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?