"The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things."
So here I am at 2am reading all the Rilke I can online, all because I finally googled and read his wikipedia page. His quotes just seemed to get to the core of so much of what I have learned in this life, so I finally HAD to see his life. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, but when I read this, I gasped:
"The relationship between Phia (his mother) and her only son was encumbered by her prolonged mourning for her elder daughter who was lost after only a week of life."
Rainer was his mother's rainbow baby. It all makes sense, he is someone who has been shaped by grief, raised by a mother who was profoundly impacted by child loss. His famous, Sonnets to Orpheus, were dedicated to his daughter's friend who died at the age of 19. Here is a section of one of his other most famous poems, Duino Elegies:
In the end, those who were carried off early no longer need us:
they are weaned from earth's sorrows and joys,
as gently as children outgrow the soft breasts of their mothers.
But we, who do need such great mysteries,
we for whom grief is so often the source of our spirit's growth--:
could we exist without them?
Is the legend meaningless that tells how, in the lament for Linus,
the daring first notes of song pierced through the barren numbness;
and then in the startled space which a youth as lovely as a god has suddenly left forever,
the Void felt for the first time that harmony which now enraptures and comforts and helps us.