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Lou Andreas-Salomé, the First Woman Psychoanalyst, on Depression and Creativity in Letters to Rilke

“A great deal of poetic work has arisen from various despairs.”

Lou Andreas-Salomé, the First Woman Psychoanalyst, on Depression and Creativity in Letters to Rilke

A woman of extraordinary intellectual and creative potency, the Russian-born writer Lou Andreas-Salomé (February 12, 1861–February 5, 1937) became a muse to some of Europe’s most celebrated thinkers, including Nietzsche, whose masterpiece Thus Spoke Zarathustra was largely inspired by her. Already an established poet and philosopher by the age of fifty, she trained with Freud and became the world’s first woman psychoanalyst. But perhaps the most significant relationship of her life was with the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, who became besotted with her in his youth, wrote her exquisite love letters, and dedicated his Book of Hours to her.

Like Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger, the two remained lifelong friends and intellectual peers after their romance ended. Andreas-Salomé was Rilke’s most trusted confidante and, in many ways, his greatest influence.

Particularly beautiful was their intimacy around the trials and triumphs of the creative spirit, revealed over and over in Rilke and Andreas-Salomé: A Love Story in Letters (public library) — the record of their decades-long, deeply poetic correspondence, which also gave us Andreas-Salomé on the relationship between the mind and the body.

In a letter from the summer of 1914, Rilke confides in her about his exponentially exasperating struggle with depression and creative block. He captures the overwhelming and vulnerable-making emotional porousness that makes us feel completely devoid of control over the anguishing invasiveness with which the world enters us:

I am like the little anemone I once saw in the garden in Rome; it had opened so wide during the day that it could no longer close at night. It was terrible to see it in the dark lawn, wide open, still taking in through its calyx, which seemed as if frantically flung open beneath an all-overpowering night that streamed down on it undiminished… My senses, without asking me, attach themselves to anything intrusive, whenever there’s a noise I give myself up to it and am that noise, and since everything, once it has been set for stimuli, wants to be set off by stimuli, so at heart I want to be disturbed and am so without end. From such exposure to an existence in public, some sort of life inside me has taken refuge, has retreated to an innermost place and lives there the way people live during a siege, in deprivation and perpetual worry… And in between, between this uninterrupted outward-addiction and that interior existence I can barely reach any longer, are the true dwelling-places of healthful feeling: empty, abandoned, cleared out, an inhospitable middle zone whose neutrality also explains why all the kindnesses of people and nature are wasted on me.

Anemone flower
Anemone flower

But in her response, Lou Andreas-Salomé offers some counterintuitive yet tremendously insightful consolation — the emotional porousness that makes for such despairing vulnerability, she argues, is also the wellspring of creative self-expression, as evidenced by Rilke’s exquisite articulation of his very anguish. She writes:

While you are perpetually feeling sick and miserable you are also perpetually finding expressions for that experience, and those expressions, in the distinctive form you give them, would be quite impossible unless somewhere inside you there is a flowing together, an experiencing in unison, of what you feel as so torn into one impulse fleeing outward and another burrowing inward, with only an empty, self-deserted middle space between them. Those words with which you articulate this condition, and that passage, for example, about the anemone — they are nothing if not works, works accomplished, the coming about of deepest unities in you!

In a sentiment that Anaïs Nin would come to echo thirty years later in her beautiful meditation on why emotional excess is essential for creativity, Andreas-Salomé adds:

A great deal of poetic work has arisen from various despairs, certainly; but if it arose out of that despair, the despair of not being capable of just such poetic syntheses, there’d be a contradiction, don’t you think? To your consciousness of yourself it appears that way, your consciousness finds itself on the side of what is being blocked, and therefore is not party to those moments which show again and again that you are not so lacking throughout in unity as you feel and think “yourself” to be; you suffer yourself as a person blocked, and that piece of happiness which is lodged in this situation remains hidden from you, withheld, even though all its requirements are inside you and express themselves; for one cannot write about the anemone the way you do without some store of happiness (which is just not fully working its way into consciousness!)

Art by Sydney Pink from Overcoming Creative Block

At the heart of her consolation is the notion that creative block is evidence of creativity rather than of its absence. She writes:

This may not factually change anything, since one has nothing of that which eludes one’s feeling and thoughts; yet proof that it is real and is present remains important, — somewhat the way an insensate limb does not stir the same terror as an amputated one: the paralysis may be connected with processes that can at any moment resolve, and that do not block the flow of food and nourishment, etc.

