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« Filling in the blanks: How we explain our own behavior and the behavior of others | Main | Blog Glob: Monday morning shorts »


Vickie Pynchon

I found Letters to a Young Poet at mid-life, after I'd made the worst mistake of all -- subordinating what I truly loved to a legal career that, while expressing a great deal of me, left far too much of me outside the law's door.

So what I have to say to young lawyers MUST be more about the living of one's life than the pursuit of one's career, particularly when that career is as compelling, arduous and all-encompassing as the law can be.

So I give you Rilke, from Letters to a Young Poet because I cannot say it any better.

"[F]ear of the inexplicable has not only impoverished the reality of the individual; it has also narrowed the relationship between one human being and another, which has as it were been lifted out of the riverbed of infinite possibilities and set down in a fallow place on the bank, where nothing happens.

"For it is not only indolence that causes human relationships to be repeated from case to case with such unspeakable monotony and boredom; it is timidity before any new, inconceivable experience, which we don't think we can deal with.

"[O]nly someone who is ready for everything, who doesn't exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible, will live the relationship with another person as something alive and will himself sound the depths of his own being.

"[I]f we imagine this being of the individual as a larger or smaller room, it is obvious that most people come to know only one corner of their room, one spot near the window, one narrow strip on which they keep walking back and forth. . .

[But] [w]e . . . are not prisoners. No traps or snares have been set around us, and there is nothing that should frighten or upset us.

We have been put into life as into the element we most accord with, and we have, moreover, through thousands of years of adaptation, come to resemble this life so greatly that when we hold still, through a fortunate mimicry we can hardly be differentiated from everything around us.

"We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them.

"And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience."

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