The Panther

— Midweek Meditations:
thoughts, inspiration and encouragement
from ACF community members —

Today’s Thoughts on a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke
(English translation of the poem here.)

Der Panther

Sein Blick ist vom Vorübergehn der Stäbe
So müd geworden, dass er nicht mehr hält.
Ihm ist, als ob es tausend Stäbe gäbe
Und hinter tausend Stäben keine Welt.

Der weiche Gang geschmeidig starker Schritte,
der sich im allerkleinsten Kreise dreht,
ist wie ein Tanz von Kraft um eine Mitte,
in der betäubt ein großer Wille steht.

Nur manchmal schiebt der Vorhang der Pupille
sich lautlos auf – . Dann geht ein Bild hinein,
geht durch die Glieder angespannte Stille –
und hört im Herzen auf zu sein.

Rainer Maria Rilke 1902

It is one of my favourite poems by Rilke being touched by the image of this magnificent powerful cat deprived of its ability to roam in its natural habitat, like a bird in the cage or fish in a water glass – or me in my daily life?

How often do I feel hemmed in by the bars of my daily life, by all the restrictions even aggravated by the current pandemic. Has my circle become so small pacing from morning to evening, that my will and vision for life has become so dull that I am drained of all the strength to move bars, to change worlds, to live my dream because it has stopped before it even reached my heart?

What are these bars blocking my view of a greater world? What/who restrict the sizes of my circles? What has made my looking so tired and weary that it doesn’t hold anything anymore? What has killed all my interest? Dulled my thoughts, my listening, robbed me of my energy to dance in bigger strides?

There are so many bars to a life to its fullest. Visiting my parents I saw for the first time a rolling walker in the hall way of my parents’ house, when my mom was (and still tries to be) one of the most sporty people I know. When she tells me in the evening that she is really tired and not so interested in many things anymore. Age and sickness are big bars in the life of many. Depression can become such a tight set of bars that not even light can enter through it throwing people into the darkness of hopelessness and weariness.

Then there are the bars of loneliness, I believe cages will feel different whether you walk them alone or together with a loved one. COVID19 was easier for us having each other and our kids at home. But many struggled not being able to see friends to get out, to sing in the choir, to run with friends or just eat out. 

The bars of hatred, bars which seemed to be even carefully placed, cared for and expanded built to keep others out.

And then there are the bars of daily life with all its chores, nitty nagging tasks, obligations, even work or family life may feel like a barred world, preventing us to become what we are meant to be.

Jesus stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Luke 4:18-19

This world will have bars, real bars and self-imposed ones. Unlike the panther we often have keys to open our cages and leave. How often has a fresh look at the situation helped me to dissolve what I had seen as a cage, stepping out of my role as a victim into taking responsibility to change myself, my view but also the circumstance when necessary and possible. I have to still break down many bars I feel restricted by because of “poor me”, poor choices in my daily walk of life, lack of gratitude, a powerful tool to dissolve some of the bars.

A change of attitude within family, at work and elsewhere helps a lot to see life more colorful, miraculous and as the gift of a wide, wide world of opportunities.

Learning also to accept restrictions when these become necessary to protect and help others.

However, not all bars dissolve this way and suffering, injustice, sickness remain a challenge in our world so that we are called to be there for each other, either to break bars but often only to reach with our hands through the bar just being there and give hope.

Jesus said to her, 

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

John 10:10

Lord, thank you for your promise.
Strengthen our faith,
help us to break the bars in our world,
set us free.

The ACF Midweek Meditations
are written by a diverse group of our church members with the intention to seek God’s fingerprints in our lives. They range from somber to humorous and are inspired by all facets of live and faith. Written by ordinary people from all walks of life, they reflect a wide range of Christian backgrounds and spiritualities.

Each week’s text portrays the individual viewpoint of its author. They might not always resonate with everyone, and are not meant to be understood as representing the Anglican Church Freiburg as a whole. Yet, as a church that is aiming to ‘Build a Community of Grace’ we seek to practice learning from and listening to one another.

We pray that these humble ponderings add a small spark of blessing to your week.

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