Complement this particular portion of the immeasurably beautiful and poetic Rilke and Andreas-Salomé: A Love Story in Letters with Lewis Carroll’s three tips for overcoming creative block, Brian Eno’s oblique strategies, and some advice from successful contemporary artists, then revisit Rilke on the soul-expanding value of difficulty, our fear of the unexplainable, and what books do for our inner lives.

BP

The Remarkable Love Letters of Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger

“Why is love rich beyond all other possible human experiences and a sweet burden to those seized in its grasp? Because we become what we love and yet remain ourselves.”

The Remarkable Love Letters of Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger

The great German writer and political theorist Hannah Arendt (October 14, 1906–December 4, 1975), the first woman to deliver the prestigious Gifford Lectures, possessed one of the most piercing intellects of the twentieth century — a source of abiding insight into the crucial difference between truth and meaning and time, space, and where the thinking ego resides. But even Arendt wasn’t immune to youth’s impulse to relinquished reason for its counterpoint.

When she was a 19-year-old university student, Arendt fell in love with her 36-year-old married professor, Martin Heidegger (September 26, 1889–May 26, 1976). A philosopher as influential as he is controversial, Heidegger made monumental contributions phenomenology and existentialism; he also joined the Nazi party and took an academic position under Nazi favors. Although he resigned a year later, stopped attending Nazi party meetings, and later told a student that he considered taking the position “the greatest stupidity of his life,” he never publicly repented. That he should fall in love with a Jew — Arendt saw the power and privilege of being an outsider as central to her identity — exposes the complexity and contradiction of which the human spirit is woven, its threads nowhere more ragged than in love.

arendtheidegger

Heidegger considered their romance “the most exciting, focused, and eventful” period of his life, and that creative vitality fertilized Being and Time — his most famous and influential work. “Nothing like this has ever happened to me,” he writes in one of their first love letters, collected in Letters: 1925–1975 (public library) — half a century of their electrifying correspondence, first as lovers and then as friends and intellectual peers.

In his first letter to Arendt, penned in February of 1925, Heidegger implores:

Dear Miss Arendt!

I must come see you this evening and speak to your heart.

Everything should be simple and clear and pure between us. Only then will we be worthy of having been allowed to meet. You are my pupil and I your teacher, but that is only the occasion for what has happened to us.

I will never be able to call you mine, but from now on you will belong in my life, and it shall grow with you.

We never know what we can become for others through our Being.

From the start, Heidegger sets out to reconcile the intensity of his feelings with what he knows to be in Arendt’s best rational interest:

The path your young life will take is hidden. We must be reconciled to that. And my loyalty to you shall only help you remain true to yourself.

[…]

“Be happy!” — that is now my wish for you.

Only when you are happy will you become a woman who can give happiness, and around whom all is happiness, security, repose, reverence, and gratitude to life.

And only in that way will you be properly prepared for what the university can and should give you.

[…]

We have been allowed to meet: we must hold that as a gift in our innermost being and avoid deforming it through self-deception about the purity of living. We must not think of ourselves as soul mates, something no one ever experiences… That makes the gift of our friendship a commitment we must grow with… But just once I would like to be able to thank you and, with a kiss on your pure brow, take the honor of your being into my work.

Eleven days later, Heidegger’s infatuation swells to uncontainable magnitude and explodes into the philosophical. He writes:

Dear Hannah!

Why is love rich beyond all other possible human experiences and a sweet burden to those seized in its grasp? Because we become what we love and yet remain ourselves. Then we want to thank the beloved, but find nothing that suffices.

We can only thank with our selves. Love transforms gratitude into loyalty to our selves and unconditional faith in the other. That is how love steadily intensifies its innermost secret.

Here, being close is a matter of being at the greatest distance from the other — distance that lets nothing blur — but instead puts the “thou” into the mere presence — transparent but incomprehensible — of a revelation. The other’s presence suddenly breaks into our life — no soul can come to terms with that. A human fate gives itself over to another human fate, and the duty of pure love is to keep this giving as alive as it was on the first day.

But just before the one-year anniversary of their romance, Arendt ended things abruptly, in large part because she wanted to focus on her academic pursuit of philosophy. In a reply to her from January of 1926, Heidegger makes an admirable effort to syncretize the two conflicting forces ripping him asunder — his own heartbreak and the sincerity with which he wishes the best for Arendt. He writes:

My dear Hannah!

