Rilke for Women: Pulling me below the surface of life

12 Apr

Last week I introduced to you the glorious words of poet Rainer Maria Rilke. The following is an excerpt from some personal letters of mine, written by my best friend, who is just 4 weeks away from giving birth. She’s also a fantastic writer, an old soul.

“Some day there will be girls and women whose name will no longer signify  merely an opposite of the masculine, but something in itself, something that makes one think, not of any complement and limit, but only of life and exisitence: the feminine human being”

How worthy of words in their own rite. I am not ashamed to confess that I sometimes feel like that woman, for while it is difficult for any person to simply live a reflective life, the life of woman is present with distinct difficulties a man will never face. I do not say this so woman is exalted above man, but rather, as Rilke says, something unique and beautiful and separate, only attainable in the true form of womanhood. He states that women experience suffering and humiliation and I first thought this a reverse-sexist thing to say; do not all men and women feel these things? Yet in my current state of being [pregnant] I found Rilke’s words true. Did I not feel shame and humiliation and I do still not experience a daily struggle with a manifestation of the most pure beauty womanhood offers? A unique struggle, I believe, to woman.

“Women, in whom life lingers and dwells more immediately, more fruitfully and more confidently, most surely have become fundamentally riper people, more human people, than easygoing man, who is not pulled down below the surface of life by the weight of any fruit of his own body, and who, presumptuous and hasty, undervalues what he thinks he loves.”

The part I underlined particularly gripped me – to be pulled below the surface of life. This to me represents the raw experience of something real and natural.  There are moments in life that are defined solely by the experience; they swallow you, like a heat they envelope you, like air oversaturated with moisture that you must breathe because that place is where you exist at the moment. So is an experience of birth, but in another manner. It brings you somewhere other than we experience as normal in our lives; not because of what comes after, but because of what is at the moment it occurs. This is why I do not want any pain medication or drugs; this is my experience; this is something that sets me apart. Rilke says it will “pull me below the surface of life” – I believe it will do something to the effect of the words he has described. He is right in that it is weighty.

This post brought to you by Tara, who is not pregnant but feeling rather weighty.


One Response to “Rilke for Women: Pulling me below the surface of life”


  1. Full of Conviction, Full of Child « mislabeled - May 12, 2011

    […] May The following is an excerpt from a letter, written to me by my bff Jaime, who, for the past nine months, has been carrying a human child in her womb: I’ve been […]

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