On not Talking to a Close Friend (1)

I become mournful when somebody, in life or the arts, stops talking to a close friend. I’m also devastated by the despair and denial of such a decision.

Friedrich Nietzsche stopped talking to Richard Wagner in 1876, when he was 32 years old, and spent the remaining 24 years of his life writing about him and to him. He never made another friend, since Wagner was his ultimate interlocutor and his “other self.” He thought of him all the time but could not bear the creative intensity and public function of their friendship, so he disappeared. He felt that he and Wagner had, as he put it, “to become strangers to one another” and by the same token “become more sacred to each other,” that they had to become “terrestrial enemies” in order to believe in their “stellar friendship.” This devastating passage says it all:

  1. Stellar Friendship   

“We were friends, and have become strangers to each other.  But perhaps this is as it ought to be – and we do not want either to conceal or obscure the fact as if we had to be ashamed.  We are two ships each of which has its own goal and course.  Our paths may cross and we may celebrate a feast together, as we did – and then the good ships rested so quietly in one harbor and in one sunshine that it may have looked as if they had reached their goal and as if they had but one goal.  But then the almighty force of our tasks drove us apart again into different seas and sunny zones.  Perhaps we shall never see one another again, or perhaps we may meet again but fail to recognize one another: our exposure to different seas and suns has altered us!  That we had to become strangers to one another is the law above us – by the same token we should also become more sacred to each other and the memory of our former friendship more sacred.  There is probably a tremendous but invisible stellar orbit in which our very different ways and goals may be included as small parts of this path – let us rise up to this thought.  But our life is too short and the power of our vision too limited for us to be more than friends in the sense of this sublime possibility.  Let us then believe in our stellar friendship, though we should have to be terrestrial enemies to one another.”              The Gay Science/Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (1882)

Wagner was so hurt by Nietzsche’s rejection that he too stopped talking to his friend. But I refuse to do that because I believe that my friendship with Pantelis Polychronidis, my “other self,” should be terrestrial too and not only stellar, and that the law of a great friendship can be stronger than any “law above us.”


June 24, 2015

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