… I understand, but that doesn’t make it any easier to bear. Still less as I know what my love exacts from you.

Although Arendt’s breakup letter doesn’t survive, it appears that in it she cited her need to withdraw from the romance in order to focus on her work — a perennial paradox of human satisfactions, which Heidegger addresses in his response:

This “withdrawal” from everything human and breaking off all connections is, with regard to creative work, the most magnificent human experience I know — with regard to concrete situations, it is the most repugnant thing one can encounter. One’s heart is ripped from one’s body.

And the hardest thing is — such isolation cannot be defended by appeal to what it achieves, because there are no measures for that and because one cannot just make allowance for abandoning human relationships… With the burden of this necessary isolation, I always hope for complete isolation form the outside — for a merely apparent return to other people — and for the strength to keep an ultimate and constant distance. For only then can all sacrifice be spared them, along with the necessary rejection.

But this tormented desire is not just unattainable, it is even forgotten — so much so that the most vital human relationships become a spring again and provide the forces that drive one into isolation once more…. Such a life then becomes wholly a matter of exigencies that have no justification. Coming to terms with this in a positive way — not taking a position exclusively as a kind of escape — is what it means to be a philosopher.

And yet however tragic the sacrifices of being a philosopher may be, Heidegger encourages young Arendt to make them anyway. His words radiate a testament to the notion put forth generations later by philosopher Martha Nussbaum — in many ways an intellectual heir of Arendt’s — that embracing our neediness is essential for healthy relationships. Even as Heidegger emboldens Arendt to go her own way, he articulates his longing for her and his need for their love to persevere:

It is clear — independently of you and me in this final point — that, in your youth and receptive stage of learning, you should not commit yourself here. It is always bad for young people to not summon the strength to go away. It is a sign that the freedom of instincts has died out, and as a result, when they stay they no longer grow in a positive way…

[…]

And perhaps your decision will become an example… If it has good effect, it can only be because it calls for sacrifice from both of us.

The evening and your letters have renewed my certainty that everything stays close to what is good, and becomes good… You, even in your situation, must be happy as only those with a young heart and strong expectations and faith can be at the prospect of a new world — new learning, fresh air, and growth. May each of us be a match for the other’s existence, that is, for the freedom of faith and for the inner necessity of an unalloyed trust — that will preserve our love.

My life continues — without my involvement or merit — with such uncanny certainty that I want to believe the new emptiness that will come with your departure is necessary.

And yet despite Arendt’s departure, the emotional intensity between the two magnetized them into continued correspondence and occasional meetings over the months that followed. By July of 1927, more than two years after their romance began, they were still very much in love. Responding to another letter of Arendt’s that doesn’t survive and that appears to have been particularly emotionally charged, Heidegger writes:

My dear Hannah!

[…]

Although you have remained as present to me as you were on the first day, your letter brought you particularly close. I hold your loving hands in mine and pray with you for your happiness.

[…]

Child, my dear, do you only “hope” I might trust in you? Ask the innermost part of your heart, which has shone on me so often from your wonderfully deep eyes; it will tell you: deep down I am completely and purely sure of this trust.

Your letter has shaken me as much as first being close to you did. Those days have returned with such elemental power, thanks to this word of your love.

Echoing Van Gogh’s beautiful reflection on the parallel necessity of giving and receiving in love, Heidegger adds:

Dear Hannah, for me it was as if I had been favored to give away something ultimate and great, so as to receive it, the gift and the giving, as a new possession. I still haven’t come to grips with it, much less comprehended the unsuspected things I saw in our existence in those hours.

In April of 1928, Arendt echoes Freud’s famed assertion that love and work are the two cornerstones of the human spirit, and ultimately chooses the work of philosophy over her romance with Heidegger. She writes to him, beseeching him to understand her choice — trusting, even, that as a philosopher himself, one wholly consumed by his work, he would have no choice but to understand:

I love you as I did on the first day — you know that, and I have always known it, even before this reunion. The path you showed me is longer and more difficult than I thought. It requires a long life in its entirety. The solitude of this path is self-chosen and is the only way of living given me. But the desolation that fate has kept in store not only would have taken from me the strength to live in the world, that is, not in isolation; it also would have blocked my path, which, as it is wide and not a leap, runs through the world. Only you have a right to know this, because you have always known it. And I think that even where I finally remain silent, I will never be untruthful. I always give as much as anyone wants from me, and the path itself is nothing but the commitment our love makes me responsible for. I would lose my right to live if I lost my love for you, but I would also lose this love and its reality if I shirked the responsibility it forces on me.

