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Abandonment




F. W. J. Schelling says:
He who wishes to place himself in the beginning of a truly free philosophy must abandon even God. Here we say: who wishes to maintain it, he will lose it; and who gives it up, he will find it. Only he has come to the ground of himself and has known the whole depth of life who has once abandoned everything and has himself been abandoned by everything. He for whom everything disappeared and who saw himself with the infinite: a great step which Plato compared to death.

Abandonment takes away--but it also gives. And it does not simply give back what was once there--on the contrary. It gives something totally other, something totally new.

Because to get back what was lost will only mean losing it again: it will and has to necessarily slip away again because it never did belong in your hands. To lose something once means to be able to lose it over and over again. This is not a fault of man's part or a lack in man's hands: this is the very law of objects, or which comes to the same, the very essence of things we think we can comprehend, handle or control. Such things will always necessarily escape our hands.

This is abandonment: losing what you hitherto thought you had multiplied by infinity. Because abandonment needs to be total: it has to be complete, unconditioned, and with neither remorse nor hope. Totality belongs to abandonment's essence. If abandonment were merely a "slap on the wrist" or losing another game of chess, then abandonment would be abandoned by its meaning. But the word is very clear as to what it says: to "a-band-on" or to decisively break the band which hitherto banded two distinct and separate things in a jointure and relationship. Or as the French noun abandon indicates, the word means to "let something loose" in the sense of "giving it up absolutely." To "let loose" and to "give up": these words taken negatively mean losing and giving up something (everything) and to thus be left with nothing absolutely and without remainder. But positively taken, they mean the opposite in that by "letting lose," something is set free; and in giving up, something is offered as a gift to an other.

But these are merely word games. He who has been abandoned knows in his bones that nothing cuts the flesh more decisively and nothing breaks the heart more violently than total abandonment. It cuts: because there is no better way of separation than by one swift and clean cut. It breaks: because there is no better way of destruction than by wrecking everything to the ground. But why must I be cut?--why must I be destroyed? There can be no answer: abandonment must be completed lest it not be itself--and for it to be total abandonment, it must necessarily also take away all answers, reasons and--finally--it must take with it all hope.

For what kind of abandonment is a hopeful abandonment? Abandonment never returns. It pays you a visit only once. Like a storm. Like a total eclipse. Or like death.

But abandonment must be thought more fundamentally than hopelessness or despair--to do so would be shooting the messenger first without hearing the good news. But what kind of hidden message may abandonment bring? What sort of good news can there be in such a total destruction? If abandonment cuts and breaks you and leaves you with a pain with no name, how to think it?

Perhaps it is the very reception of abandonment, our attunement to it which tells us something about abandonment's arrival. The message is hidden in the pain we suffer. To be sure, pain can either tell us nothing but it can also tell us everything. Nothing: because pain is that very absence--the suffering of the presence of that nameless absence. Everything: that I am only able to experience pain because I am weak, because I am not as strong as I thought, in a word, because, I, too, like pain, am nothing.

To experience being nothing: this is what pain is. The cut in my flesh is the very opening which accommodates the space for nothing. My broken heart is love's collapse which clears the ground of the weight it had hitherto carried (look: it is now the desert it used to be). Pain is the inverted joy of presence--its fullness, its lightness, and all its hopes. But pain is no mere reversal or negation as if it were merely a happiness postponed or a waiting upon love's arrival or return. We already know this: that pain is real, sometimes more real than real joy. Because the absence that pain heralds is a reality like no other: an empty cup which we ask to be passed over us, a heavy cross which we ask an other to help us carry, and the nail which cuts open the hands and suspends the body on a wooden cross caught between heaven and hell. And I do not recall Christ laughing in joy.

Pain, as the real suffering of absence like no other: this is what we go through when we are abandoned. And there are only two things you can do when abandonment and the pain it carries arrive: you can either ask that it be passed from you and thereby disqualify the pain as your pain, or you can absorb it, bear it, carry it--perhaps even love it. Abandonment takes away all presence--but it also gives absence. And you can absorb, bear, carry and even love that very absence: we eventually learn how to love the night. After all, what is there to love when everything has abandoned you?

"Eloi, eloi sabachtani." You see, Christ, too, was totally abandoned by his father. Was totally abandoned in death.

Complete abandonment: death for most, but a new life for the few who survive it. And for those few who resurrect from abandonment's destruction, they feel an unsurpassed joy in their broken hearts--a joy that can only come with knowing that it is now possible to finally begin.


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