May 31, 2011

What Kind of Courage Is Required of Us?

What kind of courage is required of us?

Imagine a person taken out of his room, and without preparation or transition placed on the heights of a great mountain range. He would feel an unparalleled insecurity, an almost annihilating abandonment to the nameless. He would feel he was falling into outer space or shattering into a thousand pieces. What enormous lie would his brain concoct in order to give meaning to this and validate his senses? In such a way do all measures and distances change for the one who realizes his solitude. These changes are often sudden and, as with the person on the mountain peak, bring strange feelings and fantasies that are almost unbearable. But it is necessary for us to experience that too. We must accept our reality in all its immensity. Everything, even the unheard of, must be possible within it. This is, in the end, the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to meet the strangest, most awesome, and most inexplicable of phenomena.

Borgeby gärd, Sweden, August 12, 1904
Letters to a Young Poet


  1. It may be courage - but also a natural instinct for self-preservation? Acceptance of and adaptation to the immensity in all its terror is what we must do - to avoid going under.

  2. We never know what kind of courage will be required, or how much courage we can muster until we require it, do we?

  3. Exposed on the mountains of the heart. See, how small there,
    see: the last hamlet of words, and higher,
    and yet so small, a last
    homestead of feeling. Do you recognize it?
    Exposed on the mountains of the heart. Rocky earth
    under the hands. But something will
    flower here; out of the mute abyss
    flowers an unknowing herb in song.
    But the knowing? Ah, that you who began to understand
    and are silent now, exposed on the mountains of the heart.
    Yet many an awareness still whole wanders there,
    many a self-confident mountain animal
    passes through and remains. And that great protected bird
    circles about the peaks of pure denial. But
    unprotected, here on the mountains of the heart.

    (September 1914)

  4. It's a very small thing, but I feel as if I've been "taken out of my room" with our loss of power and water for a few days because of storm damage. Just this, and I feel unsettled, anxious and have butterflies in my stomach. I had no problem accepting it or having courage, but I was not feeling centered or at peace with this new temporary routine. It takes "awareness still whole" which I have not applied. It's here inside, and after reading here, I know I can pull it back.

  5. Looking at that solitude from its brightest side I think it can be a great opportunity to reflect on the meaning of life. Sometimes it may happen being driven to that situation due to some unpredictable circunstances. At 30 y.o., Zarathustra (the famous Nietzsche character) chose to leave his mother land and took refuge in a mountain where he stood for 10 years having just the sun, an eagle and a snake as his companions. Being stripped of all his assets, for such a long time, gave him the enormous advantage of being able to enphasize what's important in life: hapiness, compassion, knowledge and the redemptive spirits found among poets.
    A brighter loneliness of self discovery :)


"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!