The following year, Arendt met a young German journalist and philosopher in Heidegger’s seminar. That fall, she married him. Writing on her wedding day, she sends Heidegger one final romantic reverberation, at once plaintive and proud:

Do not forget me, and do not forget how much and how deeply I know that our love has become the blessing of my life. This knowledge cannot be shaken, not even today, when, as a way out of my restlessness, I have found a home and a sense of belonging with someone about whom you might understand it least of all.

[…]

I kiss your brow and your eyes,

Your Hannah

Like Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West, who were onetime lovers and lifelong friends, Arendt and Heidegger remained in each other’s lives for half a century, until Arendt’s sudden death. Heidegger outlived her by six months. Letters: 1925–1975 survives as the extraordinary record of this enduring relationship, brimming with timeless wisdom on nearly every aspect of life and culture.

Complement it with Arendt on how we humanize each other, then revisit the love letters of John Keats, James Joyce, Iris Murdoch, Vladimir Nabokov, Charlotte Brontë, Oscar Wilde, Ludwig van Beethoven, James Thurber, Albert Einstein, Franz Kafka, and Frida Kahlo.

BP

Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Exquisite Polyamorous Love Letters from the 1920s

“Surely, one must be either undiscerning, or frightened, to love only one person, when the world is so full of gracious and noble spirits.”

Edna St. Vincent Millay (February 22, 1892–October 19, 1950) was only thirty-one when she became the third woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. She remains one of the most influential and timelessly bewitching poets in the English language. Today, Millay might be described as openly bisexual and polyamorous. But beneath such constricting labels lies the simple truth that her extraordinary poetic potency sprang from her boundless capacity for love and beauty — a capacity so boundless that she fell in love frequently and intensely, with both men and women, often with multiple people at the same time.

In her early twenties, shortly after she wrote those beautiful love letters to the British silent film actress Edith Wynne Matthison, Millay became besotted with the poet, playwright, and Japanese art scholar Arthur Davidson Ficke and they embarked on a decade-long epistolary romance of exhilarating intensity. The letters she wrote to him, included in the altogether exquisite out-of-print treasure The Letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay (public library) — which also gave us Millay on the sublime power of music, what it really means to be an anarchist, and her wonderful appreciation of her mother — capture the simplest, deepest truths of love hidden behind the surface complexities of relationships.

ednastvincentmillay

In October of 1921, Millay writes to Ficke:

Arthur, my dearest,

I must write you, or you will think I did not get your letters. But when I start to write you all I can think of to say to you is — Why aren’t you here? Oh, why aren’t you here? — And I have written that to you before… I have nothing to say but that I long to see you. — I take the photograph with me everywhere, the big one. I love it.

[…]

I think we might have a few days together that would be entirely lovely. We are not children, or fools, we are mad. And we of all people should be able to do the mad thing well. If each of us is afraid to see the other, that is only one more sympathy we have. If each of us is anguished lest we lose one another through some folly, then we are more deeply bound than any folly can undo… What ever happens, I want to see you again! — But oh, my dear, I know what my heart wants of you — it is not the things that other men can give.

Do you remember that poem in Second of April which says, “Life is a quest & love a quarrel, Here is a place for me to lie!”? — That is what I want of you — out of the sight & sound of other people, to lie close to you & let the world rush by. To watch with you suns rising & moons rising in that purple edge outside most people’s vision — to hear high music that only birds can hear — oh, my dearest, dearest, would it not be wonderful, just once to be together again for a little while?

The poem Millay is referring to, which she had written earlier that year, is titled “Weeds”:

White with daisies and red with sorrel
    And empty, empty under the sky! —
Life is a quest and love a quarrel —
    Here is a place for me to lie.
Daisies spring from damnèd seeds,
    And this red fire that here I see
Is a worthless crop of crimson weeds,
    Cursed by farmers thriftily.

But here, unhated for an hour,
    The sorrel runs in ragged flame,
The daisy stands, a bastard flower,
    Like flowers that bear an honest name.

And here a while, where no wind brings
    The baying of a pack athirst,
May sleep the sleep of blessèd things
    The blood too bright, the brow accurst.

