Can you care too much?

Wer am meisten liebt, ist der Unterlegene and muβ leiden – he who loves the most is the inferior and must suffer.

Words from Tonio Kröger by Thomas Mann.  A book I studied at school in German, and which has haunted me since.  Are these words true?

Another story that has haunted me since my youth is Stella’s Heart of Stone – apparently it’s a common story theme, but I’ll explain it here:

Stella had a best friend (I’ll call her Lucy), and they were inseparable – until Lucy died.   My memory says cancer or something like that, but I’m going back around 35 years, so not swearing I’m accurate!)

Shortly after Lucy died, Stella moved home and school.  When exploring her new house and garden, she came across a statue of a young girl in the middle of an overgrown patch.  Still desperately upset over the loss of her friend, Stella admired the statue and made a vow to herself: “that statue never feels this sort of pain because she has a heart of stone.  She doesn’t care about anyone.  I’m going to become like that statue, and never care about anyone, so that I can never hurt like this again.”

So Stella sticks desperately to her vow, even when she discovers that one of the girls at school looks very like Lucy.  The story of how she hardens her heart so that she cares about nothing and nobody, and gradually learns that the pleasure of love is as important as the pain, is told over several weekly episodes in a children’s comic – the sort they just don’t make any more.

Another common theme in those comics was the child who was abandoned to the tender mercies of step-parents or foster parents or similar, and had only a kitten/puppy for company.  The carers allowed her to get fond of the animal, then would use it as a threat to make her comply with whatever they asked.

In both stories, love is seen as weakness, as something that causes pain and keeps people anchored where they don’t want to be.

So – is loving good?  or does it make us weak?  Does love always win through or is it a tool to manipulate?  In order to succeed, do we need to really care? or is it better to take a dispassionate look to see what really matters?

Back to those words by Thomas Mann – does loving too much make you inferior and doomed to suffer? or does it make you a noble being?

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1 Comment

  1. No, I don’t think loving too much can make you inferior, vulnerable, perhaps. I guess it does make you weak,in that context, but it also gives you strength.

    Very deep and thought provoking hon 🙂



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