March 22, 1945
My dearest Lorrie,
I received two letters from you today, and all the back mail seems to have caught up with me. It is so nice to get letters from you. In one of today’s letters, darling, you come as close as you ever have, I think, to putting some of the things that have been troubling you in to words. You actually mention it indirectly-in connection with how difficult it is for you sometimes to turn from “your own world” to the “world we share” when you write a letter to me.
You put it in terms of a contrast between a world “whose organizing principle seems to be desire” and a world in which “the significant activities of your soul take place.” Do you mind, darling, if I write a bit about that?
I know that as we look back on the short time we had together it must seen that “desire” and passion were the outstanding features of our relationship. I guess that would be difficult to deny. We were never together, beloved, without the shadow of separation hovering over us. We were always parting, meeting, and parting, always urgent-and I think we both felt that our bodies could speak for us better than our words, that in each others arms we knew the fundamental nature of our union. Beloved, how could we ever deny our great desire for each other? And why should we deny it? Or minimize it? But Lorrie, surely desire cannot be the “organizing principle of our common life.” I agree with you that it would be completely inadequate as a basis, and it is not, nor will it be the basis of our common life. Our life together will be organized in terms of values that we both recognize as of prime importance.
Lorrie, I know the conflict in your mind. There has been nothing I can do about it. You say that you consider your love as a passive principle in your life, you find yourself moving away from me, you find little significance in our relationship. My hope is that there need be no relegation of our love to a passive and insignificant role in our lives. But I have been afraid that you feel a conflict. Dearest, that is why I sometimes feel so bitterly about the fact that passion and desire loomed so large during the time we were together. I have realized that it might result in associating our love with simply desire-in contrast and conflict with deep values we share but have never had a change to share overtly. Darling, I want you terribly, I burn for you, I ache for you. How many nights have I tossed restlessly in bed, getting up in the early hours before dawn to find some poor relief finally in pouring out my passionate longing for you in a letter which I would never send you. I haven’t sent you those letters because of something I once did mention to you…I said I was afraid it might “clash with your mood”. I guess you remember what you answered, dearest. You said not to worry about that. But it wasn’t your mood of the moment I was thinking of, Lorrie-the chances or mischance of my letter reaching you when you too felt a strong longing for our embrace. I was thinking of the contrast that might take shape in your mind between the world of your work, the world of ideals and ideas, the world of effort and passion. I dreaded the gesture of annoyance-even suppressed-the slightest shadow of the feeling in your breast that my letters intruded into your world of creative effort with an assertion of the strength of passion. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I dread the sharpening of the contrast between the two worlds-the world of our love and the world of creative significance. I dread it, not because the contrast is a real one which I don’t want to bring to light, but because the creating of that contrast is an accidental product of conditions beyond our immediate control, a superficial contrast, a false contrast. And yet, dearest, even as I say this, I realize that I am expressing a faith-a faith in the deeper meaning of our love. I have that faith, and it is so strong and certain a faith that most of the time I don’t even think of it as faith, I accept it as a certainly. Only sometimes I am forced to realize that for you too the significance of our love must be taken on faith. I am content with my own faith, Lorrie, and I am not one who has often had much faith in faith. But being certain as I am is one thing. Asking another person, asking you, my beloved, to share my faith is another thing. I think in your heart you must be sure as I am, Lorrie. But one sees the difficulty of taking things on faith. You are plagued by the desire to prove. And how can we prove it, dearest? We can say, as we do, and with complete truth, that the very character of our longing and passion is such that it cannot be understood in terms of simple passion but must be understood as symbolic of something more profound. We both know that this yearning of our bodies is not simply the yearning of bodies but the striving of souls-yours and mine-to express them. But this, one must admit, is only “negative” evidence-true as it is. And when it comes to positive evidence, darling, what can we do? I’d feel so silly sitting down to list the HIGHER interests we share. It would be sort of like an old novel in which the suitor would adduce as evidence of the felicity of his proposed union the spiritual compatibility that exists as evidenced by a shared appreciation of music, a love of noble literature, etc, etc . I’m so sure, as a matter of fact, that we do have common interests and values. You ask, in your letter, that I tell you some of my insights about our life together. I think about that so much, Lorrie; I don’t know where to begin. I will try to tell you someday, but right now I’ll say just a little.
When I think of the future I think immediately of our being together. I can’t imagine anything to look forward to with eagerness that would mean our being separated. I think that we must be together always, beloved. After I think that, Lorrie, I seldom ever think of any material details like where we will live or how we will earn a living, etc, although I do think often about how nice it would be to have, someday, a little retreat designed expressly for the life we want to live. But material details seldom intrude. I feel a great freedom from those considerations. I know neither of us care about material comfort enough to have that concern affect anything we want to be. I guess I think of us as a couple of birds, free as the air. I let myself drift into dreams, dearest, in which I imagine us lying before a fire listening to music or reading or lying quietly in each others arms or playing and making love. I have these thoughts of a solitary intimacy with you. And I like to let my mind linger over these promised delights. Do you mind, dearest?
