Letters to a Young Poet

"Letters to a Young Poet" by Rainer Maria Rilke

“Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke, Translation by M. D. Herter Norton

“Then draw to Nature. Then try, like some first human being, to say what you see and experience and love and lose.” Letter One, 16

Born in 1875, the great German lyric poet Rainer Maria Rilke published his first collection of poems in 1898 and went on to become renowned for his delicate depiction of the workings of the human heart. Drawn by some sympathetic note in his poems, young people often wrote to Rilke with their problems and hopes. From 1903 to 1908 Rilke wrote a series of remarkable responses to a young, would-be poet on poetry and on surviving as a sensitive observer in a harsh world. Those letters, still a fresh source of inspiration and insight, are accompanied here by a chronicle of Rilke’s life that shows what he was experiencing in his own relationship to life and work when he wrote them.

“For the creator must be a world for himself and find everything in himself and in Nature to whom he has attached himself.” Letter One, 17

“After all this it is not hard to understand how I determined in that very hour to send my poetic attempts to Rainer Maria Rilke and to ask him for his opinion. Not yet twenty and close on the threshold of a profession which I felt to be entirely contrary to my inclinations, I hoped to find understanding, if in any one, in the poet who had written Mir zur Feier. And without having intended to do so at all, I found myself writing a covering letter in which I unreservedly laid bare my heart as never before and never since to any second human being.” -Franz Xaver Kappus, Berlin, June 1929, Introduction, 12

“If you will cling to Nature, to the simple in Nature, to the little things that hardly anyone sees, and that can so unexpectedly become big and beyond measuring; if you have this love of inconsiderable things and seek quite simply, as one who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier, more coherent and somehow more conciliatory for you…” Letter Four, 27

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Vengeful Justice

"Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals" by Immanuel Kant

“Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals” by Immanuel Kant

“An eye for an eye,” everyone’s heard the phrase. As common as the phrase is, though, it can really reveal some dark depths hidden within humanity. Human beings tend to be revenge-seeking creatures that relish in justice and seek payback. We like to dish out punishment to those we feel deserve it. Because of this desire and mindset, the death penalty is legal in thirty-seven U.S. states. Not everyone agrees with ending another’s life, however, so the penalty remains a moral issue. Those who feel that the death penalty is never a morally permissible form of punishment call themselves abolitionists, while those who agree that the death penalty is, or could be, morally justified, or perhaps even required, are often referred to as retentionists. Constantly trying to argue their viewpoints, each group uses philosophical approaches to support their opinions.

Immanuel Kant, famous for the Kantian approach of ethics, is one who holds strong opinions dealing with the death penalty. Throughout Punishment and the Principle of Equality, a short excerpt from his 1997 The Metaphysics of Morals, Part 1, The Doctrine of Right, Kant defends the death penalty as a strong retentionist, expressing opposition to consequentalist ideals and by defining an appropriate moral principle for determining specific punishments, which he calls “principle of equality.” All throughout his excerpt, Kant expresses that one should receive the treatment that he bestows upon others and that “the undeserved evil which any one commits on another, is to be regarded as perpetrated on himself.” With this mindset, Kant states that the death penalty is a requirement for any who commit murder because it brings about justice and righteousness. “If you slander another, you slander yourself; if you steal from another, you steal from yourself; if you strike another, you strike yourself; if you kill another, you kill yourself,” he writes, clarifying his viewpoints.

While some may view Kant’s “principle of equality” as harsh and vengeful, others view it as moral and necessary. I find the “eye for an eye” ideology easy to grasp and comprehend and tend to harbor similar thoughts. While the death penalty may be the most extreme punishment, I feel that murder is the most extreme crime. If one decides to steal the life from another, it seems justified to steal his life from him for the wrongdoing he did, trouble he caused, and immoral act he committed. As Kant states, “if justice and righteousness perish, human life would no longer have any value in the world.” If nothing was done to correct the sin committed and others were enabled to commit crimes with lightened punishments, mankind would begin to crumble, fall apart, and ultimate lose everything it’s worked for.

