Loving the Questions
by Barb Warner
Once upon a time, in a land far away… Well, actually, it was about 1990 and it happened in Wheatridge, Colorado after my husband and I had split and my daughter had moved to California to live with him. One day in the dentist’s office, I was attracted to a poem I found in a magazine. It was written by Rainer Maria Rilke in a book Letters to A Young Poet around 1929. With permission from the dentist, I cut the poem out and displayed it on the refrigerator in my little Wheatridge apartment where it remained for years.
The poem began, “I beg of you to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions…” At the time there was a lot unresolved in my heart. It seemed that loving the questions was a bit of a stretch.
Several months after I discovered the poem, a friend brought this Rilke poem to a spiritual study group. I was delighted as we discussed how this poem seemed to address issues that we were experiencing.
Years later, a friend and I were visiting one of my favorite museums in Paris, the Rodin Sculpture Museum. I loved looking at The Thinker, the outdoor sculpture by Auguste Rodin in the garden surrounding the museum. The sculpture is of a man with his elbow on his knee. Maybe the thinker was pondering “what was unresolved in his heart” I surmised. Nearby in the garden was a plaque stating that Rainer Marie Rilke had worked with Rodin for several years while in Paris in the early 20th century. Was this a fusion of the conversations of two artists?
My fantasy would be complete if I could find a copy of this poem in Paris. So that evening, I asked my friend to come with me to Shakespeare and Company, a famous English bookstore along the Left Bank. In it were stacks of books. After looking for quite a long time and asking for help, I was disappointed that Letters to A Young Poet was nowhere to be found. But wait. As we were leaving the store, a clerk ran up to us. He had found a slightly tattered little book, Letters to a Young Poet. Ah sweet!
As we were traveling to our destination at the Munich airport, my friend and I continued our drive to a small town in eastern France. We found an attractive bed and breakfast next to a stream with a charming old mill to enhance the ambiance. We walked in to ask if there was a vacant room. The clerk was at her desk, intently reading. I noticed her book was in German. I asked her what she was reading. You guessed it. “I beg you…to have patience with everything…” “Try to love the questions…”
I do value Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem for giving me this story to tell. I know I have been given the answers to many questions since first reading his poetry. This poem has helped me realize that new questions are going to appear in my life and, when one is answered, others will arrive to keep me on my toes.
After being more spiritually attuned now, however, I know that I am always guided by a loving Presence here to help me “live my way into the answer”.
I beg you…to have patience with
everything unresolved in your heart
and try to love the questions
themselves as if they were locked
rooms or books written in a very
foreign language. Don’t search for the
answers, which could not be given to
you now, because you would not be
able to live them. And the point is, to
live everything. Live the questions now.
Perhaps then, someday far in the
future, you will gradually without
even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
--Rainer Maria Rilke