And then, against this background of longing and reverie, I think of work. I think of the war ending and my release from the army…and I see us standing there together facing a complicated and confused world-a world that will need understanding and wisdom and clarity and integrity. And then I see us rolling up our sleeves and digging in. Lorrie darling, I have no definite plans, no fixed program. And somehow it never occurs to me that our plans will conflict. If two people want wealth or power or fame their plans may very well conflict. Especially if one wants these things and the other does not. But if two people seek wisdom and understanding and long to create with good will and integrity-there can be no real conflict between them. Ideas know no special abode; beauty can be found and created almost anywhere. Will we want to continue in school? Or write? We can always, together, pursue our ideals of a creative life. And since that is the case, the adjustments we might have to make will be minor ones and easily made.
Lorrie, I know that we have seldom discussed serious ideas together. I don’t even know exactly what you are studying. I’d like to know, but in a sense it doesn’t matter. I know you are studying. And I know that you, with your character (which I do know) will find your way through whatever you study to an evaluation of the subject. You will seek significance. You won’t get bogged down in narrow or competitive intellectual fads. You may gain insight through a study of languages and literature, through poetry; I say start with philosophy or with political theory. There are many roads to be followed. The goal is to understand humanity with its needs and aspirations and its place in the world. And through understanding to make some contribution…It would be great fun, Lorrie, if some day we might find ourselves actually collaborating. If that comes about naturally as a result of our common search it would be ideal. But we won’t force any such thing. We will follow our intellectual bents wherever they lead us. And I am sure they will lead us thru a rich and shared life. I’ve always felt that you feel as I do about this. You do, don’t you, darling?
There’s something else I’d like to mention…We have spoken so often of unity, possession, identification, merging of souls, and of freedom and all the problems of intimate human relationship. And you have been troubled, I know. Lorrie, I am always reluctant to speak loosely of body and mind and spirit or soul. I suppose the reluctance is due to the too common lack of understanding of these things. Much has happened to these ideals throughout their adventures in the “marketplace”, and one ought to approach them with respect…but I’d like to take some liberty with those ideas, knowing that you will understand me. We can think of our relationship as existing and expressing itself on three levels: body, mind and spirit or soul. On each level the relationship is different, and a relationship or term that expresses a relationship on one level may not exist as a relationship or apply as a term on another level.
We are in love, Lorrie. And how does that love express itself on the bodily plane? We know the intensity of our desire and passion, the need of our bodies to merge and unite themselves utterly and without reserve. There is a wild beauty we have known together, Lorrie, and it should be revered by us as the ultimate expression of our love thru ourselves as bodies. Here, in this realm we know the meaning of unity, of possession, of identification. We can remember…and here, in the realm of the body, the negative side of unity and identification is jealousy. We hate to speak of it, Lorrie, but we must. It is the possessiveness of the body. And it means, quite frankly, that my heart would break if you…I hate to even mention it. Beloved, it isn’t being jealous that we need be ashamed of, not this possessiveness of the body, but suspicion is the destroying and shameful thing. Our bodies are one, in their own way, and its way is possessive and jealous. We are mates, Lorrie. You are my woman. I am your man. I love you. Remember once you said you were going to make a vow? When I read that I thought, “I have already vowed that”. I am Lorrie’s mate, Lorrie’s husband and lover-I cannot and I will not ever be unfaithful. Lorrie, we know our love, we know our faithfulness. All we need defeat is suspicion-and that is so easy to do. It is a simple act of faith-faith in the quality of our love.
But when we think of minds, Lorrie, things like possessiveness and unification—what do they mean? The quality of the mind is clarity, and honesty, and fearlessness. Possession would be thralldom and mindlessness. Unification? With what? The key word in the relation between two minds is respect. I don’t mean awe. Respect for another mind expresses itself in valuing and strengthening the clarity, honesty and integrity of that mind, in being honest in dealing objectively with ideas. Two minds dealing with each other with respect and love are mutual surgeons of ideas, mutual guardians against sloth-in love with only one thing: truth, and wisdom. We can be such minds to each other, dearest. We can know that when we reveal an idea to one another it will be received not as Lorrie’s idea or Joe’s idea-but as an idea-to be dealt with as any idea should, in its own terms. And love of two minds for each other is the love of both for ideas and for the full development of independence of judgment. Bodies can love possessively, but minds can only love in freedom and independence. A mind loving another mind aims at strengthening the freedom of that mind.
And the soul? I suppose that means ones creative self. Ones urge to fulfill ones self in beauty…many things…Oh, Lorrie, I guess I can’t write any more tonight. I have a headache and I’m tired. Buy you know about the soul. Souls cannot merge, they cannot become one as the body can. But they can grow together in strength and freedom, in sympathy and love, as ours will grow.
Of course we are not three separate things. Body and mind and soul are aspects of one person. Only love expresses itself differently on different levels. We can give up the “freedom to be promiscuous” and both gain thereby in the fulfillment of our bodies. But we can never give up the freedom of our minds in understanding or the creative freedom of our souls. We will help each other gain those freedoms. Only a soul can help a soul; only a mind can help a mind; and it is a labor for lovers.
Goodnight my beloved. I love you.