L., 16. May 1938.
Dear Miss Laube!
Our correspondence has reached a point where it can only be advantageously continued if we are completely honest with ourselves and with each other, and this stipulation confronts me with the decision whether, for the first time in my life, I should place my trust in another human being in certain things that, up until now, I had always reserved for myself, in the deepest reaches of my heart. I believe that you are an open and honest person and consider you worthy of my trust.
In spite of all my education, in spite of all of the challenges and temptations that I have faced, I have preserved in me a childlike belief in a pure love—and I thank God for it. I would not want to live any longer without the yearning for true happiness in love. And I know now: my brittleness, my reserve, my cool politeness—many may perceive them as repellent and offensive—but they are a defense mechanism for this faith, a defense against the ugliness and invasive intrusions that seek to destroy this faith.
We live in dark times. Swindles and shams cloak the truth. Everyone wears some kind of mask. Raw lust and cupidity show off everywhere, and it is a stroke of luck, a blessing, if one can remain straight and unbowed, if one does not succumb to the temptation and can salvage from it one’s faith and yearning for what is good, true, and noble. I say this not with arrogance. No, I speak from my own experience, for I have stumbled and been saved, and thank God for it. Do not take it as a slight, but rather as concern for happiness when I now say: introspect yourself in all honesty; pray unto God that he might give you certainty on this matter, whether it is pure love that besets you.
Love and desire.
A love, which is based on desire and lust alone, is not true love, it lasts for a while—and then there is emptiness and sorrow. True love—it is unthinkable without desire—is based upon the harmony of souls. I see the final and highest meaning of love and marriage in that two souls find their way to God together, that two people join forces so that they converge to strive together to become more noble and accomplished.
This love is seldom like happiness.
The hope for it has already made a fool out of many a man. One constantly keeps a lookout for this happiness everywhere.
Whether I have already felt this pure love? Yes, I have fallen quite in love three times and know that it was a true love. I did not declare myself and pushed back my emotions because I still wanted to pursue my studies and held that the time had not yet come for such things.
In my time in O.?
I felt desire but not love. When I consider my relationship to you:
I hardly took notice of you at first, another girl took the foreground. By the end, I desired her. I remember three occasions. Once after a heated snowball fight—once in church as I sat across from her in her provocative dress—and after our conversation one night, when she said to me so lovingly that she took pity on me for my loneliness.
You, I remember, as a sincere, upright girl, with a degree of courage that I admire, but still somewhat wild, unruly, wistful—I would not have suspected you of harboring a deep affection.
My time in O. was therefore not a happy one for me, for desire does not make one happy—it causes pain. One comes to distrust one’s own inclinations and feelings. Such longing also makes one culpable for dispensing glances that promise more than they could keep.
After the Sunday of confirmation, I felt more unhappy than I had in a long time. I was so plagued by doubts that I folded my hands and begged God that he might let me see clearly and learn to distinguish the true from the false.
Many see in love an opportunity for adventure—a sport.
ο Others strive for some kind of benefit and they call this love.
Some people have the tendency to fool themselves about something today and to desire it, to show people one day the depths of their despair and to boast too loudly the next of one’s joy.
Young people have the tendency to sink their teeth into a thought, to blunder into the necessity of a certain idea—this one and no other. I have experienced this contradiction in myself. This is my belief: there is no blessing in that which we defy. Everything great and important and decisive in our life is not our achievement; it is fortune and grace. True love cannot be defied; one can only yield to fate.
When I lay in the hospital, I looked around for something loveable on a day I was despondent and without hope, and a girl appeared, to whom I clung—her name is now incidental—and I imagined that I loved her. When I recovered, it was clear to me that it was an illusion.
Perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation and are without courage and hope and are now clinging to me.
Revisit the history of your love, and examine it honestly, pray to God that he might give you certainty. Can you then still say that you love from your heart, for true love is from the heart, then I could not leave you there in such pain, then I would have to submit to your suggestion: that we might get to know each other better and test each other in complete freedom.
Your confession shocked and agitated me. Two days passed before I could write down a clear thought. I did not despise your love, rather I did not know or take note of it.
This is what has preoccupied me these days in every free minute, and what I have considered now and then is not always easy to formulate in words and can easily be misunderstood.
So please dispel the doubts that you have elicited in me when you wrote:
It [our love] may not be, for I am not your equal by birth.
Did you just want to cause yourself pain, or does your family bear some inherited burden? Do you not come from a respectable family?
Please write what you mean by that.
from your [Roland Nordhoff]