I have been thinking lately about what Rilke meant when he said: “Life is right, in any case”. He was advising the young poet “Mr Kappus” in one of his letters. We do not see the preceding letter from Kappus to Rilke, but we surmise that Kappus must have related some life difficulties to Rilke.
Rilke prepares Kappus for his response by first pointing out that details are not relevant, details come and go:
There is perhaps no use my going into your particular points now; for what I could say about your tendency to doubt or about your inability to bring outer and inner life into unison, or about all the other things that worry you—: it is always what I have already said: …
Then he delivers his advice. And it is fascinating to me that Rilke – a seemingly fragile person with an exquisitely sensitive disposition – points to what seems to me a very stoic attitude:
…it is always what I have already said: always the wish that you may find patience enough in yourself to endure, and simplicity enough to believe; that you may acquire more and more confidence in that which is difficult, and in your solitude among others. And for the rest, let life happen to you. Believe me: life is right, in any case.
Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet (pp. 41-42). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.
That phrase “the patience to endure”, and the urging toward “more and more confidence in that which is difficult” has helped me so much in life. It tends to immediately flip around whatever problem or difficulty I am facing. Then the other side can be seen. And it inevitably contains gold. Hence: fruitful darkness.
Rilke clearly had a stoic disposition despite his sensitivity to things. I think it was Robert Bly who wrote in one of his books: “without cunning and discipline, Rilke would have been wiped out”.
I believe a melancholy, sensitive disposition either wipes you out or it commands you to build a disposition able to work with demons, inner and outer. I recall now reading in Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning” (required reading for any adult) how sensitive inmates seemed to better survive concentration camps than more robust types.
Frankl wrote about his Auschwitz experience:
Sensitive people who were used to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much pain (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damage to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches and spiritual freedom. Only in this way can one explain the apparent paradox that some prisoners of a less hardy make-up often seemed to survive camp life better than did those of a robust nature”
Viktor E. Frankl; Man’s Search for Meaning (4th Ed). Beacon Press. Boston.
Wang Wei was another sensitive person who could not be brought down easily – even by the idea that life has no meaning:
The Stone Ledge On the stone ledge above the water, Where willow leaf-tips drink the wine. If you say the spring breeze has no meaning, Why does it bring me all these falling flowers? Wang Wei, translated by Kline, A. S., in Like Water or Clouds: The T'ang Dynasty and the Tao
So…these things have been on my mind, in my morning walks and as I paint away in my studio. I am still working on that phrase: “Life is right, in any case“…
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you are happy and content.