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Lawrence and Rilke

Wednesday, 9 October 2019 at 21:20

T. E. Lawrence on Dr John Dunn. If there was ever a quintessential evocation of living in the present it is to be found in the famous description of a motorcycle ride by T. E. Lawrence in Part 3, Chapter 16 of his autobiographical book, The Mint.

I can relate it to the passage from one of Rilke’s elegies quoted by motorcyclist Ted Bishop in his Riding with Rilke.

He quotes from Rilke’s eighth Duino Elegy.

…the beast is free
and has death always behind it and God before it,
and when it walks it goes toward eternity,
as springs flow. Never, not for a single day
do we have pure space before usin which the flowers
are always unfolding.

Bishop writes that ‘Rilke speaks of the pure space that animals and children move into, that flowers bloom into: a space without the consciousness of death'.

By implication, living in the present means shedding the adult consciousness of death, and this is what I believe Lawrence found in the exhilaration of riding a big fast Brough Superior. The irony is,of course, that it was when riding the Brough that Lawrence met his untimely death.

I ask again - is being in the present losing yourself or being yourself? And in either case, is exchanging human consciousness for animal consciousness too big a price to pay for moving into the space identified by Rilke?

In my opinion it is.

© John Dunn.

Thoughts prompted by motorcycling

Sunday, 6 October 2019 at 21:07

Lawrence on Brough Superior on Dr John Dunn. It is said of motorcycling that it is living in the moment, not in the past, not in the future. You are only in this moment. This I think was the experience of T. E. Lawrence when he was riding his mighty Brough Superior - he was, so to speak, in the present.

Is being in the present losing yourself or being yourself?

You can lose yourself in many ways... there is always a siren call.

What is being anyway?

Do I embody it, impose it, or remain subject to it?

I’ve lived my life alone.

I never engaged in the game or the job.

Never had a friend.

Sought friendship through relationships.

Barriers have to be down, or forget it.

Defined myself by joining, but never engaging.

My sports/pastimes are solitary - cycling and motorcycling.

Solipsist am I.

Well I suppose the others will always criticise the solipsist.

They’re defending their right to a separate existence. But their grounds are weak.

Hell is indeed other people, and yet, on reflection…

But you need me…

No I don’t need you
I don’t love you
It’s over.

What’s over?
I was alive in the relationship.

It’s over.

Life is over.

© John Dunn.

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