In a chapter of Works of Love entitled “Love Believes All Things –And Yet is Never Deceived,” Kierkegaard describes two levels of love: the lower level, self-love, which seeks out self-affirmation and is easily deceived, and the higher level, the level he tells us we must reach — a love so strong that it wards off all deception.
I’ve read this chapter many times, but it never quite clicked for me. Until I started binge-watching “Columbo”. God bless Netflix.
Let me tell you a little about Columbo. First of all, I adore him. At this point, I’ve logged so many hours with the old codger that he seems like a dear uncle. He’s a mess: he drives an old beater, he wears a ratty raincoat, and he never combs his hair. He’s stingy, groveling, and usually hungry. And he always gets his man.
As for the plot of the show, the formula never wavers: a murder is committed in the first few minutes, on-camera. Columbo shows up at the scene of the crime. He slinks through the crowd, often being mistaken for a bum or the help. Soon, he’s sniffed out the murderer — usually a vain, powerful and smooth-talking fellow
As Kierkegaard points out, “Do you know any stronger expression for superiority than this, that the superior one also has the appearance of being the weaker? Consider someone who is infinitely superior to others in understanding, and you will see that he has the appearance of an ordinary person.”
The murderer dismisses Columbo because of his clothes, his shoes, his height, his propensity to bring his dog on assignment or to ramble on about his extended family.
Columbo just doesn’t care. He knows where his self-worth lies — not in their opinion, but in unearthing the truth.
Since we, the audience, have witnessed the crime, we side with Columbo, no matter how he appears to bumble. We’re in on the joke. We understand Kierkegaard when he writes, “True superiority can never be deceived.”
As the plot unfolds, the murderer grows more confident, just as Kierkegaard describes those embroiled in self-love: “The cunning deceiver, who moves with the most supple, most ingratiating flexibility of craftiness — he does not perceive how clumsily he proceeds.”,,, LINK