On relationship,love and sex
I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other. For, if it lies in the nature of indifference and of the crowd to recognize no solitude, then love and friendship are there for the purpose of continually providing the opportunity for solitude. And only those are the true sharings which rhythmically interrupt periods of deep isolation.
At bottom no one in life can help anyone else in life; this one experiences over and over in every conflict and every perplexity: that one is alone.. All companionship can consist only in the strengthening of two neighboring solitudes, whereas everything that one is wont to Call giving oneself is by nature harmful to companionship.
There is scarcely anything more difficult than to love one another. That it is work. But young people who love each other fling themselves to each other in the impatience and haste of their passion, and they don’t notice at all what a lack of mutual esteem lies in this disordered giving of themselves. In the struggle somehow to get out of their untenable and unbearable state of confusion, they commit the greatest fault that can happen to a human relationship: they become impatient. They hurry to a conclusion; to come, as they believe, to a final decision, they try once and for all to establish their relationship, whose surprising changes have frightened them, in order to remain the same now and forever (as they say).
Self transformation is precisely what life is, and human relationships, which are an extract of life, are the most changeable of all, rising and falling from minute to minute, and lovers are those in whose relationship and contact no one moment resembles another. ….. There are such relationships which must be a very great, almost unbearable happiness, but they can occur only between very rich natures and between those who, each for himself, are richly ordered and composed; they can unite only two wide, deep individual worlds.
So whoever loves must try to act as if he had a great work: he must be much alone and go into himself and collect himself and hold fast to himself; he must work; he must become something. Love is at first not something 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 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.
Thus each loses himself for the sake of the other and loses the other and many others that wanted still to come.
Sex is difficult; yes. But there are difficult things with which we have been charged; almost everything serious is difficult, and everything is serious. If you can only recognize this and manage, out of your own nature and ways, out of your own experience and childhood and strength to achieve a relation to sex wholly your own not influenced by convention and custom, then you need no longer be afraid of losing yourself and becoming unworthy of your best possession.
And those who come together in the night and are entwined in rocking delight do an earnest work and gather sweetness, gather depth and strength for the song of some coming poet, who will arise and speak of ecstasies beyond knowing.
Poetic power is great, strong as a primitive instinct, it has its own unyielding rhythms in itself and breaks out as out of mountains. The rose-gatherer grasps suddenly the full bud of his vitality, and, at fright at the difference, the gentle garden within her shrinks.
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, excerpts, Vintage Books, 1987