Trug und Schein: A Correspondence

16. May 1938


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.

Best wis­hes,

from your [Roland Nordhoff]

Plea­se fol­low and like us:
16. May 1938

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