Notes: Rainer Maria Rilke Letters to a Young Poet & The Letter from the Young Worker

Letter to a Young Poet

He lived in fear of two false fates: either that he might end up as lost as the ragged poor who had surrounded him in Paris or else that he might succumb to the saef but numbing comforts of convention….that he might never become his own person [he was feeling the pressure of having to follow what he knew in his heart was right, but what was against the norm.]

To be an artist means: not to calculate and count; to grow and ripen like a tree…’ Creative life contains its own temporality and the surest way to make it fail is to put it on an external clock…In solitude we fell ‘as if eternity lay before’ us. [take the time to enjoy the process TRUST THE PROCESS]

Patience is the art of COURTING the future.  It belongs to the becoming rather than being, to the unfinished rather than the completed. [success is a byproduct of happiness]

‘purity’ , ‘infinity’ , and ‘eternity’ as placeholders pointing towards all that does not yet exist, but might.

(sarcastic) your beloved natural possessions, a piece, and a voice, of your life.  A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity…(advice) to go into yourself and to examine the depths from which your life springs; at its source you will find the answer to the question of whether you have to write.

Books: Jens Peter Jacobsen Six Novellas, Niels Lyhne, Auguste Rodin, Marcus Aurelius

Trust yourself and your instincts; even if you go wrong in your judgement, the natural growth of your inner life will gradually, over time, lead you to other insights.

…arrogance with which men have disfigured and overburdened love.  Because he loves only as a man, not has a human being

…feelings that have a profound life of their own; for even the best of us get the words wrong when we want them to express such intangible and almost unsayable things…If you hold close to nature, to what is simple in it, to the small things people hardly see and which all of a sudden can become great and immeasurable; if you have this love for what is slight, and quite unassumingly, as a servant, seek to win the confidence of what seems poor – then everything will grow easier, more unified and somehow more conciliatory, not perhaps in the intellect, which, amazed, remains a step behind, but in your deepest consciousness, watchfulness and knowledge…be patient towards all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms, like books written in a foreign tongue.  Do not now strivve to uncover answers: they cannot be given you because you have not been able to live them.  And what matters is to live everything. Live the questions for now…Sex is difficult, true.  But difficult things are what we were set to do, almost everything serious is difficult, and everything is serious.  If you only acknowledge this and manage from your own resources, from your own disposition and nature, from your own experience and childhood and strength, to win your way towards a relationship to sex that is wholly your own (not influenced by convention and custom), then you have no need to fear losing yourself and becoming unworthy of your best possession….(sex) as a concentration of ourselves into climactic points.

What is needed is this, and this alone: solitude, great inner loneliness.  Going into oneself and not meeting anyone for hours – that is what one must arrive at…Why wish to exchange a child’s wise incomprehension for rejection and contempt, when incomprehension is solitude, whereas rejection and contempt are ways of participating in what, by precisely those means, you want to sever yourself from?  Think, dear Mr Kappus, of the world that you carry within you, and call this thinking whatever you like.  Whether it is memory of your own childhood or longing for your own future – just be attentive towards what rises up inside you, and place it above everything that you notice round about.  What goes on in your innermost being is worth all your love, this is what you must work on however you can and not waste too much time and too much energy on clarifying your attitude to other people.

…no longer believe in god, who is everywhere present in it, then ask yourself, dear Mr Kappus, whether you have really lost god after all? Is it not rather the case that you have never yet possessed him?  For when was it supposed to have been? Do you think a child can hold him, him whom grown men only bear with difficulty and whose weight bows down the old?

Why don’t you think of him as a coming god, who since eternity has lain ahead of us, the future one, the eventual fruit of a tree of which we are the leaves?…Must he not be the last in order to encompass all things in himself, and what significance would we have if the one whom we hanker for had already been?…As the bees collect honey together, so we fetch the sweetness our of everything and build HimHe perhaps requires of you precisely this existential anxiety in order to begin.

And you must not let yourself be diverted out of your solitude by the fact that something in you wants to escape from it.  Precisely this desire, if you use it calmly and judiciously, as a kind of tool, will help you to extend your solitude over a greater expanse of ground.

…young people, who are beginners in everything, do not yet know how to love: they must learn.

…[we have turned love into] to trivialize it, to make it cheap, risk-free and secure, as public pleasures usually are.

but how can people who have already flung together and no longer can set themselves any limits or tell one another apart, and who therefore possess nothing of their own any more, how on earth can they find a way out of themselves, out of the depths of a solitude that has already been split and squandered?

…man, who is all to light and has not been pulled down beneath the surface of life by the wight of a bodily fruit and who, in his arrogance and impatience, undervalues what he thinks he loves.

reshape it into a relation between two human beings and no longer between man and woman.  And this more human form of love…love that consists of two solitudes protecting, defining and welcoming to one another.

But is ask you to consider whether these great unhappinesses did not rather pass through you…you were not transformed while you were unhappy?

And that is why sadness passes: what is new in us the thing that has supervened, has entered into our heart, penetrated to its innermost chamber and not lingered even there – it is already in our blood.  And we never quite know what it was.  One might easily suppose that nothing had happened.

it is the fearful shying away from any kind of new, unforseeable experience which we think may not be equal to.  But only someone who is ready for anything and rules nothing out, not even the most enigmatic things, will experience the relationship with another as a living thing and will himself live in his own existence to the full.

We have no reason to be mistrustful of our world, for it is not against us.  If it holds terrors they are our terrors, if it has its abysses these abysses belong to us, and if there are dangers then we must try to love them.  And if we only organize our life according to the principle which teaches us always to hold to what is difficult, then what now still appears most foreign will become our most intimate and most reliable experience….Perhaps everything terrifying is deep down a helpless thing that needs our help.

Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question of where it all comes from and where it is leading?  You well know you are in a period of transition and want nothing more than to be transformed.

do not think that the person who is trying to console you lives effortlessly among the simple, quiet words that sometimes make you feel better.  His life is full of troubles and sadness and falls far short of them.  But if it were any different he could never have found the words that he did.

life is right, whatever happens

[on doubts] ask them why, demand hard evidence, test them, and you will perhaps find them at a loss and short of an answer, or perhaps mutinous.

Letters to a Young Worker:

It is a monstrous act of violence to begin something.  I cannot begin.  Im simply jumping over what ought to be in the beginning.  Nothing is as powerful as silence. Were we not all of us born in to talk, it would never have been broken.

(on Christ)  But the people here have been like those dogs who don’t understand pointing and think they are meant to go for the hand. (they have settled on Christ)

This increasing ransacking of life, is it not a consequence of the devaluation of the Here and Now which has been going on for centuries?  What madness, to divert us towards a beyond when we are surrounded by tasks and expectations and futures here.  What deceit, to divest us of images of earthly delight in order to sell them to heaven behind our backs!

are our cities filled with so much ugly artificial light and noice because true illumination and song have been surrendered to a Jerusalem which will only be entered later?

To take the Here and Now in ones hand, lovingly, with the heart, full of wonder, as, provisionally, the one thing that we have.

We should say to ourselves, there is only one, and understand power that is lesser, false, defective, as if it were that which takes hold of us legitimately.  Would it not thus become harmless?


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