Rilke on Solitude

16 July 1903

‘But everything which will one day perhaps be possible for many, the solitary individual can prepare for and build now with his hands which are more unerring. For this reason… love your solitude and bear the pain it causes you with melody wrought with lament.

For the people who are close to you, you tell me, are far away, and that shows the space around you is wide indeed and already among the stars; take pleasure in your growth, in which no one can accompany you, and be kind-hearted toward those you leave behind, and be assured and gentle with them and do not plague them with your doubts or frighten them with your confidence or your joyfulness, which they cannot understand.

Look for some kind of simple and loyal way of being together with them which does not necessarily have to alter however much you may change; love in them a form of life different from your own…

Ask no advice of them and reckon with no understanding; but believe in a love which is stored up for you like an inheritance, and trust that in this love there is a strength and a benediction out of whose sphere you do not need to issue even if your journey is a long one.’

 

23 December 1903

‘To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours – that is what you must be able to attain. To be solitary as you were when you were a child, when the grownups walked around involved with matters that seemed large and important because they looked so busy and because you didn’t understand a thing about what they were doing.

And when you realise that their activities are shabby, that their vocations are petrified and no longer connected with life, why not then continue to look upon it all as a child would, as if you were looking at something unfamiliar, out of the depths of your own world, from the vastness of your own solitude, which is itself work and achievement and vocation?

Why should you want to give up a child’s wise not-understanding in exchange for defensiveness and scorn, since not understanding is, after all, a way of being alone, whereas defensiveness and scorn are a participation in precisely what, by these means, you want to separate yourself from.’

– Letters to a Young Poet

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