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Love's Weakness

Mary: We're becoming mortal. It's us, being close to each other. It never happened this fast before. You have to leave. The further you get from me, the better you're going to feel. You'll start getting your powers back — and be flying and breaking things and saving people before you know it. It's like I said. We were built in pairs, and when we get close to our opposites, we lose our power.
Hancock: Why?
Mary: So we can live human lives. Love. Connect. Grow old. Die.
a --"Hancock" (2008)



Why is it that love finds and leaves us weak?


How does it happen that what ought to be a strong tie that binds two lovers always shall be a thin flimsy thread where they forever balance themselves? Why does it happen that what should make you complete can also break you and crush you? Why is it that that which is able to give you impossible joy is also able to punish you with a possible pain?


Whence come these paradoxes of a weak love? Was not love supposed to be powerful?


Let us see.

***


Initially and for the most part we find a person who seems to us complete in himself as lovely. I see in the possible beloved all these characteristics which endear him to me: as having this confidence or that certainty, possessing this charm or that grace, this eloquence or that smile, this will or that dream, etc. We do not usually "fall" for someone who is needy--someone who just wants to be loved because no one loves him or because he needs love. Neediness asks for something which will always fall short of what it can and wants to receive. Because if he only needs me because of the possible love I can give, then I, as giver (without any malice or resentment here) will only be loved because of what I can give and never for the person that I am or can be. And the needy will always be needy--they cannot give back or love back.


And so it happens (and we hope or believe) when we are in love that we love each other for the person one is. Because I do not love because I am needy or so that I may only receive, I then am able to give love and make it--and this qualifies me for attaining the rank of lover. As lover, I by name and by right have only one thing to do and that is to love the beloved. Or the beloved, the forever aim of my love. But to hope that he, too, shall see me as beloved and also love me is no longer my responsibility and concern--in principle.


But what if I, all too human, may also become needy? What if I, unable to give love or to make it at times, falter and fail to carry and accede to the weight and the name of love? What if all too suddenly I lose what made me the complete person that I was and become myself needy for love? And above all, what if my beloved does not support me or absorb my precipitous fall?--especially if I cannot ask from him, forever beloved, to become a lover to me when that is precisely already beyond my powers.


Herein lies the beginning a possibility of love's weakness: when I lose my strength and when I tire; when I become what I was not; and the "unkindest cut of all"--when the beloved leaves me for my weakness.

*

"Love is a verb," it is often said: it requires effort and resolve, determination and labor, strength and power. It may be true that using such adjectives seem to diminish love's pomp and grandeur, bringing love's high pageantry to the dirty soil of the earth. Yet this is the price for those who yearn for the skies above: our feet will always be soiled because whatever goes up, like Icarus, shall fall.


Verbs tire. And they do so because verbs, whatever intention they may have, whatever reason they are done and whatever they may bring--verbs always require one thing: the will.


And love is no exception because love is a will. No matter how great you say your love is (that it is eternal or that it shall conquer all) and no matter how many pretty promises you make--love can only manifest itself when it is willed, that is, when it is made, done, shown. Now, let's admit it, that's never easy. Against Schopenhauer who says that the will is untiring, remember that our will is a human will and thus always a finite will.


All my will to power, especially in the form of the will to love, will always be in the danger of tiring and running empty. All the more: because in order to be a lover, I must by necessity and desire, in each and every case--I must will love and make it and give it. Lest: the end of my will to love, the end of love. And this makes weariness possible: when the "well runs dry," when the "tank is empty," when we become "depressed" and helpless--when the sun of our powers sets on the bright days of love. The infinite call from the beloved to love him will never be matched by my finite will. Of the beloved I can never say that I loved him enough.


And above all, this: because the will to love, unlike the will to power which exerts itself in order to maintain, gain and heighten its own power, that is, in order to make itself more powerful, the will to love is not a will which goes out only in order to go back to itself; the will to love is a will which diminishes its own power, lessens itself, makes itself smaller, deprives itself and gives its own power to an other who does not even need or ask for it.


Love is a will which empties its self of its power. Like an inverted battle it fights and struggles to lose its own freedom and power to an other, to thy beloved and sweet enemy. The will to love is a surrender of power par excellence. Love can only be strong in weakness. Love can only win by losing.


. . .




Comments

  1. Anonymous10/01/2009

    Hello again. :)

    I'm just wondering if a person can ever stop loving (or willing love), because while my will is finite, the call of the other, as you say, is infinite. Doesn't the other, in his infinite call, forever will me to love? Or is this call something we can ignore? In the face of this call, is it really possible to say that my tank is running empty? Is it really possible: having no will to love?

    Thank you. :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello, again, my friend.

    What you ask are wonderful questions; they have been asked by some contemporary philosophers who are fashionably taught nowadays. I really do not know the answers to them but let's take a short look.

    To summarize the questions: Can I ever stop loving given that the call from the other is infinite?

    I can by choice and weakness, to be sure, stop to love and halt my will. Because if love is borne out of my own initiative and will, I will always be limited and weak in the face of the beloved who requires me to give both what I have and do not have.

