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A Love which Surprises

I didn't know I was looking for love until I found you.
Everything But the Girl

Initially and for the most part, since we seek in order to find then we find because we seek. Finding is the accomplishment of seeking: I will not find my watch if I did not look for it; and even if my watch was already merely there, I would be indifferent to its being-there because I was not looking for it, I did not need it or want it.

Now seeking then presupposes the absence of that which is sought. And this absence is usually the absence in the form of loss, like losing my watch which I now am trying to find. I will not look for something that I already see here and now; I usually look for something which I could see before but has now disappeared. We know this already.

But what about a seeking which is a pure discovery? The pursuit to discover is a kind of seeking which does not know what it is looking for but looks nevertheless. This kind of seeking, unlike the looking for something lost, is a looking for something to be wholly gained whatever it may be: I did not have it before, and now it is mine. This kind of discovery may be called serendipitous, a "stumbling upon" which finds something it was not looking for.

It seems as if the difference between the former and the latter looking is therefore one of knowledge. The first knows what it is looking for because of a previous knowledge of the object, while the second search seems to have no idea of what it is looking for yet is still able to find.

But there is really no such thing as a pure discovery. A discovery by definition is the appearing of something which was hitherto hiding; and such a showing would then require a seeing on another's part, a seeing, to say the least, which is the weakest form of seeking as it can merely be a noticing. The point here is that to even see or to want to see is already a kind of willing (strongest in those who actively pursue things and weakest in those who keep their eyes open). Etymology will show that serendipity is nothing accidental. Walpole said that the three princes of Serendip "were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of." They discovered things by sagacity and will--and then accidents happened and discoveries made. The will dominates here; and where there is the will there, too, is knowledge, even a knowledge which does not yet know which then precisely wants to know--and so it seeks to discover.

Hence the problematic question is: Is there such a thing as a finding without a seeking? A discovery without a willing and knowing? And how about love: Can love be found without looking for it? In a word: Can love be willed?

The easiest way to look for a love which is not willed is to look a person who has decided to intentionally not love--and then still finds love.

Take a man, for instance, who has decided to be alone first without looking for love; say, he just came from a difficult break-up (redundant: everything that breaks breaks and is painful), and after that experience, as it is popularly explained away nowadays, he decides to "rest" first or give himself some "time," to be "alone," to "recover," to "heal," etc.

Now what this man goes through when he does find love is rather appealing to him and romantic: he will necessarily think that upon finding the new beloved that she is the "right" one because even if he had stayed away from love, even if he did not want it, it still came as if through sheer destiny--and by no mere accident any longer. But why think so? Because it arrived without him leaving and going after it; it spoke without him speaking first; it insisted itself against his own stubbornness. Very much so, it seemed to have been given even if he had wanted to deny it: and the miracle of miracles, to his mind, was that in spite of himself and without looking for it love had come upon him.

Precisely because he did not want to look for it, it may indeed seem like he did not will love--but this only seems so. This is not to diminish the feelings of such a man but perhaps the professed lover only thought he was not looking for love by denying it, by closing himself to it, and by blocking it. But one must remember that anything anti- still belongs to that which it goes against as anything opposite belongs to that which it opposes, and as anything lacking of something belongs to that which has it perfectly. In a word, by not wanting to love, by purposely not looking for it, one really wants it negatively, and one purposely looks for it invertedly. How so?

Such a man, by keeping himself from loving, already heightens the love and the tension between the within and without: something is held inside, blocked and strangled (the cork of a bottle of champagne) and that which is held back, in this case love, is then released in all its glory whenever or to whoever the lover chooses (a celebration which calls for the bottle of champagne to be opened). And since choice is always only arbitrary because it comes from one's own volition or lack of it, from one's own decision (is it time? or should I wait for another?) or hesitation ("To have to decide or to want to decide means you do not really know what you want," as Heidegger reminds us), then all that pent-up emotion which was first suppressed and now released unto a "final" love, still indicates traces of seeking, knowing and willing in the form of holding it back--like a slingshot.

In a word, by blocking love (out of Nietzschean ressentiment, the spirit of revenge or will to power) the un-lover who turns lover upon the arrival of the supposedly promised love was already longing a lover and loving her without him admitting it or without her having to be present yet. Yet why do such a thing--to already love the yet-to-come by denying it? Simple: the un-lover is still bitter and thus he has to pretend he is fine without love--he professes this, tells all and sundry--so that when an other beloved comes it would seem that he was not excited about it, was not expecting it, did not need it, and that it came without him looking for it. But he was already looking for it by simply looking away from it.

Could there be proof to this? Yes. Those who come from a long relationship and then go through the "necessary" quarantine periods marked by pathos, anger and ressentiment know this: they usually "end up" with anyone or the next one who "happens to come along."

Thus the question still is: can there really be a love which I did not will, want or know? Is there still room for a love which surprises?

There is only one possibility left: a love which surprises is a love which without my willing it or willing against it comes to be: love as a pure gift, purely given and ultimately received.

For what is a gift but that which is given without my willing and knowing it, without me or in spite of me? Willing the gift disqualifies the gift as gift (will to power); knowing the gift before it is given discounts the gift's givenness (expectation); and willing against the gift despite its being given nullifies the gift (hate). The gift, never accidental or serendipitous, forever unknown and unable to be anticipated, can be denied, to be sure--but what cannot be denied is the fact that it was given and that it need not be--but is.

And what does it mean to receive the gift? To surrender to it as one surrenders one's self to a call from elsewhere, to care for it as one cares for the greatest treasure--and to love it as if you have loved it all your life.


But there is one final obstacle: How can the knowledge that you were looking for the gift only be gained after its reception? To be sure, the gift is a surprise because I was not looking for it. But what is not clear is how it is possible that I only know that I was looking for it after receiving it? And perhaps just as important: that that looking must remain a non-willful looking lest I disqualify the gift and "spoil" the surprise. In a word: how can the gift be not-looked-for at first and then turn out to be looked-for after its reception?

One song goes this way:

I was alone thinking I was just fine
I wasn't looking for anyone to be mine
I thought love was just a fabrication
A train that wouldn't stop at my station

Home, alone, that was my consignment
Solitary confinement
So when we met I was getting around you
I didn't know I was looking for love until I found you

What does the song say?

It says that you may only find out after receiving the gift that you were looking for it because you were "just fine" and "consigned" without it (making it non-willing because neither wanting it nor going against it). This indifference to the gift sets the stage for the perfect arrival of the gift: since I neither want it nor do not want it, the gift will appear as unnecessary. That is to say, the gift as gift is given without its being needed: it presents and shows itself from itself without its being looked for, and even if it did not need to show itself.

And along with the gift's contingency comes, without remainder, the gift's excess. The gift is at the same time unnecessary ("You did not have to get me anything") and excessive (the reply "But I wanted to"). And it is this excess which spells all the difference.

It is through the excessiveness of the gift that superabundance overcomes any completeness. And what is more, what the gift does exceptionally so is to render the previous completeness essentially incomplete without discounting or changing the fact that it was complete all along. What the discovery of the gift does singularly so is to overshadow with its bedazzlement the pre-existing light where one already could see well enough. But you find out only later, through the light of the gift, that you can see better, and that you had always wanted to see better, and that you no longer want to see any less, like you never want to be less than more than complete, because complete will no longer be complete enough.


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