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The Silent Lover and the Erotic Suspension of the Ethical


Tell Him
Celine Dion

I'm scared
So afraid to show I care
Will he think me weak
If I tremble when I speak
Oooh - what if
There's another one he's thinking of
Maybe he's in love
I'd feel like a fool
Life can be so cruel
I don't know what to do

I've been there
With my heart out in my hand
But what you must understand
You can't let the chance
To love him pass you by

Tell him
Tell him that the sun and moon
Rise in his eyes
Reach out to him
And whisper
Tender words so soft and sweet
I'll hold him close to feel his heart beat
Love will be the gift you give yourself

Touch him
With the gentleness you feel inside
Your love can't be denied
The truth will set you free
You'll have what's meant to be
All in time you'll see

I love him (then show him)
Of that much I can be sure (hold him close to you)
I don't think I could endure
If I let him walk away
When I have so much to say

Tell him
Tell him that the sun and moon
Rise in his eyes
Reach out to him
And whisper
Tender words so soft and sweet
Hold him close to feel his heart beat
Love will be the gift you give yourself

Love is light that surely glows
In the hearts of those who know
It's a steady flame that grows
Feed the fire with all the passion you can show
Tonight love will assume its place
This memory time cannot erase
Your faith will lead love where it has to go

Tell him
Tell him that the sun and moon
Rise in his eyes
Reach out to him
And whisper
Whisper words so soft and sweet
Hold him close to feel his heart beat
Love will be the gift you give yourself

Never let him go


***

Why cannot I not tell her that I love her and that the sun and moon rise in her eyes?
For many reasons: first of all, because it is far easier not to: telling her delivers me from the point of view of a spectator or admirer into being someone who cares; and caring, in today's only the strong can survive world, can only mean weakness. By not telling her, I also take cover with the distance I maintain and do not cross, e.g. remaining someone who is indifferent (stranger, acquaintance or, at best, "just a friend"). For if I do tell her, and if I suddenly show gestures that signify something beyond friendship (suddenly bringing her home, paying for lunch, etc.), I may not be sure how she will accept it. Would she be confused? Will she understand? How would she take it, this sudden change which changes everything in our relationship?

For this is the gamble I take when I do tell her: from this point onward things will change (hopefully for the best, usually for the worst). After I tell her, I can no longer remain in the comfort of seeing her as an object but already enter into a possible dialogue with her (instead of watching romantic comedy I find myself playing a part--and not knowing how it ends). Or again, if I tell her, and most importantly, if I tell her first, I submit myself to her and she does indeed become the sun around which I, by telling her first, orbit and to which I, by awaiting for a response, am suddenly enslaved. And most of all, if I tell her, whatever relationship we may have is necessarily wagered. Whence all the broken friendships between two friends who tried to be lovers. Yet--whence also those few friendships which bloomed into gardens of love.

But that in telling her I may bring our relationship to a "higher" level instead of destroying it cannot be known at the time of my decision; I do not as yet have any certainty at the moment I tell her, if she will receive me or refuse me--and this precisely makes my pronouncement a real wager, a dangerous gamble. Real: because my heaven or hell depends on it; and dangerous: because the judgment she will bestow upon my admission of guilt (love is a crime) could not be not absolute. Unable to merely steal glances from her, and more so look away, I am then condemned to a decision which will have to be blind (it has no proof for I alone see love and not her; and if she does, too, I have no way of knowing). Blind and dumb, caught between the promise of bliss and the possibility of a premature end, what then, I ask, should I do? Should I tell her?

***


Heidegger says, "To have to decide, or to want to decide, means you do not know what you truly want." We understand him very well. But do we? Let us take a look in order to shed some light on the dilemma of the silent lover.

Deciding entails duality, a hovering between a yes or a no. This shifting to and fro, this hesitation and uneasiness and uncertainty--these point not to my ambivalence to either possibility but, paradoxically, to my indifference. That is to say, I cannot decide because either option is insignificant to me. How so?--when we usually and for the most part think that things that really matter are things that we decide upon (profession or vocation, partner in life, etc.). Because, for Heidegger, someone who knows what he wants does not even have to decide; that I "weigh" both options, that I have to "discern" and "take some time" and "think things through," these frivolous human activities have about the same weight as tossing a coin.

In coin toss, each face has the same possibility of "turning up," in the same way I can decide between yes or no because both can be played out in the world without any contradiction (if there were a contradiction I will not have to decide). But I let the coin decide because either possibility is acceptable to me "fifty-fifty," which means, I can live with yes as I can live with no in equal proportion and weight (which means in equal weightlessness or both amounting to nothing). Or again, in flipping the coin, I make the gods or destiny "decide" for me--not because I am afraid to choose but because I do not care what may happen as either yes or no may go; and by letting them decide, I at the very least am not responsible for what may happen--and this is precisely the mark of indifference. Why then do I pretend to decide when I really am indifferent? Among all the possible reasons: just to gamble and play, or perhaps boredom.

Yet when it comes to her who affects me in such a way that everything suddenly acquires seriousness--I cannot simply play out the odds or try my hand in loving her. When it comes to her who now summons me to love--I have no time to postpone love by thinking things through. When it comes to her, finally, who I love with a love that can no longer be denied--I do not need to decide. I should tell her.

