Monday, August 04, 2008

Strength and conscience

Dear Lou,

This morning in a moment of great brightness it became clear to me. I have been living for years in bad conscience and shallow strength: whatever drifts into me rides on my current for a short while, sails along, but then suddenly hits bottom with a shriek and is stuck there.

If my life is to improve, I must concentrate above all on these two things: strength and conscience.

My strength (as a blood analysis has shown) is insufficient. A stay in Skodsberg or a Lahmann's could improve this. After that, life lived simply and according to nature.

But what about conscience? I see that I can't keep going on with my work this way; That I must open up new tributaries to it; not becuse the sreams that flow into it from event and existence are too meager, — rather: because I can't order or unite them. I must learn to grasp and hold; I must learn to work. I have been telling myself this for years and yet go bungling on. Hence my guilty conscience; all the guiltier when others have confidence in me.

— Rainer Maria Rilke to Lou Andreas-Salomé, October 19, 1904, from Rilke and Andreas-Salomé: A Love Story in Letters.

(See also July 25, 1903.)

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