“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and 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…you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903, in “Letters to a Young Poet”
About 30 years ago I read an essay which had a big impact on me. It was Ralph Waldo’s Emerson essay on self-reliance. Maybe you know that one, which mentions “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines” It spoke to my spirit of independence and of finding my own way.
Since then, I’ve lived a lot of my life and much if it well. Much of that time has been in a spirit of defiance and with self-reliant independence.
I recently read the essay again and was astonished. It seemed impossible to me that the words would have changed. Yet, here they were talking about interdependence, interbeing, and connecting to a deep, common spirit. This spirit, which he calls genius (or almost genie) has more of a mystical quality than the mental staunchness I thought I had read.
Rilke is so right. Words need patience to be understood. Even more so, words need life and living in order to be truly understood.