Thursday, January 7, 2010

Rilke's Advice on Facing the Terrors in the World

Rainer Maria Rilke's compilation of his Letters to a Young Poet, originally written as true correspondence to the 19-year-old Franz Xaver Kappus in 1903-1904, are . . . well, wonderful. I can barely hold back from using each line from his letters in my thesis on understanding the quarterlife crisis. Rilke was just 27 when he wrote these letters, undoubtedly still in (or just out of) a quarterlife crisis himself. Perhaps I'll share several of his quotes here. To start with, is this one, on understanding that the work of healing the world is our own work of healing ourselves.
We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience. How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love. (1984, pp. 91-92)
If you have a monster or person chasing you in your dreams, it's worth asking that individual what it wants.

1 comment:

  1. This is a deep and profound question that I do not think a lot of people are asking.
    It seems that there is a great divide between what people percieve is happenning "out there" and what is happenning inside their own hearts and minds.
    We are in a collective whether we like it or not and to ignore this leads to the over abundance of inner despair that pervades our society, fills the coffers of pharmaceutical companies and overflows our prisons. The salve for this is too open the prism of myopia and look at a wider perspective that includes ourselves and the world we live in a a more holistic, connected vision.

    Scott Schutzman, M.A.