Later the same day, she writes to Ficke again:

Arthur, I am glad that you love me. Your letters have hurt me & healed me. Such sweetness, to be loved like that. But to be loved like that by you — how shaking & terrible besides… You were the first man I ever kissed without first thinking that I should be sorry about it afterwards… Arthur, it is wicked & useless, — all these months & months apart from you, all these years with only a glimpse of you in the face of everybody.

Illustration from the 1951 volume Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Poems Selected for Young People

But by the beginning of winter, Millay had started falling in love with the writer Witter Bynner, nicknamed Hal — a friend of Ficke’s since their college days at Harvard. Here was a love that didn’t, as she insisted over and over again to both men, detract from her feelings for Arthur. Millay refused to subscribe to the pie fallacy of the heart — for her, as she so movingly articulates in a letter to Hal from 1922, love was never a zero-sum game:

It is true that I love Arthur. But we have all known that for some time — haven’t we? — I shall love him always. He is something to me that nobody else is. But why should that trouble you, Hal? Don’t you love him, too? Don’t you love several people? — If you loved me, I should not want you to love only me. I should think less highly of you if you did. For surely, one must be either undiscerning, or frightened, to love only one person, when the world is so full of gracious and noble spirits.

The very next day, 30-year-old Millay writes to Arthur:

It doesn’t matter with whom you fall in love, nor how often, nor how sweetly. All that has nothing to do with what we are to each other, nothing at all to do with You and Me.

With this, she informs him diagrammatically that she is considering marrying Hal:

Would you be sorry or glad if I did? … Of course, there is a very geometrical reason why I should. We should make such a beautiful design, don’t you see, — Hal and you and I. Three variable and incommensurate souls automatically resolved into two right angles, and no nonsense about it.

Her marriage to another, Millay assures Arthur, in no way truncates the vector of her love for him:

Well, there’s no denying that I love you, my dear. I have never denied it for a moment, since the first time I saw you, whether to myself or to anybody else who seemed interested. When people ask me if I know you I say, “Yes, I know him.” Then if they ask me if I like you, I say, “I love him.” And that’s all there is to that. And they can shut up, or go on asking questions, or talk it over among themselves.

You, best of all, know how I feel about you, and always shall. No one can ever take your place with me. We know each other in such a terrible, certain, windless way. You and I have almost achieved that which is never achieved: we sit in each other’s souls.

But that’s no reason why I couldn’t marry Hal, and be happy with him. I love him, too. In a different way.

Millay married neither Arthur nor Hal. The following year, she married another man altogether — Eugen Jan Boissevain, the widower of the trailblazing lawyer and war correspondent Inez Milholland. Over the course of their 26-year open marriage, both Millay and Boissevain had frequent relationships with other people but maintained a deep love for one another until death did them part. They died within a year of each other.

The Letters of Edna St. Vincent Millay, despite its lamentable unavailability, is a trove of stunning sentiments on love, literature, and life, stunningly articulated. Complement this particular fragment with the love letters of John Keats, James Joyce, Iris Murdoch, Vladimir Nabokov, Charlotte Brontë, Oscar Wilde, Ludwig van Beethoven, James Thurber, Albert Einstein, Franz Kafka, and Frida Kahlo, then revisit Millay’s prescient thoughts on the death penalty and her playful self-portrait.

BP

Lou Andreas-Salomé, the World’s First Woman Psychoanalyst, on Creativity and the Relationship Between the Mind and the Body, in Letters to Rilke

“All art begins [as] a calling forth of life in its still concealed mysteriousness.”

Lou Andreas-Salomé, the World’s First Woman Psychoanalyst, on Creativity and the Relationship Between the Mind and the Body, in Letters to Rilke

In an era when the self-actualization opportunities for women of genius amounted to little more than becoming wives of geniuses, the Russian-born writer and intellectual Lou Andreas-Salomé (February 12, 1861–February 5, 1937) realized a life commensurate with her brilliance. At the age of fifty, already an established poet and philosopher, she trained with Freud and became the world’s first female psychoanalyst. Her extraordinary intellectual gravity and creative grace made her a muse to some of Europe’s most celebrated minds. Nietzsche, whose masterwork Thus Spoke Zarathustra was largely inspired by Andreas-Salomé, set down his ten rules for writers in a letter to her. Young Rilke became besotted with her, wrote her exquisite love letters, and dedicated his Book of Hours to her. It was at her urging that he changed his first name from “René” to “Rainer,” which she found more virile and Germanic. Even after their romance ended in 1900, she remained Rilke’s closest confidante and, in many ways, his most important influence.

