January 25, 2010

The Seventh Letter

***The first three letters were posted in "10 days of Rilke 'til Christmas" in December 2009. Unfortunately the rest of the ten letters weren't posted by then, so here's the rest of this very profound writing for your enlightenment.
Rainer Maria Rilke

“…It is the best of your verses that I have had the privilege to read. …now I shall give you my copy of them, for I know that it is important…a new experience to find one’s own work again in someone else’s handwriting. Read these verses as though you had never seen them before…you will feel…how very much they are your own…

…Do not allow yourself to be confused in your aloneness by the something within you that wishes to be released from it. This very wish, if you will calmly and deliberately use it as a tool, will help to expand your solitude into far distant realms. People have, with the help of so many conventions, resolved everything the easy way, on the easiest side of easy. But it is clear that we must embrace struggle. Every living thing conforms to it. Everything in nature grows and struggles in its own way, establishing its own identity, insisting on it at all cost, against all resistance. We can be sure of very little, but the need to court struggle is a surety that will not leave us…The fact that something is difficult must be one more reason to do it.

To love is also good, for love is difficult. For one human being to love another is perhaps the most difficult task of all, the epitome, the ultimate test. It is that striving for which all other striving is merely preparation. For that reason young people — who are beginners in everything — cannot yet love; they do not know how...Thus to love constantly and far into a lifespan is…heightened and deepened aloneness for one who loves.

Love does not at first have anything to do with arousal, surrender, and uniting with another being — for what union can be built upon uncertainty, immaturity, and lack of coherence? Love is a high inducement for individuals to ripen, to strive to mature in the inner self, to manifest maturity in the outer world, to become that manifestation for the sake of another. This is a great, demanding task; it calls one to expand one’s horizon greatly. Only in this sense, as the task to work on themselves…and to listen, ought young people use the love granted them. Opening one’s self, and surrendering, and every kind of communion are not for them yet, they must for a …very long time gather and harbor experience. It is the final goal, perhaps one which human beings as yet hardly ever seek to attain.

Young people often err…since it is their nature to be impatient…

…They lose perspective and limit opportunities…Society has known how to create every kind of refuge conceivable. Since it is inclined to perceive love…as entertainment, it needs to display it as easily available, inexpensive, safe, and reliable, just like common public entertainment…

…Questions of love are personal, intimate questions, from one person to another, that in every case require a new, special, and an exclusively personal answer…

…Whoever will seriously consider the question of love will find that, as with the question of death…there is no enlightened answer… not the hint of a path has yet been found…no comforting principle…none finding general agreement.

But to the same degree that we as individuals begin to explore life…these deep things surface for each of us in greater intimacy…the difficult work of love demands of our evolvement overwhelms us; it is larger than life. We, as yet beginners, are not equal to it. If we persevere after all, and take this love upon us, accepting it as a burden and a time of training, instead of losing ourselves to the frivolous and careless game behind which people have hidden themselves, not willing to face the most serious question of their being — then perhaps shall a small bit of progress be perceptible as well as some relief for those to come after us…”

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