A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Dizzying Distance/Difficult Solitude

To speak again of solitude, it becomes ever clearer that in truth there is nothing we can choose or avoid. We are solitary. We can delude ourselves and act as if this were not so. That is all we can do. How much better to realize from the start that that is what we are, and to proceed from there. It can, of course, make us dizzy, for everything our eyes rest upon will be taken from us, no longer is anything near, and what is far is endlessly far.

It is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it.

Words by Rainer Maria Rilke. Videos made by The Solitary Walker on a hand-held digital automatic camera while walking the Spanish Via de la Plata in January and February 2010. 


Ruth said...

I like seeing the terrain on the Via de la Plata. It took me a second to realize that Jan and Feb 2010 was last year. I was worried you would tumble over those rocks . . . the difficult terrain. But only you can walk it, alone. Well I suppose we can tell each other, "Look out!"

I think these long distance treks appeal to the stoic, much like Rilke's line does: ". . . that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it." I think this needs further discussion, in light of some of our cultural beliefs that make things more difficult than they need to be.

The Solitary Walker said...

Those were two of the many terrains, Ruth. (The rocks? No problem. The torrential river crossings much more, should we say, challenging!)

Everything's from an angle, Ruth. Tomorow I'll post a sunnier Via de la Plata video!

Not sure about the stoic - wouldn't call myself that, really...

Grace said...

I enjoyed the crunching sound of walking in the top video--I find that sound very satisfying:)

The Solitary Walker said...

Me too, Grace! (So much pleasanter than the omigod-the-water's-getting-into-my-boots squelching sound of the bottom video!)

The Weaver of Grass said...

The whole concept of solitude interests me Robert. Before I was ill I was much of the John Donne persuasion that no man is an island but now, having been so very ill and surviving, I lean more towards the idea that whatever happens we are actually on our own and we had better come to terms with that inside our heads.

Anonymous said...

Wow! This sparks off so much for me of those long solitary days on the Levante in the late summer - some days I met no one all day. Hard, but I would swap it for nothing.

There's a booklet somewhere by Mother Mary Clare SLG called something along the lines of 'Aloneness not Loneliness' - I'll look it out. That is a really powerful post - and makes me glad that my Camino was quiet.



The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, Pat - I think we have to 'come to terms with that inside our heads' in the sense that we must face up to, and become companionable with, our own existential aloneness - it's a fact of life. Despite friends, family, partners, husbands, wives, society - we are all 'alone' in our own skin, in our own thoughts, ultimately.

However, I actually see this as a positive thing, a realisation which can have untold benefits to our own sanity and which - perhaps paradoxically - can enhance and enrich our own individual relationship with others. Someone who is on good terms with themselves, their own thoughts and feelings, their own solitude, can be better equipped to engage in more harmonious and more deeply enriching relationships with others.

I myself value solitude, but I don't think that means I'm not gregarious, anti-society etc. In fact, I think it's quite the opposite. On my long, solitary walks, for instance, I enjoy the 'alone' state for hours on end - but am then even more eager to encounter people and involve myself gladly in relationships with them, say, in a hostelry at the end of a difficult day.

Donne was surely right - that no man is a totally isolated island. He/she is an island, but connected to others by an essential, life-giving, life-blood isthmus or causeway.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for that, Andy. I made those videos from the very heart of 'aloneness' - not 'loneliness'. Having said that, it was scarily quiet at times! But all good, all good. (Especially in retrospect!)
I knew you would understand and identify with this.

Alive said...


am said...

It is good to be solitary.

And not feel alone.

Fascinating to see the motion created by your walking and the apparent stillness of those landscapes. And to hear footsteps and what might be the wind.

Thanks for this post.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for this link, Alive. That Anthony Storr book looks really interesting. I think I must read it.

Am - thanks, as ever, for your comment. Most real works of art are created out of aloneness, are they not?

am said...

Anthony Storr's book on solitude is a good one. I've read it several times. And Dorothy Day's book, The Long Loneliness, written during her life in a community that she loved. Thomas Merton, too, lived in community and wrote at length about solitude. I have lived alone since 1984 (except for my cat, Oboe, since 2006), but have felt part of a community since 1987. Finally a part. Not apart. Alone but not lonely, as titled your next post. And I continue to feel a spiritual connection with the man I loved who died in 2008.

Good question. I believe there is some connection between the word alone and the words all one. In spiritual traditions of nonduality (All One), the concept of being alone is something to puzzle. A koan.

Then there's Bob's creative observation:

In harmony with the cosmic sea.
True love needs no company.
It can cure the soul, it can make it whole,
If dogs run free.

The two who are one are alone. All One.

I don't know why this mystery makes me feel so happy, but it does (-:

word verification: logish.

Derived from Blogish?

The Solitary Walker said...

That was such a wonderful comment, am. I appreciated and relished it so much. Have read it several times. Thank you. And what a pertinent quote from Bob.