Governed by laws and rules, mankind has created a system to ensure that its members live moral lives and coincide together harmoniously. When immoral acts arise, however, punishment must ensue; else mankind would cease to function. With a thirst for revenge and justice in mind, humanity tends to favor the “eye for an eye” mindset. Immanuel Kant, founder of the Kantian moral theory, especially supports this ideal as he uses the “principle of equality” to determine specific punishments within his short excerpt, Punishment and the Principle of Equality, from his 1997 The Metaphysics of Morals, Part 1, The Doctrine of Right. Stating that people should be treated as they treat others, Kant admits that the death penalty is a required punishment for those who commit acts of murder. Although an extreme punishment, it matches the extremity of the crime and thus delivers justice and regains righteousness. By stealing the life from the thief who stole from another, minds may be put to rest, hearts may be eased, and mankind can continue in vengeful justice.

Important Decision

Without even realizing it, people change and direct their lives by making decision many times a day. At times, choices can be minor, but occasionally these choices can be important. Before moving to San Antonio, Texas just recently, I had to make a decision that I feel I made the correct choice to in the end.

When I was told that I would be moving to Texas, I knew that I would have to leave my friends and my boyfriend behind, but there was a choice when it came to leaving my pet rabbits behind. Glancing at my two furry, white rabbits, it was difficult to think of giving away my precious companions. I would never again be able to stroke their soft fur, enjoy watching them happily hop about my room, or hug them in comfort when I was sad or troubled. I would terribly miss staring into their curious eyes and taking care of them to make their lives as pleasurable as I could.
These thoughts saddened me and quickly convinced me to ponder of the alternative; I could take them with me on the move. Of course there would not be much room for them in the car and the trip would be long and tiring. They wouldn’t be comfortable stuffed into small cages and most likely refuse to relieve themselves as they often did when caged. My rabbits, born in the North, might also have trouble adjusting to a new southern home.

After much thought and comparison, I decided that it would be best for my rabbits to find them a new, comfortable home. Months of searching for the perfect owner finally brought about a young family on my street willing to welcome two new animals into their home. After they prepared a new environment for my dear friends, I helped them make the small transfer. With a final hug and kiss goodbye, I left my rabbits to curiously explore their perfect, new home and returned to my empty bedroom. When I was greeted with unusual emptiness and felt a pain in my heart, I could not stop the tears from streaming down my face although I feel I made the right choice.

The Effect of Affection

Admiration and affection are important qualities that affect people’s lives, directing and guiding them through changes and new experiences. People carry and create passionate emotions within themselves that allow them to connect with the world and those around them. From these connections, relationships can form, encouraging the emotions to grow and develop. Without acknowledgement, these relationships affect a person’s life every day. By admiring a person, great changes can come about one’s life, usually for the better, but at times, creating problems rather than helping with them. In my freshman year of high school, I grew to admire my friend, Hannah Boudreau, unknowingly allowing her to affect my life in a variety of different ways.

I often refer to myself as “veiled in secrets” due to the self-destroying burdens I keep to myself. Timid and untrusting by nature, I don’t tend to open up to people easily, and finding friends becomes a challenge for me. Throughout middle school, I grew comfortable with my lack of close friends and did not find it troubling to live without a personal confidant. Although I met my friend, Hannah, in middle school, she became a closer friend to others before she became my best friend. It wasn’t until our first year in high school that we grew closer because her other friends had moved away. Through our new high school experience, we grasped the little bond we had and made it stronger by helping each other out. Hannah helped, encouraged, and inspired me incredibly and I have grown to admire her unique traits and social talents. Opposed to the shy and quiet girl I was, I was attracted to Hannah’s unusual characteristics. Hannah was independent, loud, playful, and comical. She could get along well with different people and was loved by many. I felt that I could learn from Hannah and I enjoyed spending time with her until I later found out that she wouldn’t always be there.

“It’s strange to think that I may never see you again after high school,” I once told Hannah before school, pondering over my thoughts. I was shocked and heartbroken when Hannah responded with the fact that her father was retiring and she would be moving the following summer. From that impending event, my life was effected greatly. I couldn’t think of what to say or even breathe as a pain choked my insides and the truth strangled my mind. I had just become friends with Hannah and I didn’t want to have to give her up. After years of not having a close friend, I had become thankful for having her to rely on. Ironically, from this dread of impending sadness that would surely follow losing my friend that summer, I fell into a deep depression.

