January 18, 2011

And Everything Matters

The tasks that have been entrusted to us are often difficult. Almost everything that matters is difficult, and everything matters.

Worpswede, Germany, July 16, 1904
Letters to a Young Poet


  1. Wow. I am really enjoying the images you're pairing with Rilke's poems! This Rodin grabbed my attention and, with the poem resonating in my mind... as I said, wow. Ruth and Lorenzo, thank you! I'm also enjoying the thoughtful comments readers are offering.

    In reflecting upon Rilke's observation that everything matters and everything that matters is difficult I'm wondering what he meant. I cannot think of much that matters more to me than breathing. And breathing usually isn't particularly difficult. (Although when breathing is difficult it really matters!) The same is true of other bodily functions. What does matter is that we don't take miracles like breathing and walking for granted (those of us who breath and walk with ease) just because they're not difficult.

  2. To crouch like Rodin's woman is also difficult, Lorenzo. I agree with Rilke here, about everything mattering, but I want to qualify. Some things matter more, others less, but yes, everything matters, for good or ill.

  3. Each of these quotes resonates, Lorenzo & Ruth, and what's a girl to do? Read and re-read, savor, share, copy and paste them into my personal journals to read and re-read again.

  4. I'm terribly grateful for this blog, this man whose expression of the world we can study, and for our friends who engage with these readings. I've been enriched by these 18 days already beyond what I imagined going in. I've also felt overwhelmed by the daily pace, given my other blog commitments. The challenge of thinking, feeling and understanding his meaning, while being deepened by what others write, has been a little arduous for me. In this sense, this has been "difficult" -- :) -- but I have felt keenly that what we are doing matters. For what we do here is to understand a man who took the world into himself, breathed it, tasted it, went inside it, then breathed it back out. Our looks at that are in a way doing the same.

    As for breathing being important, yes, maybe it's the most important thing. But how difficult it is to "just breathe" in this world that makes us hold our breath! It takes intent practice to breathe, to be. In time, it comes easier.

    Yesterday I suddenly felt easier about this Rilke pace, I felt less overwhelmed, because I realized his life message is coming to us in layers, and it's all the same message. Everything matters. Everything we encounter can be taken inside, swirled around, and expressed back to the world through us. This is what he is teaching me. And you here are helping.

  5. ruth and lorenzo i'm so grateful for your accepting the challenge of this task. you've laid bare the extraordinary insights of a person who dug deep beneath the surface of this world - accepting a monumental challenge in his own right. dan, i just left a comment on this blog's sister/brother that suggested that reader's remember to breathe as reading the words there today, i forgot!!! not always so easy!! steven

  6. Thanks, Steven, I was amazed by the synchronicity of your comment at Rumi before coming here.

    Let me be very clear, following up on my previous comment. I have been overwhelmed by the daily pace here, not because of time or effort behind the postings. That part has seemed effortless, really, and doing it with Lorenzo is a real joy. So please don't anyone think this blog is a chore -- so so very far from it, I can't even begin to tell you.

    It is the thinking part that has been challenging. Passing the thoughts and ideas through my sieve, and wanting to look closely at the gold. Then a new post arrives, and it's time to do it again, sometimes before the last one sank in. But the relief was realizing that it is all part of ONE thing. It all goes in w-h-o-o-s-h, and becomes ONE.

    And hey, it's good for me to dust out the cobwebs in certain unexplored corners of my dormant mind-heart!

  7. Everything matters, because everything is connected, has a purpose in being on our earth. We may not be privy to that purpose but to accept that everything matters is to have faith. And we know how difficult it can be to hold faith within.

  8. I so agree-I'm loving the images that you have accompanying these lines. And so true--"everything matters."

  9. I am so heartened to see the vibrant engaging comments that are blossoming on this still fledgling blog. And I join in the chorus of all who say our amens to Rilke's "everything matters". But ... not to throw in a dissonant note.... but are we equally prepared to embrace what I feel may be the flipside, a more darktoned corollary, to "everything matters", namely, that "nothing means anything"? Admittedly, I am playing the agent provocateur here and pose the question to myself more than to anyone else...

  10. These short lines take me places.

    Sometimes small things happen that seem like big events in my life, as though I am being offered a succinct message from someone/thing afar, as though a finger points and says, ok, erin, now pay attention, here it is. A couple years ago my son, who was five or six at the time, woozled in the kitchen, his head jerking and his hands about the air. He said, Mom, I'm not happy. I asked him why and he said he was bored and just not happy. Something was wrong. Wasn't he supposed to be happy? And I explained to him that no, nothing was wrong. Life, in fact, had very little to do with happiness. Happiness is not an end result. (Insert big lifesized arrow here with a yellow sticky note marked, Erin, pay attention to your own words.)

