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Unlove

a

Do not give a heart I may not receive.
RACINE



Why is it that those who I like do not like me?
I asked my mother in jest over drinks last Saturday night. It was a question, however, that has surfaced, usually with a smile on my face, recently.

Welcome to the world, she said.

Not the response I wanted though. But I understand very well--about the world being somewhat "unfair," that is; but not what has been happening to me. (1)

It has come to a point that I'm getting "worried" about myself in a way that both amuses me and makes me wonder. I am afraid I have begun asking that inevitable question asked by all those who suffered a broken love: Am I unlovable?

Unlovable: this may immediately mean the opposite of being worthy of the rank of being loved; or simply being impossible to love. As "love-able" means someone who could be loved as a possibility, as a potentiality, if you wish--never mind if he has or is already loved as long as he has the potential of being loved in the future. But being "unlovable" means it is not even possible to be loved now or in the future; as if even the richness of possibilities is barred from the doomed doors of the heart, as if he is even unable or forbidden to dream. Unable even to dream, or even imagine a future love, the unlovable is precisely this: he who aspires to be loved but shall never be loved.

But if that is what it means to be unlovable, then strictly speaking, no one is unlovable. Yet on the contrary I do experience times when I know very well that I am not loved or unloved. This happens, for instance, when the one who professed she loves me leaves me. And to experience being unloved once means it can be experienced again or that it was always there and always the case. Like death.

Because it will never be in my hands and I shall never know what someone else shall do or what she sees or thinks of me, I am left to my experiences alone. Thus the platitudes "you just don't see that you are loved or lovable" or "you just don't see it yet as it is a matter of time" are matters of profound indifference to me. I can only understand what I experience. And what is this experience of being unloved? Let us see.

* * *

Initially and for the most part, we get by without asking whether we are loved or unloved. In our daily rounds, we operate on the level of transactions: I study in exchange for a future I can yet see but can already prepare for today by industry and discipline; I put in work for my day's keep; I spend here and there for my nourishment, other necessities and even for some enjoyment. The logic of everyday economy, one which we, more than any other generation of humankind, have grown to use without question or doubt, is the logic of exchange--I exchange something (money, time, energy, even life, etc.) for something I get in return. And what I get in return (if I am logical) is something commensurate with what I give up--or more (if I am smart), as it is now impossible to think of merely "breaking-even" before the holy laws of capitalism.

I must then profit from any such exchange, that is, it must work to my advantage. For anything that does not profit me, if I do not gain something more than what I give up, would be called a "losing proposition" even if I strictly speaking get an equal amount for what I give up. They would call this an "opportunity cost," when I just break even whereas there could have been other opportunities where I could have profited.(2) The law of everyday economy would thus be the law of profit: I give in order to gain, and I shall not give if I shall not gain something more. Clearly this is not yet love or charity. But the logic of the emotion of being unloved is already enveloped within it.

What could be called the feeling of being "unworthy" of love can only be experienced when I do in fact attempt to love. If I am not interested in loving (whether someone or something), that is, in exposing and going out of myself, the question of whether or not I am lovable will not occur to me. The question, on the contrary, becomes worthy of thought, or becomes a real question if I myself am placed into question: if I do love and am not loved. I am placed into question: this means that I, thrown into a possible love which I now wish to realize, now also wish to be loved--in return.

Let us confirm these general points quickly. First, I shall not experience rejection or being unloved if I do not first love. My initiative to love, a decision at times but in most an arbitrary choice without real reasons (attraction, infatuation, lust, etc.), would therefore make it possible for me to be accepted or rejected and thus know my lovability. I am not yet interested as to what it would mean to be either; what I am saying is that in taking the initiative to love, I deploy a question that seeks possible answers that may make me know whether I am loved or not.

This means therefore, that secondly, when I do not love, I am indifferent as to my being lovable or not: either I know that I am, or I do not know if I am, or perhaps I just do not care if I am or not. And this indifference to being lovable means for the most part that I am "happy" with myself at the best of times (without the need for either an affirmation or denial) or content for most of the time. Thus the paradox of taking the initiative to love: with no real reason to love other than just wanting to love an other than myself, I suddenly become exposed to the question which I did not raise or had no reason to raise before this moment of loving. Whether or not I am lovable was something I was either assured of before first loving or something that did not even matter to me, unimportant and therefore unnecessary.

Yet if so, whence then does the pain of love's rejection or the experience of being unloved come from when strictly speaking that I be lovable was of no importance to me before? In a word: how could someone unnecessary to me, whom I just "happened" to love with my initiative, someone I did not need--how could he all of a sudden hurt me by rejecting me, sending me back to my self where I can no longer find the home where I was completely happy if not contented, left wandering in an desert as if already a nomad?

By thus becoming vulnerable to him that I do not need, the wager of love's initiative is that I stand to lose more than what I may ever gain. Whence the infernal paradox suffered by love's advance: only the lover and no other may experience the hell of being unloved.


***

The aporia that the lover faces, that he alone is vulnerable to being unloved could be easily confirmed by looking at love's other end--the beloved. The beloved, towards whom the lover advances, does by no means stand to lose anything and shall not experience being unloved. Precisely: the beloved, by definition, cannot but be loved.

Whether or not the lover does in fact reach the beloved in his advance, whether or not the beloved does meet the lover and love him, the beloved can only experience being loved--at the very least. For to ask the beloved to love is already beyond the reach and initiative of the lover; before its answer love's question stops short and can only wait.

That the beloved can only be loved means that he can never be on the "losing end" of love; he will never be rejected because he does not pose love's question but holds its answer. The most, or the best, that he can experience is the gentle draft of the lover's withdrawal; and like all silent zephyrs, love's disappearance can nowise shake the beloved's stance. The beloved, to repeat, cannot be unloved. Why so? Because how could he when he did not love? Nothing can be taken away from him which he did not first receive.

***

The other question I asked my mother was this: Why do I not like those who like me?



________

(1) Bear with me, not because of what I feel but because of how I think. This is not self-pity or something merely about myself. Actually, it just interests me. When I see a question, I just have to follow it regardless of how it began [as something about me or not]. Nevertheless I apologize for how this all sounds. So when I say "I" it is me but also no longer me, perhaps already you.

(2) The paradox of "opportunity cost": I lose by losing an opportunity which, as an opportunity, is not an actuality but only a possibility; yet possibilities, while indeed "richer" than reality (Heidegger), cannot be measured until realized as I have no way of knowing yet. How then can one say that he loses something when he has yet gained it or realized it? Implication: even possibilities are accounted for in terms of value and costs.




Comments

  1. I, on the other hand, do not think you are unlovable... (Though I only know you through your words and reflections... I actually perceive you as a romantic. Hmmm, maybe you're too profound for them (= ) Or maybe you haven't met the the right girl yet, or someone who'd complement you, as they say... Just like what my mother used to tell me whenever I was about to give up at love...

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