We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience. How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet


If A Sadness Confronts You

So don’t be frightened, dear friend, if a sadness confronts you larger than any you have ever known, casting its shadow over all you do. You must think that something is happening within you, and remember that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hand and will not let you fall. Why would you want to exclude from your life any uneasiness, any pain, any depression, since you don’t know what work they are accomplishing within you?

In Every Drop of My Blood

Extinguish my eyes, I’ll go on seeing you.
Seal my ears, I’ll go on hearing you.
And without feet I can make my way to you,
without a mouth I can swear your name.

Break off my arms, I’ll take hold of you
with my heart as with a hand.
Stop my heart, and my brain will start to beat.
And if you consume my brain with fire,
I’ll feel you burn in every drop of my blood.
~Rainer Maria Rilke
Rilke’s Book of Hours
Love Poems to God

Let This Darkness Be A Bell Tower

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

Sonnets to Orpheus II, 29
Translation by Joanna Macy & Anita Barrows

If I Had Grown In Some Generous Place ~ Rilke

If I had grown in some generous place –
if my hours had opened in ease –
I would make you a lavish banquet.
My hands wouldn’t clutch at you like this,
so needy and tight.

Then I’d have dared to squander you,
you Limitless Now.
I’d have tossed you into the ringing air
like a ball that someone leaps for and catches
with hands outstretched.

I would have painted you: not on the wall
but in one broad sweep across heaven.
I’d have portrayed you brashly:

as mountain, as fire, as a wind
howling from the desert’s vastness.
Rilke’s Book of Hours
Love Poems To God

I’m Too Alone In The World… ~ Rilke

I’m too alone in the world, yet not alone enough
to make each hour holy.
I’m too small in the world, yet not small enough
to simply be in your presence, like a thing –
just as it is.

I want to know my own will
and to move with it.
And I want, in the hushed moments
when the nameless draws near,
to be among the wise ones –
or alone.

I want to mirror your immensity.
I want never to be too weak or too old
to bear the heavy lurching image of you.

I want to unfold.
Let no place in me hold itself closed,
for where I am closed, I am false.
I want to stay clear in your sight.

I would describe myself
like a landscape I’ve studied
at length, in detail;
like a word I’m coming to understand;
like a pitcher I pour from at mealtime;
like my mother’s face;
like a ship that carried me
when the waters raged.
~R.M. Rilke
Rilke’s Book of Hours
Love Poems to God

I Am, You Anxious One ~ Rilke

I am, you anxious one.
Don’t you sense me ready to break
into being at your touch?
My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings.
Can’t you see me standing before you
cloaked in stillness?
Hasn’t my longing ripened in you
from the beginning
as fruit ripens on the branch?

I am the dream you are dreaming.
When you want to awaken, I am that wanting:
I grow strong in the beauty you behold.
And with the silence of stars I enfold
your cities made by time.
~R.M. Rilke

God Speaks to Each of Us

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going.  No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

It’s All About The Search

Have patience with everything in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.  Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now, and perhaps someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
~Rainer Maria Rilke
Letters to a Young Poet
Translated by Stephen Mitchell

I’m looking for the face I had before the world was made.
~W.B. Yeats

For me, life is all about the search.  That’s why I think the questions we ask can often be more important than the answers.  The word question is derived from the Latin quaerere which means to seek.  And who among us isn’t doing that?  What we seek is often as varied and changeable as the seasons, with each of us striking out on our own path, blazing our own trail.  I like that.  I like knowing that my way doesn’t have to be your way, though I must confess to a rather vague certainty that we’ll all end up in the same place eventually.

And while our paths are as singular as we are, I believe we’re all seeking answers to some of the same fundamental questions.  Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we all set out in search of our own true identity, our own face.  I think we search too for someone to love, and for happiness and meaning.

For me, one of my most profound moments came when I realized that though my circumstances had changed with the onset of my illness, my quest had not.  And it was questioning that allowed me to see this truth and forge a new path.  Along the way I learned too that many of the really important questions can be hard and painful, and have no easy answers – like the one I’ve been living with now for quite some time: What if this is as good as it gets?  When questions like this arise, I pay special attention because I know I’m at the heart of what matters. I know too that when the answer comes, if it comes, it will speak to who I am and show me the way forward.