Sunday, August 22, 2010

Letter from Rilke

I stayed up late reading Rilke last night, and discovered to my surprise that he sat down at a desk in Sweden in 1904 and wrote a letter to me. At least that’s how it felt. Letter VIII in “Letters to a Young Poet” contains a famous quote about the future entering into us in order to transform us long before it happens. What I never knew was that the entire piece is about sorrow. And the timing couldn’t be more perfect since the summer depression has rolled in again like a Texas thunderstorm. Rilke wrote that each sorrow is a tool to transform us into our future, better selves. To hide from sorrow is to fail to grow into that stronger person.

“The more patient, quiet and open we are in our sorrowing, the more deeply and the more unhesitatingly will the new thing enter us, the better shall we deserve it, the more it will be our own destiny, and when one day later it ‘happens’ we shall feel in our inmost selves that we are akin and close to it.”

I think it is our human nature to try and escape our pain. We seek distractions through work, love, hobbies or addictions. But what would happen if went all biblical and took the time to sit in the sackcloth and ashes when we are sad? Why are we so afraid of our pain that we do everything but face it? Rilke advised his young friend to embrace his sorrow.

“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 and 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?”

I do not know what this insomnia or seasonal sadness is making of me, but I know I am growing along the way. So I’m going to sit in the dark, play some quiet tunes, and allow myself to feel.

Song of the Day: All Along the Way by Drever, McCusker and Woomble. This one is actually Scottish, since this is supposed to be a Scottish blog after all :)

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