Living our Way into the Answers


“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.” 

Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet is up there with his Letters on Life on my list of books that changed my life. I have treasured both as part of my poetry collection ever since university where my course programs included a full study of the Duino Elegies in German.

A young Rilke wrote the Elegies at around the time the Great War (World War I) in Europe was coming to a close. He was staying for a brief time in an Italian castle belonging to a friend. Since they are quite difficult to describe for the beauty and power, the link above includes the translation of Edward Snow, one of the most respected translators of Rilke's work opposite the German text (best for those who can read it.)

But it is the letters that I have revisited more over the years, because they connect better with daily preoccupations, though they are not less mind-expanding. For example:

“You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

The part about living the questions when young was especially hard hitting at the time, but we all come to a point in life when we begin to live our way into the answers — and that is all the richer from the texture of experience.

Which is how we go from nouns to verbs, from strategy to strategizing — because we recognize that we have a lot of background about why a situation exists yet we are still called to making choices based on time dependent information.


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