Rainer Maria Rilke on the Art of Being Alone.
Solitude vs. Loneliness?
Psychology Today tries to establish the difference between these two synonymous Arts of Being Alone:
“Loneliness is a negative state, marked by a sense of isolation. One feels that something is missing. It is possible to be with people and still feel lonely—perhaps the most bitter form of loneliness.
Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself. Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company.”
Loneliness then, could count as a feeling, while solitude transcends the feeling-only state and reaches deeper into the architecture of the soul and, if fully embraced, serves as a confirmation of the individual’s eternal and sufficient nature.
But life is complicated and our hearts are polyglots. We speak more than one language, sometimes, simultaneously. So what to do when our solitude and our loneliness decide to join each other, and be together in the aloneness?
Well, we call a poet. (Handwritten letters preferred.) And perhaps there is no better one at soothing our postmodern angst and teaching us the difficult mastery of solitude than Rainer Maria Rilke.
And this is what he writes back:
“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast.
Be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend.
Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust.
And don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
More on the Art of Being Alone.