    But the decisive difference is if my love no longer comes from my own willing or wanting, when it is not from my own initiative. Why? Because what happens in this case is that my loss of strength--which becomes my weakness in weariness, when the will comes from me--paradoxically becomes in this case my very strength.

    Because the other calls on me to love him more infinitely, whenever I tire or already lose everything, this all the more requires me to will love more and give more because I can never love him perfectly. Unlike power, I can only love by continuing to lose my will.

    So perhaps it's a matter of where the will to love is borne. If from myself, we can stop love, ignore the other's call, and not love at all--and proceed to the extreme end (power, hate, violence, etc). And if from the other, you're right, I can never say 'no'. The paradox of love is that it aims to accomplish what it cannot, it gives what it does not have, and wills without strength. At least in principle.


    What do you think? Granted that this is the case in principle, why do we then fail in loving?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous10/06/2009

    Do we fail because in the face of the other's infinite call, we know we are never sufficient? If that is the case, is to love to inevitably fail?

    I am just wondering, when then is a lover ever happy? When he empties himself? But then still here he realizes that no matter how much he gives, he is insufficient, a failure. This has to make him sad! I know it makes me sad. I know I am happy only when my love is finally reciprocated. I am happy only as a beloved. The boy in Little Manhattan said it best, I think. Love is an enormous pain. :)

    I would really value your opinion. Your words never fail to enlighten. :) What do you think? If I desire my beloved to love me as well, does that make me a needy and therefore a lover no more? If I want to give as well as receive, am I no longer exhibiting true love? Is love only real when it is absolutely selfless? I am very sorry for all the questions. I would really, really like to understand what authentic love is, you see. You may choose to disregard my queries. Really. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Is love inevitably doomed to fail?

    That's a good one and a very tough one. Everyday we see "successful" relationships around us and hear of "failed" ones every now and then. But that is not what we are looking for. In its essence, can love as the finite response to the infinite call ever not fail?

    But what does "to fail" here mean? If to fail means the inability of loving perfectly (like the call which is perfect), then I suppose that, yes, no one succeeds in loving.

    There may be, however, another possibility of love's failure: the inability not to love perfectly but the incapacity to even love at all.

    Let's take an example. A street urchin is by my window asking for alms. I have here the form of a perfect call. I have two choices before me: I can either answer the call or ignore and reject it--a perfect either/or. If I were to respond, given the limited situation I find myself in (in the car, no food, on the way, etc.), I can only respond in a very limited fashion as well: what kind of loving response is handing over a few coins or a monetary bill? With my very act of giving I already experience within me a strange feeling which tells me that I have not given everything I could, and that what I gave is nothing compared to what I had, and that therefore my act of charity was, indeed, a failure. In this sense even the Good Samaritan was really not that good.

    But I could also have just pretended that the child was not there, or tapped on the window to return the knock, moved forward to drive him away--and do whatever I could only in order to run away from the call, flee from the chance to love--and not even experience that feeling of having lacked in charity. The difference, perhaps, is very clear.

    But the riddle, as you saw it well, is this: the one who gave is unhappier than the one who ran away from a perfect chance to love.

    Or using your analogy, I can only be happy when I, too, am loved or beloved. But I ask: why? Is it already given that the beloved is happier than the lover?

    Say, am I really happier in being loved than in loving? If someone loved me without me loving her, would I truly be happy? In the same manner, if I loved somebody and she did not love me, can I be happy as well? Of course, I do not know the answers to these questions. So when can I then become happy in love? I'm sure you already know the song that is playing in my head...

    What do you think? These are tough ones. Let's take a look at them one by one.

    And, same as you, I have absolutely no idea what "authentic love" is.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous10/09/2009

    Thank you, my dear friend, for taking the time to respond. Truth be known, every single time I post a comment on your site, I right after long to take it back. My concerns all seem so trivial, you see, while your thoughts are always profound. And yet you, kind you, still attend to them. So thank you. :)

    But anyway, I have thoughts on your questions. Yes. I think I do. Tomorrow. :)

    Thank you! :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dear friend,

    I can in no way say that your concerns are "trivial" and my thoughts "profound." What you ask are difficult because they are real questions that we face at some point in our lives; and when those times come, these questions suddenly acquire a weight which decides everything.

    I do not know most of what you ask. But I'll try to look at your question on happiness, that is, that if love means losing its own will, how then can the lover be happy? Now that is a fair question.

    As always, looking forward to what you have in mind. And no, let me be the one to thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Anonymous10/12/2009

    I forgot what I was going to say; all I can remember, for the life of me, was that I was reminded of this poem:

    "The rose is without why,
    It blooms because it blooms,
    It pays no attention to itself,
    Asks not whether it is seen."

    I forgot how this served as jumpingboard to the thoughts I was going to share with you. :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Why of course, it's Angelus Silesius, the great mystical poet.

    Perhaps his inspiration, Meister Eckhart, can help us out of our impasse. The philosopher said:

    "Why do I love? Because I love."

    Sums everything up nicely, don't you think?

    ReplyDelete

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*
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