Live the Questions
Updated: May 23, 2022
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letter 4, Letters to a Young Poet, July 16, 1903
As a young person, I considered Rilke’s advice to be frustrating palaver, suitable for inspirational posters or refrigerator magnets, dated sentiments from a well-meaning elder statesman. I was determined to find the answers now, by going, doing, working, researching, buying, consulting people who were considered experts. The answers, I thought, were out there, and through effort and sheer will I would get them.
A decade passed, and then another, where I relied on various false gods to tell me how to live: junk food and shopping, submission to endless schedules and conventions, experts who couldn’t make heads or tails of me or my issues but didn’t hesitate to proffer useless advice and numbing pharmaceuticals.
I learned the hard way not to trust these false gods. That the only church I wanted to belong to was a congregation of one, myself. My faith now exists in every moment of every day, waking, going forward, fully feeling and experiencing the world and my place in it. It sure isn’t easy. Sometimes I despair. And sometimes there is joy. As Rilke concludes one of his most famous poems, “Archaic Torso of Apollo,” “You must change your life.” Yes, I am now living my way into the answers.