“Time Will Tell How Much I Love You”

The next essay in “Doctor Strange and Philosophy” is “Time Will Tell How Much I Love You” by Skye C. Cleary.  The main thrust of this essay is to examine the ideas of friendship and love as espoused by Nietzsche through Doctor Strange and his relationships with Wong, The Ancient One and Christine Palmer.

Now, a while ago I had tried to read Nietzsche, and didn’t make much progress.  As evidenced by this essay, I probably should have started with “Thus Spake Zarathustra”, since that actually makes a more direct and consistent argument as opposed to “The Will to Power” which is just a set of notes on the various topics.  That being said, Cleary’s analysis makes me question how useful his philosophy could be, because it is clear that a lot of his ideas do not follow from a philosophical analysis, but instead from his own personal hang-ups, including that of love and friendship, which means that he often identifies love and friendship and their best qualities in ways that leave them unrecognizable to most people.

One of the issues introduced early in the essay is about pity, and the idea that a friend shouldn’t be someone who pities you.  Strange accuses Palmer of pitying him when she comes to visit him after the accident, and the essay implies that this is incorrect and Palmer really does just want to help him.  However, his charge towards her is valid:  that she’s paying so much attention to him and is possibly feeling more love feelings for him because he’s finally someone who needs her and she herself is attracted to that need.  So her love for him might not be the valid, passionless love that Cleary suggests they have.  Perhaps her loving feelings really are kindled or rekindled by her pity.  On his side, the rational love that Clearly suggests he had for her might not have been any kind of love at all, and he might never have cared for her.  Perhaps, then, if they are to have a real relationship it would only because both of them have moved past their own issues to feel real feelings and emotions for each other.

There’s also a notion of friends being there primarily to challenge each other, and Cleary notes that The Ancient One, Palmer and Wong all do that.  However, all Wong does in the movie is simply not be as impressed by Strange as Strange is by himself.  Palmer as well doesn’t really challenge him in a way that is aimed at challenging him but is instead her challenging his views as a way to validate her own against the challenge he makes against her own worldview.  And it’s difficult to claim that The Ancient One challenges his narcissism when she kicks him out of the temple given that she herself is very narcissistic — after all, she’s only still alive due to a pact with the darkness because she saw herself as the only one who could oppose the darkness — and given that it was only when Mordo interceded with her on Strange’s behalf that she considered that his dedication might make him worthy of her training.  None of them, at this point, seem to really be friends, and it’s Palmer who comes closest, but that’s only because she seems to actually care about him and wants to impart her philosophy to him so that he can adopt that philosophy that she thinks is clearly better for him.  That’s what a friend does for most of us, but it might be difficult to square that with Nietzsche’s philosophy.

At any rate, I don’t think any of the characters in Doctor Strange really reflect Nietzsche’s Ubermensch, unless Nietzsche’s Ubermensch is merely a self-absorbed jerk.  Which, to be honest, it might well be.  I guess I’ll have to get through more of Nietzsche to really say for certain, but this essay does not make me think that there might be something to Nietzsche that I’m missing.

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