Author: Rainer Maria Rilke
Letters to a Young Poet is a handsome little book comprised of Rainer Maria Rilke’s correspondence with the young poet, Franz Xaver Kappus, who is struggling with the validity of his work. These ten letters written from 1903 to 1908 and first published in 1929 continue to resonate with readers in all its comforts and honesty.
“Were it possible for us to see further than our knowledge reaches, and yet a little way beyond the outworks of our divining, perhaps we would endure our sadnesses with greater confidence than our joys. For they are the moments when something new has entered into us, something unknown; our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity, everything in us withdraws, a stillness comes, and the new, which no one knows stands in the midst of it and is silent.”
Letters to a Young Poet inspires a great amount of reflection on various topics. I found myself particularly drawn to Rilke’s words regarding solidarity. I’ve often debated within myself whether the abundance of noise in our world is the product of a real desire for the roar–of television, music, our own voices–or is it a product of our fear of the silence. How many of us do not spend time away from the constant bombardment of unrelenting clamor? How can you ever hope to hear your own inner voice, to explore yourself, and to understand what lies inside if you don’t embrace solidarity? You’ll ask who you are and someone else will answer–and because you don’t know your own voice, there will be no objection on your part.
We take for granted the scope of the human experience, that it spans time and continents. Perhaps this is why books are so important, they remind us that despite our differences, there is a deeper foundation that runs under all of us. How can I not appreciate that Rilke, a man born a hundred years before myself, penned words that have struck the cymbal within me and it reverberates down to my toes? It’s beautiful.