Protect and Border and Greet: Inspired by Solitude and Rilke’s “Letters to a young poet”
Gouache and ink on paper
Poetry can transport us to moments, feelings, and human experience. Poetry can condense great vastnesses into something palatable and perhaps, even relatable.
Poet Rainer Maria Rilke‘s Letters to a Young Poet have continuously nurtured my inspiration. When I first read these letters, in what felt like a single sitting but must have been a few days, I was nearing the halfway point of my 16th year. A time when my search for some kind of personal and universal meaning had recently begun.
Through my time of questing, questioning that I suspect will last for the rest of my life, I’ve learned that within the quest for self is a longing for connection. Rilke’s letters began a chain reaction in me that ended in a fairly simple understanding: solitude is not the anthesis to connection. Instead, solitude is the beginning point of relationship, deep and lasting relationship
In “Letter Four” Rilke writes,
love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you.
In the years that have passed since I first read the letters, I’ve begun to comprehend solitude’s ability to make humans sing out. For it is within solitude that art is made, it is within solitude that letters are written, and it is because of solitude that we, as people, can understand and relish our togetherness.
In “Letter Seven” Rilke writes of the necessity solitude plays in the relationship “between one human being and another”:
the love that consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and greet each other.
With today’s piece, I wonder what would happen if people were to–in our daily lives, in small acts– embrace our solitudes and let them border, protect, and greet each other. Think about it… what would happen?