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Solitary Love

Another student asked me a question which required of me a moment to think about. She asked: Is it still love if you are not loved in return?

Initially and for the most part, love becomes "real" when it is shared by two lovers. This can be easily seen in the hands that gather one and the other as two walk together side by side to the same horizon; in the crossed embrace which unites what did not need each other but suddenly could not be without one another; and in the gentle, quiet love that husband and wife share with one another that in time blooms into a child--love's fruit--and a family. Love then, like truth, becomes real when it is celebrated in its full glory. And we know how difficult it is to celebrate alone (a sumptuous dinner in a table for one, good news without having anybody to share it with, winning in solitaire).

Love, or a celebration of it. What then becomes of the lonely lover? What then becomes of him who still, without a shadow of a doubt and acknowledging its full weight, professes his love for the beloved who would not want to become a lover? Or, finally, what then becomes of my love if it is not loved?

What is at stake here is the status of a solitary love: is it diminished? and could it still claim the high name of love even if it is alone? Let us see.

The ultimate danger that confronts solitary love is the possibility that it only loves itself. True to its name, such a love may continue to love only because it still enjoys loving itself, that is, keep to itself without any exteriority (transcendence or actually reaching the beloved). Lonely love, since it only needs to stand the time and wait to be loved in return, is comfortable--and easy. Solitary love, since it has already asked love's question and thus only hopes for a favorable answer, is patient because it does not have to do anything anymore. In its composure and stubbornness, the lover who is not loved could only be loving himself because it claims to have done everything on his part and now enjoys sitting on the throne, waiting to be honored. Or better: an unfulfilled love is autistic because it relishes no longer love but the romance of it, the passion of it, and even the pain it delivers.

But why would an unfulfilled love remain if it is always in pain? To be sure, pain makes love feel itself, that is, love makes you feel you are alive and that there is a future to hope for, a time when such pain can be eased and even transformed into bliss and joy. The pain of being unloved promises a future love; and if I cannot feel either pain or joy in the supposed love I profess for an other, if I remain indifferent as to whether I will be loved or not loved, then I would not be able to really say that I lover her. If I posed love's question, no matter how long the answer shall be given, I demand a response; I thus cannot simply ask without caring whether or not I, too, shall be loved. In a word, solitary love stays because it needs the pain of its failure, it remains because of the hope it nowise receives from her but only invents--it continues to love precisely because it is not loved.

Our everyday experiences confirm how unloved love could always be haunted by the possibility of its selfishness. The experience of falling in love, at once blissful and crushing, is an experience I alone "feel," within me and in my consciousness. It is then very easy for me to want to stay in that state of "falling in love" as it is pleasurable to my senses and romantic to my mind. Suspended and frozen, and at the same time claiming to be falling, the rush of the passion I feel for a sudden love only makes me continually become aware of myself: the happiness I enjoy when I see her, the passion that burns in me, and the foreseen sadness if she would refuse me. All these emotions, which I feel in me and within me alone, claim to reach the other, the supposed beloved, but ultimately fails because it is not a matter of the who the other is (could have been anybody, thus arbitrary) but what I enjoy and how the other stirs up in me these collection of experiences. In a word, and we here this all the time, what I love is not her but falling in love.

Thus, the unfulfilled lover may wish to remain distant from the object of desire. How so? Because longing, if it reaches what it longs for, cancels itself out, strikes its own heart and dies. The death of passion: the end of love for some because it sets the stage for responsibility, obligation and commitment and all the difficult acts of love that the passionate lover must now decide upon and carry out. What was then an experience that did not require any action on my part suddenly asks of me to actually love without falling in love. At the ground where falling in love crashes, where passions still and the heart retains its slow rhythm, I am asked by love to stand and climb my way back to the distant beloved to be with here and care for her.

But again, this is not possible for unfulfilled love because she would not allow me to go near her and be with her and because she will not shorten the distance to also be near me and be with me as well. Whence the consequence that unfulfilled love both suffers and enjoys: I can still pretend that I love her from a distance because I enjoy the passion and desire that very distance makes possible, or because I am allowed to still desire her because of her denial of my love. For what is there to desire in anything I already have?

Afraid to both be near and loved in return, solitary love only pretends that it is real love because of its hubris. The lover just does not know how to accept that he could really be unlovable.

But then again, we also know and see those who love which do not require that they be loved in return. We call this altruistic love: the ability to love without any reference to itself, a total abandon which leaves nothing behind, a voyage to the beloved with neither plan nor hope of going back. The question, again, is if this could still be love even if it is still alone because still unloved? Or perhaps, could this be a higher love? But before going into those questions, it must be asked how such a love could even be possible.



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