up. Last evening I was introduced to this song: