In 1902 in Vienna, a young aspiring poet named Franz Kappus wrote to the then-famous German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, asking for advice. The two carried on correspondence for the next eight years. In 1992, Rilke’s letters to Kappus were published under the title Letters To A Young Poet.
In this wonderful slim volume, Rilke provides keen insights not only for someone who wishes to write truly, but also for anyone who struggles to live truly. I’d like to share just two quotations.
“My dear friend, I know of no other advice than this: Go within and scale the depths of your being from which your very life springs forth.”
That’s a searching question, worth spending time with: what are the springs from which my life springs forth? What accounts for me being me? What is the fuel of my life?
We live in a shallow time—all the more reason to take time to go a little deeper.
This quotation actually raises more problems and questions than it answers, which leads me to one of my favorite quotations in the book. This one deserves to be read slowly, quietly, again and again. Listen with your heart.
“I would like to beg of you, dear friend, as well as I can, to have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them…At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer some distant day.”
Go deeper. Have patience. Love the questions. Live the questions. In a time when many claim to answer every life problem with three easy steps, this advice is priceless.