“I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
From Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926).
Rilke’s advice to his young protégé counsels me still today on how to live well with the conditions of one’s own life. At the age of seventeen I experienced my first (and to date, single) flirtation with psychosis, suffering the grinding effects of depression whilst the inner bonds of my developing personality unwound. In despair I began to imagine my mind read by a Russian spacecraft. This was supported mathematically by the calculation it required ninety minutes for the ship to complete one rotation of the earth, allowing approximately eighty-nine minutes of respite in between. Yet as the weeks went on I noticed the presence of a steadfast, inner voice that refused to abandon me. With every soviet probe came a counter narrative to say “this cannot be so.” In the absence of psychiatric care this ‘ungraspable’ voice-made-conscious was the one thing I could count on to greet me each morning as I woke. It held me long enough that eventually the intruders disappeared and new relationships formed, which would help restore hopefulness and a regaining of myself.
I suffered silently, like most teenagers did. It’s nobody’s fault. For a while I believed what happened to me happened to all teenagers, until I began noticing otherwise. The questions I’d put to myself to help explain the experience went frustratingly nowhere. I was far too naïve. Although unaware of Rilke’s beautiful words at that time, I nonetheless feel it was the very same intuition – that our questions may never be fully answered that finally set me free.