Nietzsche’s Mail

There are many kinds of love; some cleaner than others. Of course, I do not mean some loves leave us cleaner in the trivial moral sense, but in the profounder aesthetic sense. That is, some loves are cleaner in the same sense in which Nietzsche received his mail.

Nietzsche wrote we should set aside a single day of the week, say, Tuesday, to open and read the letters of the prior seven days. Then we should take a bath.

The first time I read that, I had no idea what he meant.  The second and third readings didn’t help either.  But one day I discovered what he might have meant.  Years ago, a Peoria newspaper was owned by an editor who was apparently a man of  intense but shallow sentiments.  And so that editor wrote little editorials stuffed with banal passions.  I had just finished reading one of his little gems — something about how deeply it saddened him that the youth of the day were so regrettably failing to measure up to the high morals and imposing standards of the great men of banal passions in his own generation.

At least, I think he was referring only to the men of banal passions in his generation, and not to the many in his generation who were much better than that, because I had been reading him on and off for a while, and the only folks he seemed to admire were the folks who were all but identical to him.  At any rate, moments after I put aside the paper, I was aware of feeling dirty, polluted — and in need of a shower.

Since then, I’ve noticed it‘s not always one way.  Some folks, instead of leaving me feeling worn and dirty,  leave me feeling fresh and clean.  And what can be said about people seems to go triple for different kinds of love.

Intensity has nothing to do with it.  In high school, I lusted for a certain Janet. I was raptured to a 17 year old’s heaven each time she spoke to me.  The first time I saw her breasts, I thought I would never see something more beautiful if I lived to 90. But no matter how ecstatic I felt with her, I always felt dirty later on.  I also felt depressed, but that’s a different matter: I have often enough felt depressed without feeling dirty.

I could blame those feelings on Janet, but I think they had more to do with the kind of love I felt towards her.  Some would call that kind of love “lust”, and some would call it “emotional dependency”.  But I call it “a kind of love” mostly because I’ve noticed quite a few people do.  In other words, I am not going to argue over semantics.  On the upside, I’ve experienced loves that have left me feeling fresh and clean.

My love for my ex-bimbo-secretary was that way.  I used to think she was made of sunlight and helium, but it wasn’t really her — it was the way I loved her.

At any rate, it seems an interesting question:  To what extent do we owe such feelings to the person we love, and to what extent do we owe such feelings to the way we love them?  Anyone want to chew on that one?

6 thoughts on “Nietzsche’s Mail

  1. That’s an incredibly tough question to be staring at before my brain has fully engaged for the day.

    It would seem that those feelings would be a team effort (with a large dose of baggage thrown in the mix) but it would seem that how we look we love them would have the greater weight. We create the context and the meaning of the relationship and see the person (and the resulting clean or dirty feelings) through those self-made filters.

    Your experience with Janet reminds me of the movie “10”. Dudley Moore saw Bo Derek as some kind of saint, virgin and all, so he pursued her because of the clean feeling. When he shagged her while her husband was in the hospital, the illusory bubble popped, the clean feeling disappeared, and the infatuation ended.

    Then again, I’m not sure if I’m even conscious enough to actually attempt to answer this question. =)

    • You’re a brave man, Alan. And that’s also an interesting answer. I think I agree that how we love someone carries the greater weight, although I wasn’t entirely sure of what I thought at the time I asked the question.

      By the way, I was attracted to Janet, not so much for her saintly qualities, as for the appearance of strong individualism in her. That is, she was something of a habitual contrarian and a social outsider, and I mistook those traits for genuine wildness. Live and learn.

  2. Took me a slew of relationships to figure out that I should marry the ones who left me clean, whole and refreshed and not the ones who left me feeling small and needy. Thinking on the most squalid example of the latter and the one wholly successful example of the former in my own life and fitting those into the many dozens of examples I viewed over my professional career as a marriage therapist, I conclude that the ring-around-the-collar relationships were the product of Needy Meets Ambivalent. The more Ambivalent backs up, the needier Needy grows and things get very dingy fast. Ambivalent is as unclear about getting out as about getting in, so it takes two to go all psychologically S&M.

    I’ve played both roles and Needy is the worst, but I couldn’t have created real nastiness all by myself.

  3. I believe it is a combination of the two with the greater weight going to how the person we “love” perceives us. I’m sure you know what I mean when I say that the subconscious picks up on signals from a particular significant other that the conscious may not. For example, I once dated a man who saw the ideal woman as superficial and “bubbly.” Unfortunately (?), I would rather die than be bubbly. Rather. Die.

    Can’t even do bubbly while drunk. I’m also no good at being superficial.

    As much as I was willing (at that point in my life, only) willing to look past his flaws and our obvious incompatibilities, he still made me feel dirty. I believe that feeling was the result of my subconscious picking up on the fact that in his eyes I didn’t measure up; and the fact that at some level I knew I didn’t want to.

    • Very interesting, CD. I hadn’t thought of it that way, as a matter of our picking up signals from the other person. But of course, what you are saying makes sense. And a lot of it.

      “Death before Bubbly”, eh? For some reason that puts me in mind of a friend, a psychologist, who once gave me a personality test. In explaining the results, he had all sorts of things to mention. One of those things was that men with my personality type — which is only about 2% or less of the population — tend to be most strongly attracted to two types of women: We like bubbly airheads if they are physically beautiful, and we like highly intelligent women in all shapes and sizes. Well, when he told me that, it made sense. I could see my dating history in what he said.

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