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The First Aporia: Absurd Love


For Jan and Sands, Ryan and Malen


"What seems easier than to let a being be just the being that it is? Or does this turn out to be the most difficult of tasks, particularly if such a project -- to let a being be as it is -- represents the opposite of the indifference that simply turns its back upon the being itself. We must turn towards the being, think about it in regard to its Being, but by such a thinking at the same time let it rest upon itself in its way to be."

Heidegger


An old song says thus:

If you truly love someone, set her free
If she comes back to you, she was yours all along
If she doesn't, it wasn't meant to be.
All the three lines are as intriguing as they are confusing; each one is as difficult as the other, the other as ambiguous as the next.

Yet when seen closely, each line begins with an 'If.' It would then be easy to recognize the three statements as 'if and then' statements. Logic clearly says that 'if such and such' is the case -- if reality presents its face as this or that 'state of affairs' -- then the 'logical conclusion' or 'logical consequence,' i.e., the 'then what,' would be the consequence of the happening-of or revelation-of what-is-the-case.

If such is the structure of 'if and then' statements then we shall read the three lines with a clearer understanding as such:

If you truly love someone then set her free
If she comes back to you then she was yours all along
If she doesn't then it wasn't meant to be.

Notice that we did not change any thing in the statements except that we explicitly placed the implied 'then' in place of the hidden transition in the form of the comma -- much like foregrounding what was in the background. The 'if and then' formulation has then made clear the logic of the statements: all we need to do is to look at 'what is that case' (the presence of true love, the arrival or the permanent departure of the beloved) and then precisely expect -- like expecting the clear and distinct answer to an equation -- that the 'logical conclusion' shall always follow (setting the beloved free, having the beloved forever or never).

Let us see try our hand with the first:

If you truly love someone then set her free.

The statement seems clear enough. It simply asks the lover to set the beloved free and let him or her be. However, the qualifier 'If you truly love someone...' needs to be attended to first before the 'then set her free' conclusion takes place. In other words, the lover needs to ascertain first and primarily if he truly loves the beloved before setting her free; for after all, if there is no qualifier -- no 'truly' in the love of the lover for the beloved -- then it would be absurd to always just set loved ones free and part ways with all of one's friends and family and even the bonsai plant one nurtures or that work of art for which one labors with love.

Then we go to a 'step back' before we can easily pass through the transition as such and merit the conclusion. We ask: What is true love?

. . . .

(How to answer?)

. . . .

I do not know.

. . . .

(Who knows? Pray tell.)

We have not even entered into the calcualting machine (i.e., the calculator) of the stanza, its 'If and then' equation when we have stumbled into something in the step back. This stumbling block -- the inability to originally and primordially answer the question of what true love is -- prevents us from joining the holding-sway of logic and its promises for answers. Yet can we really say that we do not know what true love is when we say it, feel it or promise our whole lives because of our certainty of it?

Take two cousins married just married last month. On the altar they said these words to their beloved in one voice:

Grant us, O Lord to be one heart and one soul from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
They know what it means to love truly because they surrendered their lives to a promise, to a binding commitment that they be with their beloved until death. My cousins, pray tell what you know.

(And we haven't even thought about what a promise means where to promise something implies that one knows what will happen in the distant future even if one does not yet hold it securely in one's safe hands. The vow recited in marriage then implies that one already holds the future in one's hands and one knows that this is the beloved I shall be with until the day I die.)

We are ignorant of love yet we talk love always and do love always and make love always.

But has anyone answered what the Giant of Thought asked when he asked "What is love?" Plato opened the question 2400 years ago in the Symposium but no one -- even Socrates himself --
has answered what it truly is. (All have just pretended -- from psychologists to politicans, from sociologists to biologists, from philosophers to chemists -- that they knew.)

If there is anything then that this path of thought has shown us -- even if it has led us into a n or dead-end through the step back -- is that perhaps we must admit our ignorance of love and start asking what it truly is even if we already talk, do and make it.

"There are things that only the heart can know," as Pascal said. Love cannot be known because there is no logic to it because logos gathers only what can be known as knwoledge (episteme). That is why there is no 'lovelogy' or a science of love that has a body of knowledge gathered and laid before a clear and distinct (because pinned down) object called 'love.'

Love does not know. But it is here, there and everywhere: "Love makes the world go round." Yet the reason for the difficulty in knowing it is that we are immersed in this world which love makes round so as to keep it together and in orbit. In other words, we do not see the world as world because we are in the very horizon of it (inder-Welt-Sein) and are we are thrown into it (faktizitat).

To go beyond the very world and horizon of love is to go beyond it and leave its climate and see it as a whole. But that would be absurd for that means thus: we would have to depart the world in order to see the world as world, we would have to run after the horizon only to see that there is no such thing and only to find that we are back to where we started (we went round and round in a circle). In other words, we would have to depart love itself and 'let it be' (Gelassenheit).

To let it love be: to leave it to istelf and "let it rest upon itself in its way to be" (Heidegger).

This is why the lover is himself set free when the beloved is set free. This is also why there is the possibility of the the return of the old lost love (because 'meant to be') or the arrival of the new love from a new, other horizon (because the other was 'never meant to be.')

But to let love be? Is this not the easiest task to do because to let love be at first means not to love anymore. Or does it turn out to be the most difficult of tasks because one enters a cunning darkness because one approaches a twilight of reason and logic because love cannot be willed or known? Love can only be waited upon.

But to wait upon love would entrail entering another dark path where there would be other tall trees with lush canopies that hide the sun's blinding light. That would mean that the wayfarer would not be able to see once again in such a dark night.




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