Letters to a Young Poet – Rainer Maria Rilke

The Eight Letter
Borgeby gard, Flädie, Sweden
12 August 1904

How could we be capable of forgetting the old myths that stand at the threshold of al mankind, myths of dragons transforming themselves at the last moment into princesses? Perhaps all dragons in our lives are really princesses just waiting to see us just once being beautiful and courageous

“We must accept our existence to the greatest extent possible; everything, the unprecendent also, needs to be accepted. That is basically the only case of courage required of us: to be courageous in the face of the strangest, the most whimsical and unexplainable thing that we could encounter.
The fact that people have been cowards in that regard has cause infinite harm to life. The experiences that one calls “ghosts”, the entire spirit world, death, all these related things have been forced out of life through daily resistance to such an extent that the senses have become atrophied. And that is not even considering the question of God.
The fear of the unexplainable impoverished not only the existence of the individual, but also caused the relationship of one person to another to be limited”.

The seventh letter
Rome 14 May 1904

“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. It is good to be lonely, for being alone is not easy. 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 to love. They must learn it. With their whole being, with all strengths enveloping their lonely, disquieted heart, they must learn to love – even while their heartbeat is quickening. However, the process of learning always involves time set aside for solitude.Thus to love constantly and far into a lifespan is indeed aloneness, 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”.

“Everyone loses himself for the sake of the other and losses the other and many others that would yet have wished to come. They lose perspective and limit opportunities. They exchange the softly advancing and retreating of gentle premonitions of the spirit for an unfruitful restlessness. Nothing can come of it”.

“No area of human experience is provided with as many conventions as this one [human love]: there are flotations devices of the most unusual sort; there are boats and life belts. Society has known how to create every kind of refuge conceivable. Since it is inclined to perceived love life 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”.

“They act [young people] from a source of mutual helplessness. If, with the best of intentions, they wish to avoid the convention that is approaching them (marriage, for example) they find themselves in the clutches of another conventional solution, one less obvious, but just as deadly. Everything surrounding them, spread wide about them, is – convention”.

“Whoever will seriously consider the question of love will find that, as with the question of death, difficult as it is, there is no enlightened answer, no solution, not the hint of a path has yet been found. And for these two concerns we carry safely disguised within us and that we pass on unresolved, for them no comforting principle will be learned, none finding general agreement”.

“The simple humanity of women, brought about through pain and abasement, shall then come to light when the convention of her ultra-feminism will have been stripped off, transforming her status in the world. The men, who today cannot yet feel it coming, shall be surprised and defeated by it. One day (…) the girl and the woman shall exist with her name no longer contrasted to the masculine; it shall have a meaning in itself. It shall not bring to mind complement or limitation – only life and being: the feminine human being.
This progress shall transform the experience of love, presently full of error, opposed at first by men, who have been overtaken in their progress by women. It shall thoroughly change the love experience to the rebuilding of a relationship meant to be between two persons, no longer just man and woman. And this more human love will be consummated, endlessly considerate and gentle, good and clear in its bounding and releasing; it shall resemble that love for which we must prepare painstakingly and with fervor, which will be comprised of two lonelinesses protecting one another, setting limits, and acknowledging one another.
And one more thing: Do not believe that this idea of a great love, which, when you were a boy, was imposed upon you, has been lost. (…) I believe that this idea of love remains so strong and mighty in your memory because it was your first deep experience of aloneness and the first inner work that you have done on your life”.

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