How Rilke Taught me to Find Beauty in Everyday Life

6 Oct

A few weeks ago I picked up a book in the library that changed my perspective on some things, and pulled me out of sadness and restlessness that had been torturing me for weeks. The book I’m talking about is Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke, first published three years after Rilke’s death, in 1929 in Berlin, by a ‘young poet’ Franz Xaver Kappus who corresponded with Rilke for six years (1902-1908). Kappus and Rilke never met in person, but instead opened their souls through the letters.

1900. The Precious Stones (Ruby, Amethyst, Emerald, Topaz) - Alphonse Mucha1900 The Precious Stones (Ruby, Amethyst, Emerald, Topaz) – Alphonse Mucha

Rilke’s letters are distinguished by a beautiful and inspirational style that reveals the rich inner world of this poetic genius, his thoughts and remarks, his attitudes towards world, people, art and artists. His letters are a place where the real life and art meet, because to Rilke writing poetry was a path towards self-realization. These ten letters contain Rilke’s opinions not only of art and poetry, but also of life itself, the importance of childhood as the wellspring of inspiration, then his thoughts about love and passion, earnestness, responsibilities of husband and wife, friendships and kindness, as well as his opinions of death and religion. As a collection of letters, rather than a fictional novel, this book appears so intimate and while reading it I felt, just like any other reader, that they were directed to me, like a letter from a far away friend I occasionally long for…

1900. Waterlily, a portrait of Barney's cousin Ellen Goin, was one of the illustrations for Quelques Portraits-Sonnets de Femmes.(Waterlily, a portrait of Barney’s cousin Ellen Goin, was one of the illustrations for Quelques Portraits-Sonnets de Femmes, 1900)

”If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that
you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.”

I thought a lot about this quote, and it helped me because I’m a person that’s very unsatisfied with everyday life, with the banalities, neighbours, same street and houses… I know quite well what provincial claustrophobia means. Any other place or time seems better to me. Rilke’s words made me ashamed. So, in search of beauty in everyday life, I sat on the balcony and observed. Rain was falling gently. The road was getting more and more wet. One neighbour left his laundry outdoors. Day was very peaceful and silent. Gardens were sleepy, and apple trees were dreaming. Distant laugh through the morning fog. Last marigolds smiled at me from their flowerpots, and occasionally birds graced the sky and then quickly flew away. It was cold and it started pouring but I found Beauty, right in front of me, it was here all along, the problem was in me: I was not poet enough to call forth the richness of my daily life.

Do you see beauty in your daily life?

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3 Responses to “How Rilke Taught me to Find Beauty in Everyday Life”

  1. Elliot 7th October 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    Sounds like a good book, I am glad it has had a positive effect on you – it’s nice when books do that. I must admit (even though it is none of my business) to having been worried slightly about your outlook on life; it is so different from mine and more than a little negative – not that I am constantly cheerful – but I did not want to comment as that is only my opinion, my perspective, and I feared you might think me rude. One of my all-time favourite films is ‘Amelie’ and one of the messages in that film is that pleasure and happiness can be found in simple, everyday things such as skimming stones or sunlight. As you know I am rather fond of nature so when it comes to what I find beautiful in everyday life wild things such as plants or birds or clouds or insects are high on the list. I also take great pleasure from food, ticking off lists, the aesthetics of books, great design (such as in packaging) and people watching (great to do on the train). Have a nice day.

    Like

    • Byron's Muse 7th October 2015 at 8:14 pm #

      Well, Elliot, I appreciate your opinion, but I wasn’t aware that I sounded so negative in my posts. Art and melancholy are often connected, and artist’s life is more often than not a short and a sad one, but enriched with passions and full of extremes. My cynicism and ‘negativity’ are all due to reading beatniks and romantics.Sadness is a mood I feel safe in: it’s inspirational and I have a better perspective on things. I can understand that little things such as clouds, birds or plants can make you happy, because I also find enjoyment in little things: books, Autumn weather, rain, cappuccino and biscuits, art and rock music etc. I don’t think you’re rude at all, but I am surprised that you aren’t more critical, you’re not twelve years old anymore, do you not see that human existence tends to be pointless, that world is cruel, that society is full of sensationalism and shallowness, have you not once thought about existential problems or read Camus and Sartre? I can only quote Elizabet Bennet ‘The more I see of the world the more I am dissatisfied with it.’ Thank you, I did have a nice day, I wrote a new post, you have a nice tomorrow.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Elliot 7th October 2015 at 9:44 pm #

        I get your point about artists being sad and how it can inspire their creativity, I remember a quote from the Doctor Who episode ‘Blink’; ‘Sad is happy for deep people’. This is not the first time you have questioned my lack of cynicism, I think you mistake my ‘positivity’ for innocence – of course I am constantly aware of how cruel and evil the world is and I agree with you that society is sensationalist and shallow, peoples lives grow more empty by the day and rely on celebrities and social media to fill an ever-widening hole.
        But I do disagree with you that human life is often pointless. Perhaps my relaxed and cheery disposition is due to defeatism – I have given up on putting effort into worrying about the world and just get on with my own life. But the main thing which keeps me going and lifts my spirits and makes me see that life does have a point is my relationship with God. I don’t expect you to understand that, neither will I think less of you if you say I’m a fool for believing in God. I’m telling you this so that you don’t misunderstand me, I don’t want to fall out over it.

        Liked by 1 person

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