Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke is only 80 pages, and yet I am still in it, and its been weeks. I keep picking it up, reading a letter, then needing time to live in it for a while. Last night I read Letter Seven, written in 1904, Rilke’s advice and direction is what everyone wants in a master. Who else would love to send a sonnet to a famous, talented writer, and have him say that he keeps a copy with him? I would.
I love when men of education, who live great theories, write about women. I am raising two women in this world, and I have ears tuned to pick up on opportunities to teach them how to be. I seek to hear or read truths that will help them navigate this world I brought them into.
The girl and the woman, in their new, individual unfolding, will only in passing be imitators of male behavior and misbehavior and repeaters of male professions. After the uncertainty of such transitions, it will become obvious that women were going through the abundance and variation of those (often ridiculous) disguises just so that they could purify their own essential nature and wash out the deforming influences of the other sex. Women, in whom life lingers and dwells more immediately, more fruitfully, and more confidently, must surely have become riper and more human in their depths than light, easygoing man, who is not pulled down beneath the surface of life by the weight of any bodily fruit and who, arrogant and hasty, undervalues what he thinks he loves. This humanity of woman, carried in her womb through all her suffering and humiliation, will come to light when she has stripped off the conventions of mere femaleness in the transformations of her outward status, and those men who do not yet feel it approaching will be astonished by it. Someday (and even now, especially in the countries of northern Europe, trustworthy signs are already speaking and shining), someday there will be girls and women whose name will no longer mean the mere opposite of the male, but something in itself, something that makes one think not of any complement and limit, but only of life and reality: the female human being.