Once the realization is accepted that even between
the closest human beings infinite distances continue,
a wonderful living side by side can grow,
if they succeed in loving the distance between them
which makes it possible for each to see the other
whole against the sky.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
This beautiful quote from Rilke speaks to the way we can never wholly know another person. No matter how well we know each other, there is always some distance, always some mystery, always something Other and unknowable. This "infinite distance" may make some people insecure or may drive others to try to possess or control another; it may feel threatening that there is always an unknowable aspect of any other Being, no matter how close we may be, no matter how well we "know" them. There is always something wild and as such unpredictable about another, in their Otherness.
Can we learn to "love the distance" between us, to embrace and welcome the space between, so full of mystery and the unknown? Can we not fear what we don't know and can't possess?
Can we appreciate the whole landscape of who they are, even if not all the details are clear? Can the distance give us perspective and allow us, paradoxically to see them more fully, framed magnificently "whole against the sky," be it a sunset, sunrise, or a sky full of lightning and rain?
Can we live side by side with another, both deeply known and still full of mystery and "infinite distance?" Can we love the mystery and distance as much as the known and loved qualities?
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley