Rilke’s Comfort and Guidance for 2016

Rainer Maria Rilke is my favorite example of a poet who bends the limits of language to capture the spiritual experience.

The poem “Go to the Limits of Your Longing” from Book of Hours, I 59 begins with God speaking to “each of us” and walking as a companion “silently out of the night.”

Rilke’s words of God are “dimly” heard, but the most memorable statements his character speaks are given in six sentences placed in three verses:



“Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

This image of a very corporal Divinity -speaking, walking, and then asking to hold hands-is an intimate portrayal. There is comfortable intimacy in having someone hold your hand in crossing the street (for protection), during a game (for fun), in a darkened theatre (for romance).  Holding hands is an especially comforting action when confronting either “beauty and terror.”

At this start of the  2016 New Year, a year which will have moments of great seriousness, Rilke states we are not alone. Despite the limits of language, I find I am comforted by Rilke’s expression  of spiritual guidance in this “country called Life.”


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