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Love as Suffering


Love need not be all bliss and happiness. Every lover knows that to love initially and for the most part means to suffer.

To suffer in love, or because of love: this means first to live with the daily torment of being uncertain, or suffering as doubt. I doubt whether the beloved shall love me back if still not won or shall continue to stay with me when already won. And since uncertainty breeds fear and anxiety, see how the lover is tormented by his mind and, most cruelly, by his imagination--that most wicked of man's gifts when used against himself, that herald of insomnia, that great tranquilizer.

That he loves the beloved, this is his only certainty. But the unknowable without remainder is the mind of the beloved: for even if she speaks or shows love--once or always, no matter--you still shall never know. (What if I am deceived? What if she were a great actress? What if they are all in "it"?)

Living with the certitude of his love and not knowing if it will be reciprocated by the other, the lover drinks both wine and hemlock. Perhaps it was the deathly cocktail of love that Turgenev was thinking of when he warns us in First Love: "Beware of the love of women, beware of that ecstasy--that slow poison."


Uncertainty is not what the lover only suffers from, no matter how great that may already be. The lover is also condemned to eternal labor precisely because of his fear of not being able to love the beloved enough, or not being worthy of being loved in return.

Only the lover and no other knows that enough is not enough, that a lot barely makes it and excess is the rule. You always have to do one better: for to go backwards or to fail to keep up the ante will make you seem either complacent or bored. Hence the lover's eyes are always looking for things to give, the imagination creating ways to manifest love, the pen finding not only the right but new words to speak its heart.

No easy profession, this being a lover. And profession, no matter how such a word may be tied up with work, suits the lover best: he shall always have to profess himself and his love, make it seen and heard, that is, show it. What is a love that is not shown? A love that is not known. A love that while true will no longer be real for the beloved.

For this is the nature of love that all lovers know: it has to be proven beyond doubt, and it can only be proven painstakingly in reality. For if doubt enters the mind of the beloved--if you allow doubt to speak because of your sudden silence--now you no longer know what can happen next. If you can no longer sustain her gaze because of your sudden absence, her eyes can wander easily, catch the glint of another's eyes, be captivated anew while you blame yourself in the distance for catching your breath and taking your time, because love, like time, waits for no one, and must always work, like Ixion's fiery wheel must keep spinning.


When the lover is seized by his passions, he extends himself in order to reach the desired object.

This outward movement and projection make the lover all of a sudden ecstatic: it jumps out of its shell, like an irrevocable bullet. In such a projection, the hitherto tranquilized enervated being of the lover becomes jolted and shocked. You were previously at peace in your solitude and now you find yourself outside of yourself, to be in that place Heidegger called the there. This is what true existence means. And this is the real danger as well.

By leaving, you find yourself in the elsewhere, the nameless there, on the way to the there-near-the-beloved; yet she can only be as near as the horizon. (For to indeed reach the horizon is the end of desire and longing.) To love means to be on the way; to enjoy her nearness but to remain distant--for the beloved is distance par excellence. The lover then is defined by endless pursuit and is the perpetual pilgrim.

It is only when we leave home that we finally learn to live. But it is also only in never reaching the beloved that we still love.


In loving, as it was said, you go out of yourself in a projection toward the beloved. In this projection, you see yourself as a representation, as in a reflection. Love makes us see ourselves for the first time.

Such self-perception can take the form of vanity. Very often, it's true, when we are in love we make sure that we are lovable as well--or at least appear to be so. Hence all those efforts of making ourselves beautiful for the beloved, presenting ourselves in our best profile. Again, for the first time, the hitherto blind man becomes aware of itself, has to see itself. How so? It tries to see itself as how the beloved may see him. What does she think of me? Would she approve of this tie or think my hair too long? Am I kind enough or brave or man enough? How do I appear to her?

And with that question begins love's comedy. Either you do a" makeover" and become an altogether different person, someone that you no longer recognize or someone that the other would probably not love. Or, the ironic or: in looking at yourself you will not like what you'll see. In the first instance you end up obsessing with yourself like Narcissus who, trapped in his mirror, was unable to love an other and dies gazing at himself; in the other you despise yourself, wallow in self-pity, forever distancing yourself from the beloved, and like Echo, unable to utter love's first word.

There is, however, another form aside from vanity, though no less difficult, that the reflexivity of love can assume.

In being aware of himself now as a lover and no other, the lover has to accede to the high name of love through his infinite sacrifice for the beloved: to fail to give more than what he can, to fail to do more than what is possible, to ultimately fail to love is the end of love and the beginning of the final suffering: death itself, the death of the lover.


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