>Rilke on Art, Loving Another, and the Artist’s Epitome

>About four years ago I did a post called, “The Knot in the Rosary at Which His Life Says a Prayer.” I shared some writing from the Austrian poet, Rainer Maria Rilke.

[“Rilke,” a painting by David Pymm]

Today loneliness and pain have again camped out in my heart, and I find myself writing to address those feelings. But the writing is too personal to share yet. Or maybe ever. Today I am doing art. It is, as Rilke says, the “proof to myself of my genuineness,” of my struggle to live an authentic life. More of Rilke’s words:

For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.

What is required of us is that we love the difficult and learn to deal with it. In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us. Right in the difficult we must have our joys, our happiness, our dreams: there against the depth of this background, they stand out, there for the first time we see how beautiful they are.

Surely all art is the result of one’s having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, where no one can go any further. The further one goes, the more private, the more personal, the more singular an experience becomes, and the thing one is making is, finally, the necessary, irrepressible, and, as nearly as possible, definitive utterance of this singularity…. Therein lies the enormous aid the work of art brings to the life of the one who must make it, that it is his epitome, the knot in the rosary at which his life says a prayer, the ever-returning proof to himself of his unity and genuineness, which presents itself only to him while appearing anonymous to the outside….

I hope that my work today truly is a necessary, irrepressible, definitive utterance, and proof of my unity and genuineness. I’m not sure I’ve gone through this experience “all the way to the end,” but I have been in danger. Perhaps I’m still there. And so I write.

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