After witnessing how easily Hannah made friends and realizing how difficult it was for myself, I came to the conclusion that I was simply not worthy of friends and that I would burden any person who became my friend. With these new thoughts settling in my mind, new feelings and pains also settled in. Indescribable aches and pains consumed my soul with the swallowing hurt of depression. The worst of these mysterious pains developed within my stomach and continued to sweep through my chest and throat. My heart rate steadily increasing, my throat would begin to tighten and my body would be thrown into a seizure-like state, trembling and shivering without my consent. This feeling came over me many times, always invading my mind with the constant thought of doom and emptiness. From these constant thoughts, I called the feeling my “Doom feeling.” With these pains attacking my physical being causing me to actually feel an aching emptiness within me, troubled thoughts sabotaged my mind. Fear and dread attacked my brain and blurred my thoughts into a horrid painting of confusion, colors violently thrust upon the canvas. My mentality was so wrecked that the cause of my constant sadness was usually unknown to me. Stress and other troubling ideas kept my mind awake to suffer in guilt, punishing and hurting my tired body. In the silent black of night, I would either lie in wait listening to each passing second of the clock, or would transfer my thoughts into words through each clacking key of my computer keyboard. My blog was a frequent refuge to release the burdens that tormented me, and for a while, it was my only listener. Not wanting to burden my friend with my troubles, I tried to hide them from her and instead relied on the comforting text from those on the Internet. My blog gave me encouragement, yet I still longed for a true friend. Although I was writing on my blog, it wasn’t the same creative writing that I loved. Rather than letting fictional worlds open up upon the screen, I ranted and begged for help. As if I had become an entirely different person, my interests and hobbies became dull and lifeless and I became obsessed with improving myself in both physical and characteristic qualities. The time I had previously spent drawing and writing was now used to check my weight and carefully monitor and record it as it rose and fell dramatically. My enthusiasm and enjoyment in life was falling just as quickly as my body mass and my stomach felt just as empty as my heart.

Throughout this dreadful period in my life, I desperately reached for different forms of help. Friends from the Internet sent in advice and constantly reminded me to worry less and take a break. My writing club advisor emailed me and asked me to take better care of myself and seek medical attention, and classmates from school were troubled by my appearance and suddenly changing moods, begging me to speak to someone of authority. Denying that I was even troubled, I never did seek help from a counselor or medical specialist. Trying to keep my state entirely to myself, my parents never even knew of how I was. Faking a smile each time they passed, I skillfully fought my internal war myself, yet I wasn’t entirely alone. Although I tried to keep it from her, Hannah knew what was happening to me and tried to help as best as she could. She spoke with me and helped reason through my troubling thoughts. Always knowing what to say, I could rely on her for a good word. Even though these issues were caused from the knowledge of her forthcoming absence, her current presence greatly helped.

Admiring a person can cause troubles and problems, but also help with such disturbances. When people allow friends to grow closer to them, their lives are affected in many ways and can sometimes change tremendously. Each thing a person does in life seeks a comforting stability and may weaken when that presence is taken away. Affection is a human feeling that fills the heart with passion and grants value to our lives. Relationships are the strongest fibers of our lives, pulling together our emotions and feelings with our actions and personalities, each thing affecting the other and allowing us to truly live.

Word Count: December 15, 2007

"Anthem" by Ayn Rand

Anthem” by Ayn Rand

From November 25 to December 1, 2007, I wrote a total of 1,180 words.

From December 2, to December 8, 2007, I wrote a total of 943 words.

This week from December 9 to December 15, 2007, I wrote a total of 2,798 words.

Over the past three weeks, I have read the entire book, Anthem, written by Ayn Rand and 137 pages of Best Seat in the House written by Allen Rucker.

I am so sorry that I haven’t been able to come on, write, update the website, write the overview, or finish up the meeting slideshow, but I will get it all done some time…I have just been so consumed with homework, babysitting, band things, etc. I really hate how busy this school year is keeping me. I have no time to myself because I do homework from the moment I get home all the way until I go to bed, and even then, I usually don’t have it all done…As I said before, when I have the time, I will most likely cook up a rant.