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Rilke, questions, heart

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.

-- from the letters of Ranier Maria Rilke

I'd been thinking about Rilke recently (I love the last line of Archaic torso of Apollo) so it seemed serendipitious when I came across this beautiful quotation from his letters in my aggregator this morning (via this post from Maggi Dawn.)

Patience with everything unresolved in my heart? Don't search for answers? Uh-oh. I've spent much of this year, so far, searching for answers to medical questions, so Rilke's admonition draws me up short. I may be comfortable with religious mystery, but when it comes to my own body, I can't seem to help wanting certainty. (Hence the visit to MGH earlier this week, and the planned return late this month.)

Of course, Rilke's talking about what's unresolved in one's emotional or spiritual heart; he might offer different advice about looking into one's actual organs. Knowing now that my physical heart is sound, I still have to deal with what's unresolved emotionally and spiritually. I still find it challenging to "love the questions themselves." And that's where this quotation moves me most: Rilke's exhortation to "live everything. Live the questions now."

It's easy, when life centers around questions (as it usually does) to become fixated on answers. To focus on the wished-for (or feared) destination, rather than experiencing the journey while it's happening. I can tie myself in knots worrying about what-ifs and if-thens. It's easy to write a different script for each possibility, and lose oneself in the implications of each -- but Rilke urges us toward a different kind of practice. Toward living in the mystery, and finding a way to embrace that mystery, instead of wanting to flip to the back of life's book.

So thanks for the reminder, Ranier Maria. I needed that.

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