    Somehow this comes back to me today reading Rilke. I know it's a bit of a stretch. But life is not about happiness. It is work. Happiness resides within the pockets created around the work. What we do inside of the work is difficult. What we do inside of the work teaches us. I'm not sure we learn a great deal from happiness, other than it feels good. Even gratitude comes from the juxtaposition of work and happiness. So perhaps it comes to the idea of duality once again with Rilke, even though it seems he only says one half of his own argument here, knowing more of him allows us to assume the second part.

    I dunno. Perhaps I am too lost in myself.


  11. I believe that everything has the meaning that I give to it. What matters is what I decide is important, or not so important.

    Like Rilke wrote a day or so ago, the mind is split, and I Love or I fear. And each of those emotions lead me to decide.

  12. First, to Lorenzo's question: Does "everything matters" also entail a dark-toned corollary that "nothing means anything"? I don't think so, at least from a philosophical point of view. Perhaps there is a kind of Zen paradox at play here. When we say "everything matters," we may also be saying that "nothing matters more than anything else." In short, we are avoiding the trap of always being judgmental, and we are simultaneously giving everything the respect it deserves.

    As to the notion of everything that matters being difficult, I think it's worth pointing out that Rilke says "almost" everything that matters is difficult. Broadly speaking, I think he is right about this. Everything that matters finds its way into our egos, which are quite skilled at making things difficult. With due respect to Dan's observations, even breathing can become labored and restrictive when we separate ourselves from the natural rhythms of life. This is why the great yogis and current yoga masters devote so much time teaching us how to watch our breath and breathe properly.

    Fascinating, isn't it? It only take two sentences from Rilke to send our minds on a new search for meaning. That is his genius.

  13. Ruth, I wondered how busy you felt doing all this blog work. I haven't seen your comments lately (on my posts) so I figure you are "out flat" as they say in the north country of New England.

    I'm sure you visited Rodin's home & museum in Paris. It was one of the highlights for me. Such beautiful work. This is very pretty and I do love the Rilke sentiment.

  14. Funny thing about breathing. We breath without thinking about it (or most of us do who are healthy). Now my son is at University of North Carolina School of the Arts for his senior year in high school (living away from home, and I miss him) but, not to digress - he has had a class on breathing. And he said most of us breath and talk INCORRECTLY. Our posture if wrong, we hold our breath at the wrong time, we don't ... it goes on & on. Reading the previous comments, I remembered this.

    Maybe a part of what Rilke is trying to say (or what I GET OUT OF IT - How's that, Ruth? ;) is that everything we do should be done to the best of our ability. Because, maybe not everything we do and say will impact us equally... but it will affect someone.

    Dishes, laundry, cleaning ... need I say more? Doing them does not make me important - makes me feel pretty small. But it is important as it is instrumental for my family. If I didn't care about any of it, our family would fall apart.

    Everything is important, but at the same time we aren't HERE forever. For most of us, it isn't our end goal. So in that way we get back to his other sentiment that "it doesn't mean anything". ... ? It seems contradictory... I almost feel like I'm back in a nightmare math class!

  15. Like you, Ruth, I'm overwhelmed by the pace of this - in a good way! As someone commented recently - or was it a lifetime ago? - it's an express train, and I know I won't be able to jump on board as regularly as I would like. An unfitting analogy, to be sure. But, to continue it, I'll be there waiting at many of the frequent halts as often as I can, savouring each new cargo, reflecting and being astonished.

    What a wonderful and profound series, Ruth and Lorenzo - what you have put into this is reaping such rewards. The marriage between Rilke and Pasternak, and now between Rilke and Rodin, has been inspired and revealing. And the reciprocity between post and comment, comment and post, is terrific, I think.

    Just to say - I particularly enjoyed the illuminating remarks from Woman in a Window yesterday and George today, both of which added so much to our understanding.

    Yesterday's image - the hands behind the back - the total giving of body and spirit. (This made me reflect how nowadays it's rare to find the pure, beautiful and selfless aspect of 'giving' in accounts of sex, or of anything really - we all want to know what we ourselves can get out of things.) Rilke's idea of 'praising', which we've talked about, is an act of giving and celebration, isn't it...

    Re. Lorenzo's 'devil's advocate' comment - there is a sense in which both everything matters AND nothing matters (but I think George has put his finger on this far better than I could).

    And re. breathing - yes, breathing can be very difficult at times, as I know from experience. And, at other times, it can be so, so easy.

  16. This is so beautiful. So much truth and ache in this! Thank you for this blog. I am enjoying each and every post, but this one especially was well timed for me.


"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Go ahead, bloom recklessly!