Thoreau on Love


Love is a severe critic.  Hate (as well as self-centeredness and self-interest) can pardon more than love.  The heart is blind; but Love is not blind.  None of the gods is so discriminating.  We may love and not elevate one another.  The love that takes us as it finds us degrades us.  They who aspire to love worthily subject themselves to an ordeal more rigid than any other.  Is your friend such a one that an increase of worth on your part will surely make her more your friend?  Is she retained, is she attracted, by more nobleness in you, by more of that virtue which is peculiarly yours, or is she indifferent and blind to that?  Is she to be flattered and won by your meeting her on any other than the ascending path?  Then duty requires you to separate from her.  There is danger that we lose sight of what our friend is absolutely, while considering what she is to us alone.  Love wants no partiality.  Be so kind as to be just.  I need thy hate as much as thy love.  Thou wilt not repel me entirely when thou repellest what is evil in me. – Thoreau, my abridgment and arrangement (and parenthetical), from “Letters to a Spiritual Seeker,” letter no. 11.

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About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
This entry was posted in Conscience, Courage, Intimacy, Love is Not a Feeling, Mature Love, Mental Health, Real Love, Spiritual Growth, Thoreau, Truth, Waking Up, What is Love? and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Thoreau on Love

  1. Jacelyn says:

    This is a really wise post! Thoreau never ceases to amaze me.

    • John says:

      Thank you, Jacelyn, for taking the time to comment and for the very kind words! Thoreau is one of my favs as well!

      Kindest regards,

      John

  2. Terence says:

    Thank you for the good writeup. I wasn’t familiar with that writing from Thoreau.

    • John says:

      Thanks, Terence, for reading and for commenting. And I’m glad to have passed on to you this bit of wisdom from Thoreau. It comes from one of his letters, and it can be found in “Letters to a Spiritual Seeker.”

      Thanks again for reading & taking the time to comment, Terence.

      Kindest regards,

      John

  3. Crystal says:

    Hi!
    Could you please give me your interpretation of this fragment?
    “Is your friend such a one that an increase of worth on your part will surely make her more your friend? Is she retained–is she attracted by more nobleness in you–by more of that virtue which is peculiarly yours; or is she indifferent and blind to that? Is she to be flattered and won by your meeting her on any other than the ascending path? Then duty requires that you separate from her.”

  4. Elizabeth Cox says:

    Let’s take it line by line. “Is your friend such a one that an increase of worth on your part will surely make her more your friend? In other words if you gain something; say fame, money, prestige (your worth) will her being your friend mean more to her then? In other words, if you gain something that is something she wants will she become even better friends with you? Thank about that. Do you want people to be your friends only for what you can offer them? What happens if you lose that “worth”? Will she still be your friend?
    (2) Is she retained–is she attracted by more nobleness in you–by more of that virtue which is peculiarly yours; or is she indifferent and blind to that? In other words is she being friends with you because she admires your personal qualities (such as honesty, generosity, courage, etc.) or does she like you for something else such as material things?
    (3)” Is she to be flattered and won by your meeting her on any other than the ascending path?” In other words is your friendship based on what you can do for her in the here and now or is she willing to engage into true friend relationship by discussing real life issues, values and morals when times relationship starts to grow?
    (4) “Then duty requires that you separate from her.” What he is saying here is if you answer no to any of the above questions then you need to back away from the relationship. She is not a true friend and it is possible that you will get hurt from the relationship.

    That’s my dime store analysis.

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