...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Living in conversation with Etty

"Slowly but surely I have been soaking Rilke up these last few months: the man, his work, and his life. And that is probably the only right way with literature, with study, with people, or with anything else: to let it all soak in, to let it mature slowly inside you until it has become a part of yourself. That, too, is a growing process. Everything is a growing process. And in between, emotions and sensations that strike you like lightning. But still the most important thing is the organic process of growing."(page 102, An Interruped Life)

It's been a year since I took the Mysticism class at the University of Oregon, where I was first introduced to Etty Hillesum. Ever since, I feel that I have slowly but surely, in her own words, been soaking her up: the woman, her work, her life. I feel closer to her than I feel to some friends and family members; she's become my mentor, my guidance counselor, my point of reference. She is maturing inside me, slowly become a part of myself.

Etty wasn't the first person to lead me to Rainer Maria Rilke, but her devotion to the poet increased my own desire to get to know him. I decided a little while ago that I'm going to use these next six months to soak myself in Rilke: to get to know, as Etty said, the man, his work, and his life. I've been struggling in deciding which books to take with me, because I'm already overpacking, but I think I'm going to take a thin, paperback edition of Letters to a Young Poet, a double edition of Sonnets to Orpheus and Duino Elegies, a collection of his letters, and Diary of a Young Poet, a collection of the journals he kept during his youth. And of course, I'm taking Etty's journals. And my own journals.

To be very unobtrustive, and very insignificant, always striving for more simplicity. Yes, to become simple and live simply, not only within yourself but in your everyday dealings. Don't make ripples all around you, don't try so hard to be interesting, keep your distance, be honest, fight the desire to be thought fascinating by the outside work. Instead, reach for true simplicity in your inner life and in your surroundings, and also work. Yes, work. It doesn't matter at what, I still haven't found solid ground under my feet, but whether it's Russian essays or reading Dostoyevsky and Jung or having a talk, all of these can be work. And have confidence that it will all come together and everything will turn out all right in the end. That confidence is something I've had for a long time." (page 102)

That's the part that I have trouble with.