For one human being to love another: that is the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test of proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.
--Rainer Maria Rilke
Rilke. Yes. Wow.
I believe this to be true, and find that, like many truths, it positively seeps from our daily experiences. The ability to love another person is also dependent upon one's ability to participate authentically in her own life--to experience genuine pain; to acknowledge fear without being consumed by it; to perceive a real I/Thou boundary, across which genuine dialogue is possible.
I've known several people who are purely incapable of perceiving a "thou." Admittedly, we all have our days, but this impairment is particularly pronounced in some. They tend, in my experience, to create eddies of chaos around them, in order to obscure (and perhaps to appear to justify) their own inability to cope with the separate needs and viewpoints of any "other."
It is not easy for me to relate to this in an ongoing way, and there's someone like this in my life right now. Wears me out. Too much time & energy must be spent on border patrol, and not enough is left over for the good stuff. Am trying to extricate myself from the situation, but in the meantime, here I stand at sentry duty, trying to keep my powder dry and my compassion intact.
However, it also highlights just how wonderful it is to encounter people who are at home enough in their own skins to participate in I/Thou relationship. It is a gift to be authentically seen, engaged, nurtured and valued. And it seems to me that, the better we are at cleaning up our own emotional yards, the easier it is to invite others over...to drag out our picnic tables and have a block party, relationally speaking, and to truly commune with one another.
There is a deep sense of peace and safety present in an authentic relationship--with God, the eternal Thou, and with each other. Much groundwork, honesty and courage is required of each of us, but isn't that moment and arena of connection the real glory of being human?