rilke’s letters TO A YOUNG PLUMBER


15 July 1898 Munich

Dear Sir,

Your letter arrived just a few days ago. I want to thank you for the great confidence you have placed in me. You must first know that I would never presume to critique your theory that “It is not always essential to flux the interior of a tee before sweating the joint,” although I am concerned that you haven’t yet acquired your own plumbing “style.” I do see (if I am reading these specs correctly) that you have insinuated something personal, something yours, into the annealed tubing of your project with the “cantankerous” (great word!) commode. Let me direct you, if I may, to what, at least in my mind, is an essential text to accompany you on your plumbing journey: The International and Uniform Plumbing Codes Handbook (1897) by Uder Weiss. While Weiss writes with his customary prolixity, his breadth of scope is matched only by his depth of vision, and we must accept his idea that in order to understand our craft we must “plumb” its essence (I love how one can use that word in two ways and it kind of means the same thing) and retreat into its history, indeed, into its primordial anima. Are you prepared for this adventure, good sir? If the answer is yes, then you are already well on your way.

And all success upon your path!

Rainer Maria Rilke

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