Sunday, August 23, 2015

Book #34: Letters to a Young Poet

This week's selection is brought to you by a series of synchronous events. In fact, four separate events just this week led me to this book, including it catching my eye as I browsed a shelf at a bookstore, seeing it on a recommended reading list, reading a quote from it that someone posted online ("be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves"), and re-discovering it was already on my "to be read" list that I keep at the back of my journal for this project.

I'm not sure what that all actually means, except that as I read Rilke's letters, I was reminded about another series of synchronous events that have also occurred during the past week, prodding me to listen to my own instincts--not the voices of others--as I sort through some issues that have challenged me as long as I can remember, but especially recently.

As Rilke mentors the young poet, he keeps revisiting this idea of going inside, of solitude, of finding answers there. Just a few examples:

. . . all I wanted to do in the end was advise you to go through your development quietly and seriously; you cannot disrupt it more than by looking outwards and expecting answers from without to questions that only your innermost instinct in your quietest moments will perhaps be able to answer.

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

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.

It may all be pure coincidence. Or it may not.

After all, according to Rilke's own words, I shouldn't be listening to him.

But then, he also says, "Irony: don't let yourself be ruled by it."


Megan Goates said...

I love this.

Weston said...

On the "love the questions themselves" thing, there's a similar passage from Wendell Berry's _Jayber Crow_ that I like:

"You have been given questions to which you cannot be given answers. You will have to live them out - perhaps a little at a time."
"And how long is that going to take?"
"I don't know. As long as you live, perhaps."
"That could be a long time."
"I will tell you a further mystery," he said. "It may take longer."