***

That I must tell her because I am no longer afraid or weak or uncertain is rather obvious to reason; or it is better to say that upon closer inspection I find that reason alone hinders me from doing what is most reasonable, as excuses are reason's ploy of protecting one's self. This is obvious. What, however, is not evident is how my decision to express my love will affect her and play out over her side of the field, that is, how my pronouncement not only may be received but how it may also change her--if ever and if at all.

Now that I have mustered up enough courage and can no longer see any reason why I should not tell her, an important consideration may block the speaking of love coming from her side already. And what is this block which may terminate all possibility of speaking love? Only this: What if my telling her will not do her any good and be to her detriment? What if, and this is most possible, I make things difficult for her or "complicated"--not in the mere sense that she will now, in turn, have to decide on me and my proposed love (to take me as lover, reject me, ignore me), but in the graver sense that she maybe in a position where she cannot receive at all, and much more love me back and much less even hate me? What is this condition where she may find herself unable to receive, not because of a weakness on her part that my courage overcomes, but because of something other than herself which makes it impossible for her to "entertain" any such notions for me? She may already be loving someone else and someone else may be loving her. How do you entertain another when there is already a guest in your home? Thus the question is no longer should I tell her? but already ought I tell her? Unawares, the existential question of unfolding one's hidden love becomes burdened by an ethical weight: apart from myself, I now have to consider her that I love as much as her lover.

Her lover?--when I was only thinking of my love. What have I got to do with an other who also loves her, who, it may be true, was able to pronounce his love earlier, perhaps better, though his love, no doubt, can be no more real than mine? Do I necessarily have to take his love into account? I can only understand and be certain of what I know and what I see and I know that I need to tell her and I see that not doing so would be love's suicide. (For all I know: he may be fooling her, playing with her, seeing someone else, etc.) And above all, should it matter that she is thinking of someone else? In a word, is it ethical if I disrupt a present relationship because of my love?

Any ethical dilemma can be tested against the Kantian doctrine of the imperative. Kant says that an action is ethical if it is rational and applicable to any agent in all places and at all times. Thus the formal question shall be whether or not it is rational and morally right to express one's love for someone who is already loving someone else (and being loved in turn, as this has to be assumed). Or more practically, is it fair to her that I tell her of my love? Let me list here a few of the possible and extreme consequences of my profession: she may have to keep my word a secret from her beloved (hide it, keep it to herself, yet always having the stain of blood in her hands if she does not tell him); he may suspect something and always place her on trial; she might tell him and he shall take that against her (why tell me only know? do you love him too? etc.); he, in a fit of irrational jealousy, may finally call the relationship off. Or as what happens more often: she will not mind and everything remains the same for them. Or--she may also leave him. In sum, the two extremes are as follows: she may be hurt absolutely or she may love me back absolutely. Is this not a fair wager? There must be a truth in the saying that all's fair in love and war.

Kant, however, would answer that the wager that I take and the possible consequences it may entail are unnecessary and thus unfair to her. How so? I only need to place myself in her love's position and I shall know the answer: that I ought not tell her.

***

How does the silent lover proceed when the ethical question is raised against him? To be sure, the logic of ethics (redundant for ethics is logic) restrains the mute lover from ever speaking because an other has already spoken; it requires of him to stand by the path as they march on their way to their own happiness, to open one's lips only to cheer them, pretending that all is well, like a happy guest at their wedding.

The ethical initially and for the most part can attempt to block the erotic; try as it might, however, ethics will still have to give way to what circumscribes it by limiting it and placing it in place, or to what is "higher" than it because it transgresses and overcomes it--the rule of law in privileged cases yields to the order of love. No love, in whatever form (familial, friendship, altruistic, even charity), can long retain the law of ethics. I do not love because it is "right" or "just" or "fair"; love has no laws not because it is unlawful but because love's logic uses different registers as those in ethics. I love not because it is a duty to which I am obliged; in the same manner, but inversely, I may not be prevented from loving as well. And if no ethics can ever require love, then no ethics can also block it. Let this count here preliminarily as the erotic suspension of the ethical.

For what is it to me if the love that I pronounce may be misunderstood, misused, even mistaken--or finally missed? What is it to me if the love that I present and make present is only denied, or rejected or ignored? What is it to me if the love that I give is overcome by a gift given by another giver? What is it to me?--finally, this gift that I must give if in the end my love amounts to nothing.

Love's gift can be given freely because it amounts to nothing. If it were still something then it would be impossible to give it. Once I appoint something to be given, I already lose it--even if it is not received, or still, even if I am not actually able to give it, to say it, or to make it--an undelivered gift, an unopened letter, a screenplay never performed. Love, given or not, spoken or muted, amounts to nothing. Thus no law or logic, which can only dominate beings (and never non-beings), can rule over love, that is, prevent me in the first place from actually giving it, or prescribe its effects to block me from performing it. Nothing may ever constrain love precisely because love is law's inverse: freedom.

If it finally amounts to nothing, then why at all tell her?

Because love, while nothing, is also everything. She that I love is everything. If she is everything, and if loving means losing everything, that is, if I already have nothing by loving her, I cannot lose anything anymore if I do tell her. Like words before one's last breath, I will tell you because I shall no longer be there to see your face or to listen to your reply or to know if you also love me. Like the dead, I would have been free by then.



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