How to bear solitude – how and when to love.

books, Life, Parenting

 

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How often has Rilke been quoted?  Letters to a young poet was written over a century ago when the poet was responding to a young soldier who had read his poetry and was having doubts about his chosen military career. The first letter was written in 1903 as a response to the young soldiers request to critique his own poems. Rilke refused that request but continued a correspondence which fortunately the young would-be poet had the presence of mind to keep.  The letters will continue to challenge, inspire and bring solace to anyone who chooses to dive in. Dive deep, float and re emerge refreshed and reinvigorated.  

I want to recommend these lines to my two young men sons, as they begin their individual journeys into adult life.  Somehow a recommendation from their mother doesn’t always get the reaction I most want, so sometimes I wait, I hold, there may be occasion when I need to draw upon this well of sagacity.

 

 

….And you should not let yourself be confused in your solitude by the fact that there is some thing in you that wants to move out of it. This very wish, if you use it calmly and prudently and like a tool, will help you spread out your solitude over a great distance. Most people have (with the help of conventions) turned their solutions toward what is easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must trust in what is difficult; everything alive trusts in it, everything, in Nature grows and defends itself any way it can and is spontaneously itself, tries to be itself at all costs and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must trust in what is difficult is a certainty that will never abandon us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be one more reason for us to do it.

It is also good to love: because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation. That is why young people, who are beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love: it is something they must learn. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered around their solitary, anxious, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and therefore loving, for a long time ahead and far on into life, is: solitude, a heightened and deepened kind of aloneness for the person who loves. Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent?), it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distances. Only in this sense, as the task of working on themselves (“to hearken and to hammer day and night”), may young people use the love that is given to them. Merging and surrendering and every kind of communion is not for them (who must still, for a long, long time, save and gather themselves); it is the ultimate, is perhaps that for which human lives are as yet barely large enough.”

 

One more thing I would say to my lovely boys, which appears in the story Rilke proposed the young soldier read, ‘Mogens’ by Jens Peter Jacobsen, 

“you know in the darkness things often seem larger than they are.”

‘But words are things’

Art, books, literature, photogaphy, poetry
~Wooded walk

~Wooded walk

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books
that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be
able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it,
live along some distant day into the answer.”

This is an excerpt from the enormously popular poet Rainer Maria Wilke,  from ‘Letters to a young poet’, published after his death.  He wrote a correspondence to a young man in the Austro Hungrian army between 1902 and 1908; Franz Kappus was a young man struggling with his own poetry and turned to Rilke for advice.  He certainly got it.   He advised Franz to look inward and not rely on the capriciousness of the market place. Rilke didn’t critique the young man’s poetry, but instead wrote with greater impact, about soul and shared profound insights about creativity, soul, reflection, relationships, sexuality,  love, and life. The letters were published by Franz after Rilkes death, and have been admired as literary masterpieces. They can be read here in translation.; http://www.carrothers.com/rilke2.htm

 Like Rumi, Rilke is a mystical wordsmith, and his words have gone on to inspire and solace in equal measure.  In the words of an English poet, Lord Byron, 

 

But words are things, and a small drop of ink,

Falling, like dew, upon a thought produces

That which makes thousands, perhaps millions think.

Lord Byron, Don Juan (written between 1818 to 1824), Canto III, Stanza 88.