Content-type: text/html ~ Stephen's Web ~ Rilke and Wittgenstein

Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Dec 01, 2010

Rilke is a great read, for sure, and this is a nice take on his ideas.

I've run across Rilke on a number of occasions.

    I would like to step out of my heart
    and go walking beneath the enormous sky.

Most recently in Ray Monk's biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein. Rilke was supported for a short time by Wittgenstein, who subscribed to the idea that you have to earn your place in the world, that it is not just given to you, but you have to take it.

Part of that - and the part I like about both Rilke and Wittgenstein - is the idea of giving yourself over completely, whether to an idea, an activity, or most ideally, to the ordinary and mundane, in which the greatest wonders are found.

Most people merely walk under the night sky; people like Rilke and Wittgenstein lose themselves in it.

I can't recall at the moment where I read it, but there was the story I read of how the student singing was unable to reach new heights, until that one day he simply dedicated himself to the task with all abandon, losing the sense of self, and dedicating himself completely to the performance.

It's not about augmentation. None of this - being human, being digital - is about augmentation. Of such there are tools and technologies that can extend our reach, amplify our voice - but in the end, it is up to us to completely involve ourselves in the performance, the communication, the use.

No matter ho loudly you can amplify your voice, Wittgenstein would say - and probably Rilke with him - that this voice will represent nothing more or less than who you are, and that you must deserve to have that voice, and when you do, the greatness in the voice will shine through.

I think... I think... I think I believe this too.

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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