December 4, 2011

Two Solitudes Protecting Each Other

The experience of loving, that now disappoints so many, can actually change and be transformed from the ground up into the building of a relationship between two human beings, not just a man and a woman. And this more authentic love will be evident in the utterly considerate, gentle, and clear manner of its binding and releasing. It will resemble what we now struggle to prepare: the love that consists of two solitudes which border, protect, and greet each other.

Rome, May 14, 1904
Letters to a Young Poet


  1. This, to me, has always been the consummate definition of authentic love: "two solitudes which border, protect, and greet each other." As I recall, it was upon discovering these words many years ago that I decided I needed to read more Rilke.

  2. the love that consists of two solitudes which border, protect, and greet each other.

    holy hell, yes. this should be taught in public school in circle time, knee to knee. first is the existence of the self and then through self, each to each, love. the ego is the central point out from which all of our being occurs. this does not mean that we can not or should not beat down the ego. but it is through the i that we see. this romantic notion of love, two people becoming one, is a sure fire disaster. two solitudes! this is the answer. jesus, yes, don't we all feel it? but what intersection there might be between these two frontiers of self!

    you have to love rilke!


  3. Oh yes, I remember this striking definition of love from 'Letters to a Young Poet'. And what better definition is there? Don't consider love as just romantically/sexually/gender based, Rilke says, consider it as 'a relationship between two human beings'. These human beings maintain their individual identities, their 'two solitudes' - how could they not do otherwise? - and, from a position of mutual respect for the otherness of the other, cultivate consideration, gentleness, clarity, authenticity, closeness, protection and a spirit of welcome. Yes, this is love alright - not that cloying, jealous, possessive, egocentric, shallow stuff.

  4. Ruth, my sister-in-law Susan recommended your blog. I too am reading Rilke. Haven't picked up this book but really enjoyed your posts. Anita

  5. One less romanic thought about this Rilke letter's reference to solitude in relationships - it reminds me of a short piece in Theoreau's Walden "Society is commonly too cheap. We meet at very short intervals, not having time to acquire any new value for each other. We meet at meals three times a day, and give each other a new taste of the old musty cheese that we are. . . . Certainly less frequency would suffice for all important and health communications."


"Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Go ahead, bloom recklessly!