18 hours ago · Bob Weathers · 0 comments
Letters to a Young Poet (Chapter 4)
by Rainer Maria Rilke
Have patience with everything that is unsolved in your heart and…try to cherish the questions themselves…Do not search now for the answers which cannot be given you because you could not live them. It is a matter of living everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, one distant day live right into the answer.
One of the keys to living creatively requires that we learn to tolerate ambiguity, or not knowing, even as we “trudge the Road of Happy Destiny” (from the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous).
The Christian New Testament defines “faith [as] the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” But modern poet, T.S. Eliot, cautions us to:
“Be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.”
Or to put this in contemporary, tongue-in-cheek parlance: “Be careful what you pray for…you just might get it!”
How then are we to set personal goals? Living creatively mandates that we do. But we must also learn to hold our goals lightly, staying open to them morphing into some new , unanticipated direction as a very function of our having initially committed to them.
Poet Rilke advises that we “cherish the questions themselves.” There is a kind of radical trust entailed here, one that reminds me of something my dear friend Steven admonished me with quite recently. “Bobby, we are both deeply into mid-life or beyond, and has God not provided for us to now? Yet today we decide that maybe this is time where the Universe will no longer ‘assist’ us in moving forward?” We both laughed good-naturedly at our respective lacks of faith.
So, if it is to be faith that carries me through life, then in order for my life to be original, as in living out “my original face before I was born” (from Zen), I must hold to a faith that is at least as comfortable asking the right questions as it is in zeroing in on any given answer.
I have found inspiration — in this venture of “faithless faith,” of Rilke’s “living the questions” — by means of an ancient Sanskrit word (from the Indian scripture, the Bhagavad Gita). That word? Nishkamakarma. First introduced to this term some 35 years ago, ironically in a Christian seminary, and by that school’s founder, this ancient phrase (really) has only ever grown in importance across all the intervening years:
“To do one’s duty, with faith in God, and without attachment to the fruit of one’s actions.”
Going east on a westbound train? A performative contradiction? Or most simply, some incredible paradox?
Something exactly like all of the above. Any less of a goal, and we risk selling ourselves, and our “happy destinies,” way too short.