Rainer Maria Rilke

Letters to a Young Poet

"Don't you see how anything that happens is always yet another beginning?"

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Summary

"You are looking toward the outside, and that above all is the one thing you should not do at this moment. Nobody can give you advice and help you. Nobody. There's only one way. Go within yourself."

Rilke begins his exchange of letters with the young Mr. Kappus by reminding him that advice is cheap. Don't look for any, except the one that arises from solitude deep inside.

"Almost everyone experiences an hour when they would like to trade in being alone for a sense of belonging, no matter how random, threadbare, and cheap, for the illusion of a minor agreement with whatever is nearest and least worthy perhaps those are exactly the hours when our solitude grows."

In this solitude hides much of life's crucial wisdom, like the reminder that the world is not against us - it is there with and despite us. It is us who must learn to live with it without expectation of special treatment.

"We have no reason to distrust our world because it is not against us. If it contains frightful things, these frights are our frights, if it contains abysses, these abysses belong to us, if there are dangers we must try to love them. If we only arrange our life according to the principle that we should always stick to what is difficult, then whatever still seems most foreign to us today will become most intimate and most loyal to us. How could we forget those old myths found at the origin of the history of all peoples, the myths about dragons that transform at the last possible moment into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our life are princesses who are only waiting for us to be radiant with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything terrible is at bottom helpless, waiting for our help."

But to accept the world and reality, you must first learn to love the questions. The endless hunt for the next answer will exhaust you.

"...have patience with everything that has not been resolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms for which you lack the key, and books written in a completely foreign tongue. Do not search for answers that cannot be given to you now because you could not live them. And it is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will one distant day simply live your way into the answer, without even noticing."

Love, as trite as that may sound, is the ticket to both adventure and lasting peace. Learning to love the fact of your existence is the resource you need to make the best use of it.

"Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it."

Toward the very end, Rilke reminds us that any event is always a beginning.

"Don't you see how anything that happens is always yet another beginning?"
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