Sandcastle for Two..

Nietzsche once argued that you can gauge a man’s relationship to time by the way he builds a sand castle.

The first man, the Apollonian man (Apollo being the god of the dream, of art and illusion) builds elaborate sandcastles, throwing himself into his activity as if his creations would last forever. He is totally oblivious of the incoming tide that will inevitably demolish his productions and therefore shocked, battered and heartbroken by it.

The second man, the Dionysian man (Dionyses representing re-immersion into this larger unity and, in Nietzsche’s system, standing for the inevitable undoing of all illusions, all individual existence) sees the inevitability of the leveling tide, and therefore builds no castles. He is preoccupied, tyrannized and depleted by the reality of life’s impermanence and watches life pass him by, sitting at the sidelines, cynical about the futility of effort he sees in others as they engage in their lives.

The third is Nietzsche’s tragic man, aware of the tide, yet building his sandcastles nevertheless. The inevitable limitations of reality do not dim the passion in which he builds his castles; in fact, the inexorable realities add a poignancy and sweetness to his passion. Nietzsche extols of the virtues of the tragic man as living the richest form of life, deeply immersed in the dialectic between illusion and reality.

Stephen Mitchell, relational psychoanalyst in his book “Can Love Last?” writes that romance in relationships is a sandcastle for two. “It is a precondition for passion, not a permanent abode. The sandcastles of romance demand, by their shifting nature, continual rebuilding.”

“The myth of romance depends on mystery and long term relationships depend on understanding. Romance gets it’s fizz from sexuality and partnership demands tenderness and caring. Romance does not die a natural, inevitable death. We kill it, out of fear. Love by its very nature is not secure. We keep wanting to make it so. There is greater danger in being known by another person on whom one depends that in being unknown by someone new, because that someone new is unconsciously felt to be replaceable”, thus safer. Mitchell writes that we depend on our partner for a “sense of home” and a promise to escape from oneself. As much as we value the “pressure for change inherent in romantic love”, we are terrified by it. “This all important person lies outside one’s control. We create an illusion of ownership. But conscious or not; acknowledged or not; we know that we can never completely control the one we love.”

Ann Morrow Lindbergh used a different sea metaphor in “ Gift from the sea” when she wrote,“When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.

The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits – islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.”

Lastly, Journalist Judith Viorst once said, “One advantage of marriage, it seems to me, is that when you fall out of love with him, or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you fall in again.” Or Mignon McLaughlin in “The Second Neurotic’s Notebook” who wrote, “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”

Mitchell wrote that true intimacy requires a relinquishing of control and an acceptance of an unknown future, one that could fulfill either our deepest desires or fears”. But how many of us take that risk…


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