Nowhere does Andreas-Salomé’s uncommon insight into the human spirit come more fully abloom than in their prolific correspondence, published as Rilke and Andreas-Salomé: A Love Story in Letters (public library) and spanning a quarter century of intellectual intercourse well after the end of their affair.

In June of 1914, shortly after her correspondence with Freud about human nature, she writes to assuage Rilke’s frustration with the creative block that had befallen him:

[When] a creative period [is] about to begin in response to [one’s] new human experiences … a terrible danger is as close as a great victory. Life is easy for those people who are granted a very small portion of creativity to go along with their strong experiences and can expend the former entirely on the latter; and now and then those others, the ones who are creative by nature, succeed the other way around; but much more often the two as it were meet somewhere in the middle and die there, since they collide on their one path rather than proceed along it together.

A few days later, Rilke breaks through his creative block and sends her a newly written poem titled “Turning,” containing the following verse:

For gazing, you see, has its limits.
And the more gazed-upon world
wants to prosper in love.

Work of the eyes is done,
begin heart-work now
on those images in you, those captive ones;
for you conquered them: but you still don’t know them.

In her response, poured out of her dual identity of muse and analyst, Andreas-Salomé offers a beautiful testament to the embodied experience of creative revelation and to what John Dewey would later term the vital “live creature” aspect of the artist. She writes of Rilke’s creative breakthrough:

It has been on its way for so long, has been prepared for, indeed has already almost arrived. Your body knew of its coming, as it were, before you yourself did, yet in the way that only bodies know of things, — with such infinite innocence and directness that in the end this knowledge could temporarily create for it a new misunderstanding with the mind. Do you know by what sign this revealed itself? By the eyes, — those gazing ones… But they, these eyes, left only to themselves in their arduous searchings, beyond the bounds of that which, in their normal function, they needed only to convey to the mind, — they could in their gazing only become ever more corporeal and — confusing, as it were, the more subterranean processes with those consummated at the visibly open and observable body surface — lead only to strange forms of torment; for the “heart-work” to be done on what had previously been only artistically gazed upon would have to occur in some innermost region were it to succeed.

That success, she argues, hinges on “the great love that transforms outside and inside into a completely new,” of which she writes:

What love does in this union is dark and difficult and glorious — and stands on the side of life; who would dare or even want to guess more about it than that; and indeed, you will experience it. Certainly not without interruptions and doubts.

Three days later, having lived with the poem and let it work its slow-burning magic, Andreas-Salomé writes to Rilke again, further reflecting on the poem’s power. Embedded in her words is a meditation on what all transcendent works of art accomplish in our interiority:

There is something in it as of a newly conquered domain, one whose boundaries are still out beyond one’s ken, its compass extending farther than one could walk: one senses more terrain; senses many trails and long wanderings along paths that until now had always been shrouded in fog. And adding a little daylight, just enough so that one can see where to take the next step, would be, from one poem to the next poem, like a real advance of footsteps, one never as yet achieved, on grounds where (in contrast to “mere” art) illumination and action are still as one; this domain can indeed only be made into poetry insofar and to the extent that one has conquered it and thus made it part of a new experience. Somewhere in this realm, deep down, all art begins again with renewed force, arises as from its primordial origin, where it was magic formula, incantation, — a calling forth of life in its still concealed mysteriousness, — yes, where it was at once prayer and the most intense breaking-forth of power.

The calling forth of life that is art, Andreas-Salomé points out, happens not only in the mind but also in the body, the integration of the two being the seedbed of our selfhood and the supreme mark of the creative person:

This running up against our body … is yet the outermost outside in its most intimate sense, the first partition that differentiates us from ourselves, makes us the “inner being” lodged in it like the face in a hedgehog; and yet: our very body, with its hands, feet, eyes, ears, all the parts we enumerate as “us”; this perplexing tangle generally unfurls only in response to the loving comportment of an other, who alone legitimates, in a manner we can bear, our body as “us.” In a “creative person,” though, these components perpetually loosen and renew their ties: which is why, instead of repetition, new reality emanates from him.

Rilke and Andreas-Salomé is an immeasurably rich read in its entirety. Complement it with Georgia O’Keeffe’s magnificent letter to Sherwood Anderson on what it really means to be an artist and pioneering psychologist Jerome Bruner on the six essential conditions for creativity, then revisit Rilke on how difficulty can fuel creativity and the symbiosis between the body and the soul.

BP

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