The answers to most questions are at the tips of our fingers. The digital encyclopedia we carry in our pockets is a gift. Almost everything we want to know is a Google search away.
But we often avoid asking the bigger questions because they are shrouded in uncertainty. Uncertainty is something we steer away from, choosing to stay where we are instead. Safety and comfort are preferable to uncertainty, even if it makes us unhappy and complacent.
We live in an age of answers where seemingly, those with the most answers have the most power. It’s difficult to learn how to love the questions with no answers. We search things on Google as we talk to a friend across the room. We look things up on our phone during the conversation to pretend like we know more than we do.
But in life, it’s not about the answers, it’s about the questions. The answers to life’s most profound questions can’t be searched on Google. We answer them by living them. As we move towards uncertainty day by day, we can “live [our] way into the answer” without even noticing it.
Consider these words from Rainer Maria Rilke, written in his letter to Franz Xaver Kappus, a 19-year-old officer cadet and aspiring poet, on July 16, 1903:
“Be patient towards all that is unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms, like books written in a foreign tongue. Do not now strive to uncover answers: they cannot be given you because you have not been able to live them. And what matters is to live everything. Live the questions for now. Perhaps then you will gradually, without noticing it, live your way into the answer, one distant day in the future.”
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Rainer Maria Rilke’s July 16, 1903 letter to Franz Xaver Kappus is included as the fourth letter in Letters to a Young Poet, a beautiful collection of letters from Rilke to Kappus on love, creativity, sexuality, and more.