Duly Quoted

"A library is a hospital for the mind."

“And for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me: life is right, at all events.”

Text: Letters To A Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke

In the past 2 days, I have done a spectacular amount of screwing up. All in minor ways, but still. It’s irritating. I hate screwing up.

But I love Rilke. And I love this book/collection of letters. However, I think the title is misleading: I don’t think they’re necessarily letters to a young poet, or any literary/scholarly type…they’re just letters to anyone who is young. Or has been young once. Because for the record, I do not consider myself a “Young Poet,” nor have I really ever been one (unless we want to redefine “poet”).

I love Rilke because he points me to a new perspective on screwing up. Rilke reminds me that screwing up is inevitable, and a screwup is no cause for frustrated self-condemnation. Rilke knows what it’s like to be a kid who desperately wants to do things right, yet somehow doesn’t always quite do it.  Rilke shifts my eye off the screwups, and back onto the processes before me: “it is a matter of living everything,” not “doing everything right the first time god-damnit!” Rilke advocates self-forgiveness. Rilke makes my insides feel all warm and fuzzy, even though my outsides are covered in sandy mulch and my upper legs are still tender from hot coffee burns and I owe two people replacement possessions (these past few screwups happen to be of the more hilarious variety; ask me about them sometime).

Oh, and Rilke says brilliant things about love. Because they’re not just cute and “aww” inducing—they are so true that the first time I read them I didn’t understand a damn thing, and in a year or two I’ll probably understand them ten times more than I do now. So be sure to read the quotes on love (maybe I’ll finally upload my underlines from his “Love and Other Difficulties” collection sometime soon, yes?)

Ok. Enuff rambling. Read forth! And do let me know what you think about them! I like the art ones, though I’m not sure I understand them entirely; and to be honest, I’m not so sure about the 2nd—sometimes I do think it’s fair to attribute one’s unhappiness to an unsustainable lifestyle and make changes to that rather than trying to “summon up its riches” (potential examples: the chronic overworker? Someone in an unhealthy relationship?).


“In making contact with a work of art nothing serves so ill as words of criticism: the invariable result is more or less happy misunderstandings. Things are not all so comprehensible and utterable as people would mostly have us believe; most events are unutterable, consummating themselves in a sphere where word has never trod, and more unutterable than them all are works of art, whose life endures by the side of our own that passes away.”

“If your everyday life seems poor to you, do not accuse it; accuse yourself, tell yourself you are not poet enough to summon up its riches; since for the creator there is no poverty and no poor or unimportant place.”

“Seek for the depth of things—there irony never descends.”

“Nothing is there that had not been understood, conceived, experienced and recognized in the vibrating echo of memory; no experience has been too slight, and the smallest happening unfolds like a destiny, and the destiny itself is like a wonderful broad tapestry where every thread is inwoven by an infinitely delicate hand, laid next to its fellow, and held and supported by a hundred others.”

Have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and to try to cherish the questions themselves like closed rooms and like books written in a very strange tongue. Do not search now for the answers which cannot be given you because you could not live them. It is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, one distant day live right into the answer.”

“To love is also good: for love is difficult. Fondness between human beings: that is perhaps the most difficult task that is set us, the ultimate thing, the final trial and test, the work for which all other work is only preparation. Therefore young people, who are beginners in everything, cannot know love yet: they have to learn it. With their whole being, with all their strength gathered about their lonely, fearful, upward beating heart, they must learn to love.”

“Loving in the first instance is nothing that can be called losing, surrendering and uniting oneself to another…it is a sublime occasion for the individual to mature, to grow into something in himself, to become world for himself for another’s sake, it is a great exacting claim upon him, something that chooses him and summons him to a distant goal.”

“So you must not be frightened…when a sorrow rises up before you, greater than you have ever seen before; when a restlessness like light and cloud shadows passes over your hands and over all your doing. You must think that something is happening upon you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. Why do you want to exclude any disturbance, any pain, any melancholy from your life, since you do not know what these conditions are working upon you?”

“Always wish that you might be able to find patience enough in yourself to endure, and single-heartedness enough to believe; that you might win increasing trust in what is difficult, and in your solitude among other people. And for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me: life is right, at all events.”

“Art too is only a way of living, and one can prepare for it, living somehow, without knowing it; in everything real one is a closer, nearer neighbor to it than in the unreal semi-artistic professions.”

I personally thing the teens are the worst...

I personally think that anything's better than being a teenager.


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