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The things people call love. Friedrich Nietzsche

July 18, 2014

Avarice and love: what different feelings these two terms evoke!—nevertheless it could be the same instinct that has two names, once deprecated by those who have, in whom the instinct has calmed down to some extent, and who are afraid for their “possessions”; the other time seen from the point of view of those who are not satisfied but still thirsty and who therefore glorify the instinct as “good.” Our love of our neighbor—is it not a desire for new possessions? And likewise our love of knowledge, truth, and altogether any desire for what is new? Gradually we become tired of the old, of what we safely possess, and we stretch out our hands again; even the most beautiful scenery is no longer assured of our love after we have lived in it for three months, and some distant coast attracts our avarice: possessions are generally diminished by possession.

Our pleasure in ourselves tries to maintain itself by again and again changing something new into ourselves,—that is what possession means. To become tired of some possession means: tiring of ourselves. (One can also suffer of an excess—the lust to throw away or to distribute can also assume the honorary name of “love.”) When we see somebody suffer, we like to exploit this opportunity to take possession of him; those who become his benefactors and pity him, for example, do this and call the lust for a new possession that he awakens in them “love”; and the pleasure they feel is comparable to that aroused by the prospect of a new conquest.

Sexual love betrays itself most clearly as a desire for possession: the lover wants unconditional and sole possession of the person for whom he longs, he wants equally unconditional power over the soul and over the body of the beloved; he alone wants to be loved and desires to live and rule in the other soul as supreme and supremely desirable. If one considers that this means nothing less than excluding the whole world from a precious good, from happiness and enjoyment; if one considers that the lover aims at the impoverishment and deprivation of all competitors and would like to become the dragon guarding his golden hoard as the most inconsiderate and selfish of all “conquerors” and exploiters; if one considers, finally, that to the lover himself the whole rest of the world appears indifferent, pale, and worthless, and he is prepared to make any sacrifice, to disturb any order, to subordinate all other interests—then one comes to feel genuine amazement that this wild avarice and injustice of sexual love has been glorified and deified so much in all ages—indeed, that this love has furnished the concept of love as the opposite of egoism while it actually may be the most ingenuous expression of egoism.

At this point linguistic usage has evidently been formed by those who did not possess but desired,—probably, there have always been too many of these. Those to whom much possession and satiety were granted in this area have occasionally made some casual remark about “the raging demon,” as that most gracious and beloved of all Athenians, Sophocles, did: but Eros has always laughed at such blasphemers,—they were invariably his greatest favorites.

Here and there on earth we may encounter a kind of continuation of love in which this possessive craving of two people for each other gives way to a new desire and lust for possession, a shared higher thirst for an ideal above them: but who knows such love? Who has experienced it? Its right name is friendship.

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