Every Heart Vibrates to an Iron String - Meditating Upon Rilke, Guru Arjan, Levertov, Emerson

Jo Mange Thakur Apne Te

I am meditating upon Guru Arjan's Jo Mange Thakur Apne Te today. The soulful singer and the deep listener of the shabad is empowered: "Whatever I ask, I receive. Whatever I say, becomes true." 

This reminds me what Rilke says about the "power in me." (see poem below)  The power of the self refers to the strength and influence that an individual has over their own thoughts, emotions, actions, and decisions. It encompasses the ability to determine one's own identity, set and achieve personal goals, and make meaningful choices in life. The singer of the shabad can become a better version of himself just by meditating on the shabad.  Cultivating self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-discipline are key aspects of developing the power of the self.

This truth rings clear and sharp in his poem, and is adapted by Denise Levertov in another poem where the reader ends singing what he always knew: "I can." (see poem below) This reminds me of "I Think I Can," a children's story that conveys the message of determination and positive thinking. The story follows a small locomotive that is tasked with transporting a heavy load of toys and good over a mountain, despite its own doubts and the discouraging words of other engines. The little engine repeatedly says to itself "I think I can," and through its perseverance and determination, it successfully makes it over the mountain and delivers the goods.

The message of the story is that with enough willpower, effort, and a positive attitude, anyone can overcome obstacles and achieve their goals, no matter how difficult they may seem. The story teaches children that it's important to believe in themselves and to never give up, even in the face of challenges.

This is a song of oneness that once Emerson sang, "Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.” This sage advice comes from Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay "Self-Reliance," and it refers to the idea that every person has an innermost core of truth and integrity that they are drawn to and guided by. Emerson believed that this "iron string" is a universal principle that connects all people, and that it is the source of an individual's personal sense of morality, ethics, and purpose. He saw it as a kind of inner compass that can help people navigate their lives and make decisions that are true to themselves.

In this context, the "iron string" represents the power of the self and the inner voice that speaks to each individual, guiding them towards their own personal truth and purpose. By heeding this inner voice and following their own unique path, Emerson believed that people could live fulfilling and authentic lives.

The hour is striking so close above me

- Rainer Maria Rilke

English version by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
Original Language German

The hour is striking so close above me,
so clear and sharp,
that all my senses ring with it.
I feel it now: there's a power in me
to grasp and give shape to my world.

I know that nothing has ever been real
without my beholding it.
All becoming has needed me.
My looking ripens things
and they come toward me, to meet and be met.

Variation on a Theme by Rilke

- Denise Levertov

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me—a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day's blow
rang out, metallic—or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.