“The ‘only work,’ as you put it, this inner wrestling aimed in the direction of god, does not have to suffer or vanish because we apply our strengths in what seem to be more superficial efforts.  Don’t forget that during times when craftmanship was still filled with the warmth of life, for instance, nearly all of its rhythms and repetitions caused god to grow within those simple hearts; indeed, the incomparable advantage of being human may manifest itself most thoroughly where a person succeeds in introducing into something small and mundane the unseen vastness that governs his existence.

“The heap of confusions that complicate the transparency and order of our present existence has been so dangerously enlarged by the fact that the appeals of art have so frequently been understood as a summons to art.  Thus the manifestations of artistic creations–poems, paintings, sculptures, and the hovering creations of music– have recruited more and more young and promising people out of life instead of achieving their effects in life.  This misunderstanding deprives life of many elements belonging to it, and the sphere of art where finally only a few great individuals achieve the right to last gets crowded with those who have been seduced and have taken refuge there.  The poem means nothing less than to rouse the possible poet within its reader … , and the perfectly achieved painting says this above anything else: See, you don’t have to paint; I am already here!

“So at last we should reach complete agreement on this point: that art finally does not intend to appoint more artists.  It does not mean to recruit anyone, and it remains always my suspicion that art pays no attention whatsoever to its effects.  But when its creations, after having irrepressibly emerged from their inexhaustible origin, stand strangely still and superior among all other things, it could happen that they somehow become exemplary for all human activity through their innate selflessness, freedom, and intensity” (149-150).

Rilke, from The Poet’s Guide to Life: The Wisdom of Rilke, ed./trans. Ulrich Baer

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