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Dragons Transformed

Sometimes I don’t have words for the things that keep me up at night, the things that keep so many special needs parents awake, staring at the ceiling. Institutions that don’t adequately value the amazing human beings they’ve been entrusted with. Voices from the outside tearing us down, in the guise of civic concern or advocacy or just plain ugliness. And most of all that wordless thing waiting in the future, the one that scares us most of all because we can’t see it, we can’t even imagine it, and when we ponder it, we are reminded of our own aging frailties and a clock that feels like it’s running out far, far too fast. I don’t always know what to say about these lurking phantoms and monsters. I’m struggling with them myself.

Today, I’m turning to Rilke.

from Letter to a Young Poet
by Ranier Maria Rilke

We have no reason to harbour any mistrust against our world,
for it is not against us.
If it has terrors, they are our terrors.
If it has abysses, these abysses belong to us.
If there are dangers, we must try to love them,
and only if we could arrange our lives,
in accordance with the principle that tells us
that we must always trust in the difficult,
then what now appears to us to be alien
will become our most intimate and trusted experience.

How could we forget those ancient myths
that stand at the beginning of all races —
the myths of dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses?
Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are only princesses
waiting for us to act, just once,
with beauty and courage.
Perhaps everything that frightens us is,
in its deepest essence,
something helpless that wants our love.

So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises before you
larger than any you’ve ever seen,
if an anxiety like light and cloud shadows
moves over your hands and everything that you do.
Life has not forgotten you.
It holds you in its hands and will not yet you fall.
Why do you want to shut out of your life
any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions?
For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.


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