Thursday, 20 September 2007

Solitude - Rainer Maria Rilke

from Letters to a Young Poet trans. Steven Mitchell

And to speak of solitude again, it becomes clearer and clearer that fundamentally this is nothing that one can choose or refrain from. We are solitary. We can delude ourselves about this and act as if it were not true. That is all. But how much better it is to recognise that we are alone; yes, even begin from this realisation. It will, of course, make us dizzy; for all points that our eyes used to rest on are taken away from us, there is no longer anything near us, and everything far away is infinitely far. A man taken out of his room and, almost without preparation or transition, placed on the heights of a great mountain range, would feel something like that: an unequalled insecurity, an abandonment to the nameless, would almost annihilate him. he would feel he was falling or think he was being catapulted out into space or exploded into a thousand pieces: what a colossal lie his brain would have to invent in order to catch up with and explain the situation of his senses. That is how all distances, all measures change for the person for the person who becomes so literary; many of these changes occur suddenly and then, as with the man on the mountain top, unusual fantasies and strange feelings arise, which seem to grow out beyond all that is bearable. But it is necessary for us to experience that too. We must accept our reality as vastly as we possibly can; everything even the unprecedented, must be possible within it. This is in the end the only kind of courage required of us: the courage to face the strangest, most unusual, most inexplicable experiences that can meet us.

and I shall add: but humans need other humans, solitude and being independent: without need of others are not quite the same....I go back to 'companions in lonliness' mentioned elsewhere here...accepting our solitude doesn't mean we cannot accept, indeed do not need, companionship and the hospitality of others, from the stranger to the lover. And of course we can offer it: even if for just 5 minutes to a stranger whom we will never see again.

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