May 10, 2010

Growing pains

"So you must not be frightened, dear Mr. Kappus, if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloud-shadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with 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 shut out of your life any agitation, any pain, any melancholy, since you really do not know what these states are working upon you? Why do you want to persecute yourself with the question whence all this may be coming and whither it is bound? Since you know that you are in the midst of transitions and wished for nothing so much as to change."
--Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
It's true: No one likes to grapple with ugliness, least of all when it is located inside oneself. When I think of self-improvement, instinctively I picture smiles and impressive before and after pictures, but it's an unfortunate truth of life that sadness is and will continue to be a key driving force of the process. As much as we may want to change something inside ourselves without having to ever acknowledge its existence, or without hating ourselves a bit in the process, it simply can't be done. There are no figurative rubber gloves to keep the skin of our hands clean from what horrors lurk beneath the clogged drain – the thing is to simply plunge right in and hope for the best, no comfort but for a few letters that comprise the closest thing to a self-help book anyone should ever want or need to read. His words consistently amaze and inspire.
"The necessary thing is after all but this: solitude, great inner solitude. Going-into-oneself and for hours meeting no one – this one must be able to attain. To be solitary, the way one was solitary as a child, when the grownups went around involved with things that seemed important and big because they themselves looked so busy and because one comprehended nothing of their doings. And when one day one perceives that their occupations are paltry, their professions petrified and no longer linked with living, why not then continue to look like a child upon it all as upon something unfamiliar, from out of the depth of one's own world, out of the expanse of one's own solitude, which is itself work and status and vocation?"
--Letters to a Young Poet
"Petrified and no longer linked with living"...probably a fitting description for way too many of the actions of so-called adults. I always found it a little bit depressing to learn that even the best people are human; they have their petty weaknesses and petrified days, just like the rest of us.

No comments: