Issue #251 / September 2023

Nick, I think you are such a wise and sensitive man. Please give me your advice: I have a huge crush on a guy, a musician, he is depressed and is a heavy drinker and constantly ghosts me, my heart is so shattered… what should I do?


Dear Ira,

Thank you for your kind words but I’m not sure I am wise and sensitive, and I’m probably not the best person to give advice on matters of love — as a friend once said of me, ‘Getting advice from you is the equivalent of being measured by the undertaker.’ Still, part of the premise of The Red Hand Files is that I have a shot at answering anything.

Seneca the Stoic, an often astute advice-giver, said that we should ‘not trust ourselves to fall into a state that is disordered, uncontrolled, powerless, enslaved to another, contemptible, worthless to oneself and to itself.’ Unrequited love is seen as impractical, harmful and a waste of time. Ira, I’m sorry to say this is the situation you are in, and the Stoics would say, ‘Get out fast!’

I’m not sure about all of that though. It seems to me that it is the most human of things to love foolishly, that most love in the world is unrequited as we lose our hearts over an arbitrary gesture, a casual word, a chance look. We are propelled by some contingent mischief into a sphere of yearning, of imagining, of warm dreaming, directed at someone who is oblivious to the full nature of our longing. It is a madness of sorts, not unlike religious belief – so much desire and yearning directed at an entity that so often feels indifferent and withdrawn. But this unrequited longing poured into the universe is the energy that turns the world. Mad dreams of love cast in one direction and not returned.

Ira, you have a crush on a depressed musician with a drinking problem who probably doesn’t feel the same way. By any measure this does not seem the most sensible basis for a relationship, and from my considerable experience in these matters, what I can tell you is that an imagined relationship with this guy is going to be a whole lot more fun than the real thing. My advice to you, therefore, is to dream on a little more – this painful dream that fires up your heart, this mad dream that gives your life sudden meaning, this doomed dream that holds the stars in place – dream till the dream finally loses its allure, then take Seneca’s advice and get out fast. You’ll heal, you know, we always do.

Love, Nick


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