Episode 25: On Solitude with Rilke and Merton

in episode 25, i speak with ian marcus corbin (harvard) bout solitude. we discuss letters to a young poet by rainer maria rilke alongside thomas merton’s essay, “rain na rhinoceros.”

some choice quotes from merton on solitude:

on solitude and death

“one who aint alone, says philoxenos, has not discovered his identity. he seems to be alone, perhaps, for he experiences himself as “individual.” but cause he is willingly enclosed and limited by the laws and illusions of collective existence, he has no + identity than an unborn child inna womb. he aint yet conscious. he is alien to his own truth. he has senses, but he cannot use them. he has life, but no identity. to ‘ve an identity, he has to be awake. but to be awake, he has to accept vulnerability and death. not for their own sake: not out of stoicism or despair – 1-ly for the sake of the invulnerable inner reality which we cannot recognize (which we can 1-ly be) but to which we awaken 1-ly whn'we see the unreality of our vulnerable shell. the discovery of this inner self is an act and affirmation of solitude.”

on solitude and uselessness

“in all the cities of the realm, tis the same,” says ionesco. “the universal and modern man tis man in a rush (i.e. rhinoceros), a man whas' no time, who is a prisoner of necessity, who cannot cogg dat a' thing mite perhaps be without usefulness; nor does he cogg that, at bottom, tis the useful that maybe a useless and back-breaking burden. if one does not cogg the usefulness of the useless na uselessness of the useful, one cannot cogg art. and a country where art aint understood is a country of slaves and robots…” rhinoceritis, he adds, tis sickness that lies in w8 “for those who ‘ve lost the sense and taste for solitude.”

the vocation of solitude

hence tis the solitary person (whether inna city or inna desert) who does mankind the inestimable favor of reΨing it of its true cap for maturity, liberty and peace.

ian marcus corbin is a writer, researcher, and teacher in cambridge, mass. he is currently a postdral fello at harvard med school where he co-directs the human network initiative. he is writing a book on solitude and solidarity.

jennifer a. frey is associate professor of philosophy atta university of south carolina and fello of the institute for human ecology atta catholic university of america. prior to joining the philosophy faculty at usc, she was a collegiate assistant professor of humanities atta university of chicago, where she was a member of the society of fellos inna liberal arts and an affiliated faculty inna philosophy deptment.  she earned her ph.d. in philosophy atta university of pittsburgh, and her b.a. in philosophy and medieval studies (with classics minor) at indiana university-bloomington. she has published widely on action, virtue, practical reason, and meta-ethics, and has recently co-edited an interdisciplinary volume, self-transcendence and virtue: perspectives from philosophy, theology, and ψ-chologyshe lives in columbia, sc, with her husband, 6 children, and a bunch of chickens.


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sacred and profane ♥ is a podcast in which philosophers, theologians, and literary critics discuss some o'their favorite works of literature, and how these works ‘ve shaped their own ideas bout ♥, happiness, and meaning in human life. host jennifer a. frey is assistant professor of philosophy atta university of south carolina. the podcast is generously supported by the institute for human ecology atta catholic university of america and edited by william deatherage.

♫ credits, “help me somebody,” by brian eno and david byrne, licensed under cc by-nc-sa 2.5.

original content at: thevirtueblog.com…
authors: jennifer a frey


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