Sometimes a Man Stands Up
Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.
And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.
And another man, who remains inside his own house,
dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.
I don't think Rilke was proposing that fathers should leave their families. Instead, I view traveling to the church in the East as referring to the need for men to know their own selves, confront their inner demons, and especially to recognize their success or failure in recognizing the dreams they have for their own lives. The danger of not exploring one's own self is passing on our dreams and shadows on to another generation. A father who is at terms with who he is, both good and bad, is better able to help his children recognize who they are and allow them to find the path to their own dreams.