I recently completed teaching a two week summer Creative Writing course to twenty lovely, witty 7th-12th graders. On their last day, I read to them these passages by poet Rainer Maria Rilke from Letters to a Young Poet. I love some of the things he shares so much that I would like to share them, as well, with you.
“If you trust in nature, in what is simple in nature, in the small things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge.”
Every moment I have dedicated to trusting nature, watching simple and small things have been moments well spent. Holding a leaf to the sun to see its veins, taking a moment to watch a bird fly or an ant carry a meal on its back, small things become immeasurable. God the creator becomes great in the tiniest of gestures. Nature, simple nature has so much to teach us about the strength of humility. Instead of striving to be huge, rich and powerful, we will find reconciliation in winning the confidence of what seems poor. I do think faith is about awakeness.
“You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to 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. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
I love this opening visual of being before beginnings. When we believe that death is a doorway, that God’s mercy is great and leads to everlasting life, then we are all before so many beginnings no matter how old we are. When I get stressed about the future, when I forget to be excited about being before beginnings, a friend tells me, “More will be revealed.” It is this patience that Rainer Maria Rilke calls us to. To sit in the questions, to be comfortable with being unresolved. There is something for us to live today, to really dwell in. We cannot rush past the gift of today in order to get to the answers.
“Perhaps you do carry within you the possibility of creating and forming, as an especially blessed and pure way of living; train yourself for that but take whatever comes, with great trust, and as long as it comes out of your will, out of some need of your innermost self, then take it upon yourself, and don’t hate anything.”
My students created something out of nothing. They looked at blank screens and created poems, stories and essays. I believe that act of creating something out of nothing is a holy act. You, too, have the possibility of creating and forming. It does not need to be poetry like Rainer or my students. What do you sense is a need of your innermost self? What do you feel God calling you to in this world?
What has nature taught you?
What big questions do you hold in your heart today?
What have you created in your life?