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Who can be my advisor? What should I do first? I have many questions, but no answer! I feel alone. Should I believe in God? How do I escape conventions? How can I know the real quality?

R. M. Rilke: Letter to a young poet

From: R. M. Rilke, Letters to a young poet, tr. by Stephen Mitchell

Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House  












     ÍO ONE CAN ADVISE or help you - no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must," then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. 

... For the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place. And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world's sounds - wouldn't you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attentions to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance.   ...

Read as little as possible of literary criticism - such things are either partisan opinions, which have become petrified and meaningless, hardened and empty of life, or else they are just clever word-games, in which one view wins today, and tomorrow the opposite view. Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as criticism. Only love can touch and hold them and be fair to them. - Always trust yourself and your own feeling, as opposed to argumentations, discussions, or introductions of that sort; if it turns out that you are wrong, then the natural growth of your inner life will eventually guide you to other insights. Allow your judgments their own silent, undisturbed development, which, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be forced or hastened. Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one's own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.  ...


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   Rilke wrote his first letter to a young poet (the original title is "Briefe an einen jungen Dichter") in the February of 1903 and the last one in the December of 1908. He had already written the "Book of Images". Read more...  Cf.  Plato, Books can be your worst enemies * Jaspers, Truth is in communication * Kierkegaard, My work as an author * Emerson, Reading and writing as self-knowledge * Francis Bacon, Reading & writing as moral activities * Tom Schulman, Dead Poets Society * Gibson - MacRury, The man without a face * J. M. Lefévre, The White Thinking * Dostoevsky, The dream of ridiculous man

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