“There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.”
-Rilke, Letters to A Young Poet
A professor of physiology once told me that humans can only do two things: sense their environment and move molecules. This is a fact, albeit a laughable one when considering the impact we humans have had on our environment and each other. How have we accomplished so much? How do we move literal mountains? How do we create great societal changes and raise up cities from the dust?
From my vantage point, our success is two-part.
- I wholeheartedly believe in human potential and think our full cognitive ability has yet to be tapped or discovered. I think we are capable of setting goals and scaling great heights (literal or metaphorical) to accomplish them.
- I also believe in our ability to receive messages from a higher power, whether we recognize them as such or not. I believe, comfortingly, in a small voice or intuition that guides our passage from each moment to the next.
Unfortunately, I think many people may fail to recognize this voice. And a small, yet very strong, part of me feels that to minimize the significance of this small voice is to walk through life blind and suffering. In retrospect, I think I feel this way because events in my life left me suffering and reeling with little to hang on to but the voice inside.
In my previous post, I describe possibly the most painful moment in my life thus far. Call the event what you want, but, in summation, someone I loved took advantage of me for selfish reasons. It took me years—I mean 8 years—to admit the extent of the act. For eight years, I didn’t have words to describe what happened. I couldn’t logically process it. I just know that I had trouble sleeping, I shook with rage every time I saw him, I chose a college as far away as I possibly could, and that I called upon the rage and hurt he made me feel whenever I needed to push through a hard swim workout or race in college. (At the conference meet, my coaches and teammates laughed and said I looked like “I wanted to kill someone” before I swam the 50 that broke the school record. I laughed too, but in hindsight, maybe I did.)
The small voice inside me knew what I couldn’t cognitively process or put into words. Something that happened was not right. I knew I had to get away, as far away as I could. It kept me safe, and I am sure that this intuitive voice lives in all of us, keeping all of us safe, if we listen to it.
I opened with a quote from Rilke because, succinctly, Rilke describes why I write this blog. I don’t use my real name here, and I don’t share my writing with anyone I know. I’m still not entirely sure why I write, except for that the small voice inside tells me I must, so I do.
Often, to me, the world is overwhelming—I feel so powerless about the environment, about race relations, about the political future of the country, even about my own future. But deep down, I try to trust the power of my small voice, and believe that whatever we are meant to do in our lives will be accomplished through the power of the small voice we hear inside.
I hope that perhaps my writing will allow others to do the same, to help them trust their own small voices as the right voice when the world is confusing and hard. I am hesitant to say that there is one way to find it for anyone. I just know that it’s in everyone’s best interest to try.