Life’s Most Painful Event


Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

What you say of your life—that its most painful event was also its greatest—that is, so to speak, the secret theme of these pages, indeed the inner belief that gave rise to them.  It is the conviction that what is greatest in our existence, what makes it precious beyond words, has the modesty to use sorrow in order to penetrate our soul.


Rainer Maria Rilke

2 thoughts on “Life’s Most Painful Event

  1. Carolyn Lieberg

    I must say I’ve never agreed with this sentiment. I find it too close to “everything happens for a reason,” which I also disagree with. I should say I appreciate a great deal of Rilke’s work. This notion, though, validates the results and personal reactions of tragedies of all kinds. We do see people “rise to the occasion,” and we see profound and poignant acts and art created in reaction to our “painful events,” but we also see despicable horrors and consequences that ruin lives of individuals and those around them. I hope others respond, too. I’d like to read other thoughts. Thank you, Marion Dane Bauer, for your work.

    1. Marion Dane Bauer Post author

      I’m not far from your perception, Carolyn. I too despise “everything happens for a reason.” And I am well aware that some are destroyed in ways almost beyond my comprehension. I am increasingly convinced, though, that we create our lives, not out of what is imposed on us from the outside, but by what we do with all of it inside our heads. None of us could survive without the good: those who love us and whom we love in return, a world that gives and gives and gives, work that occupies and satisfies and takes us out of ourselves . . . and on and on. But I do believe it is the testing, the stretching of the hard times that prompts us–forces us?–to grow larger, to encompass all that lies beyond ourselves. I am curious to see who I will be and what the world around me will be on the other side of this disaster. At the same time I recognize fully that the testing is never handed out in an even way and that we are fragile creatures and that some–in this case and in the case of wars and so much else–many will be given more to endure than is bearable. Perhaps the aphorism I would embrace is “What doesn’t destroy us can make us stronger.”


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