Last Thursday in Gender Alchemy I shared a passage from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet that has been especially influential in my own thinking on love and relationship. Each time I read these words, they bring a shiver to my spine and a resounding “YES” in my deepest being. As anyone who has read Rilke has likely recognized, his words have a way of echoing down through the years. His writings express a depth, an openness, a rawness and a wisdom that is rare and timeless. My mother first gave me Rilke’s Letters early in high school. It transformed my thinking at that pivotal time in life when I first began to consider my own aloneness in the world, and my own connection to Mystery and soul. Since then, every few years I come back to this book, always – amazingly – finding exactly the reminder I need…
Here is the passage, from M.D. Herter Norton’s translation of Rilke’s seventh letter:
To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. For this reason young people, who are beginners in everything, cannot yet know love: they have to learn it. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered close about their timid, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and so loving, for a long while ahead and far on into life, is — solitude, intensified and deepened loneness for him who loves. Love is at first not anything that means merging, giving over, and uniting with another (for what would a union be of something unclarified and unfinished, still subordinate–?), it is a high inducement to the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world for himself for another’s sake, it is a great exacting claim upon him, something that chooses him out and calls him to vast things.
Blessings on your path,