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A Love Too Late

Is there such a thing as a love a little too late? When to be late means being unable to make it on time, failing to get there at the right time, or the inability to arrive when you were expected to or when you should? Does time hold love captive and does it ultimately judge and decide its fate--beyond the best of my intentions, in spite of the truth of my love? Or is it not the other way around that it is love that judges time because it is always able to make time? In a word, can a true love be late or does it always make it on time?

Let us see.

(March 2010)


(A continuation in response to a reader)

For the meantime, let's reflect upon these:

"Late have I loved Thee, beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved Thee." --Augustine

"Things that really matter, though they may come very late, always come at the right time." --Heidegger

"I can never say anything to the other except my shortcomings and belatedness." --Marion


But I, for one, have long thought that it's the time which determines which loves are possible, and which could be realized, and not the love itself. It's a bit of a statement, to be sure, and a hasty generalization, but consider this possibility: If for example, the "right one" comes along and enters my horizon, and I, unfortunately or not, am not receptive to any old one, or I am not, let's say, "ready" because of one reason or another (just coming from a heartbreak, career plans, "other priorities"--as if love were one priority alongside of others), then the "right one," my supposed "true love," will not be able to present himself to me as such. I will pass over him, disregard him, or at best be indifferent to him: because I am not yet "interested" and ready to make an "investment," or to be simple about it--I will not see him because I was at that time not looking for him. To find something presupposes looking for it; there may be no such thing as an accidental stumbling upon something which you are really not looking for. Absurdly, a surprise is only surprising if you were expecting it already. (Now that sounds wrong, I know, forgive me. But let's just play along and go with the logic).

Or consider the contrary: If I wish to find love, or if I want to love, it is rather "easier" for me to find a lover, and even amazingly find my "true love." We purposely meet new people, we date, we "go out there," survey the playing field, make ourselves "available"--and all these mark the prejudice of someone who wishes to love, or wills love, before it arrives. If I am open, of if I am already expecting what I myself declare shall arrive, then certainly any old other who I chance upon becomes a strong candidate of earning my love. In this instance, I, through my own volition and by my own decision, prefigure he whom I will love: the initiative comes from me, I set the stage for his arrival, and all I have to do is choose among the actors who enter it.

Again, this is crude, I admit. But isn't this what happens when we decide that "I am ready," or "I want to settle down." We hear of those who in approaching the "marrying age" (whatever that means) put themselves out there, sometimes in a rush, in order to find "the one." Here, we have a clear case of time preconditioning the person or the lover. Because I want to be in love now, and wish to "settle down" already, I may choose that this person, who I may not have noticed or be attracted to before, be the one for me. The word "settle" in settling down is double-edged: positively it entails rest and the cessation of a long-drawn search and tiresome going-about, negatively, however, it means compromising, or accepting what one would not otherwise have agreed to receiving because it is less than what you wanted or deserved, or, in a word, again cruelly, bargaining, like "settling for a price." And the times always dictate the price or the value of things, and never things themselves. 

But of course, we are often kind to ourselves by saying that it's really him, the one that I've been waiting for, my one true love. There is also some sense in that.


So, can true love be late?

To answer, Yes, I would have to say that on the one hand, love can come too late. We hear of those tragic experiences not only from fiction but from everyday life itself. The fault comes in always deciding too quickly: We think that the true one will arrive no more, or the one we love is already the one, or at times we become impatient for the right one or the right time to come. And so we dictate that this one which I love right now become the true one for no other reason than because it is time, or it's about time, or there's no more time. Only to find out, again tragically, that the one which was "meant" for you was still to come. But again, it is easy to dismiss such postponed truths. We say we had no way of knowing, that there was no other choice, or it just wasn't in the cards. These are excuses, though necessary ones.

On the other hand, true love is never late. For to even know in one's heart that he is the one, though he be late, already presupposes a kind of knowledge which trumps the wisdom of time. Circumstances, and the events and decisions they cause or make possible, are the weakest causes, or evidence, of what could be called truth. The certainty of the lover who finds the right, the true one, however, is unshakable: Nothing, no prior decision, no circumstance or responsibility or contract can ever upset the truthfulness of a love which you know in your soul is to be yours and yours alone.

To be frank about it, there will always be time; it's never too late. One can always leave everything behind, break one's vows and promises, in order to depart all that you have committed to for the Beautiful One. All mistakes can be made up for, even if that means making another mistake; it's a matter of living up to and standing by your decisions, at the risk of being again mistaken. What does it matter that you ruin a life, even your own, for your quest of and obligation to your own happiness? You are only human, and you must allow yourself human joys at the expense of failing to live up to the teachings of a god. You must always allow yourself to make mistakes, and enough time to make up for them, in the same way that you must always allow yourself to be happy. We hear of those good, wise and virtuous men who live up to the moralities of society and religion, who never strayed away from living the upright life, the safe and peaceful life; those who wake up every morning with a clear plan for the day ahead, those who eat healthy and take care of their bodies, those who stay away from vices and moralize those who have it, those who live as the Joneses do, who have lives as clean as their consciences. But make no mistake about it, if you are to look for a man in despair, you'd do no better than find one among them. Sadness, like sickness, come from still waters. Nietzsche exhorts us to venture out into terrible seas, to become wayfarers again. A tragic hero is still a hero.

We are already at a time beyond good and evil. And "what is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil" (Nietzsche). Time is evil, but there is a way to counter time's dictatorship. Disrespect it by transgressing all of its markers, deadlines, and measures.

Be your own time. Your own decisions can mark and wound time itself.


Or what I was trying to say before I became lyrical was this: A love is never too late. A love too late can only be so because you were not brave enough to accept it and love it back. Otherwise, those who are brave are always silent about their love because theirs always came at the right time.




  1. So, can true love be late? Is there such a thing as the right person but the wrong time? Or the wrong person but the right time?

  2. Anonymous1/09/2011

    True love effects change the Saint said, it's either a decision made, a circumstance or an event which is born out of a decision of the lover to love...the question may be, is it still true love if it is not returned or is it really just love for self that wishes to find an answer? If it is not returned by the beloved what is it then?

  3. Anonymous1/10/2011

    Dear friend,

    It's been a while since I dropped by your blog, and I have to say, I am struck by how much you appear to have changed! You discuss yourself more freely now; the reader no longer has to grapple for some truths about you in your essays about universal truths. It's wonderful to see a different side to you; you are immensely interesting. :)

    You still talk about love, and often, I see. It is, after all, the only topic worth discussing. I wonder if you have found love already. Reading your thoughts about love in your various essays on it, I never was certain if you are a person in love or a person who desires to be in love. I think it's because you always appear to view the subject with much vigor and freshness and enthusiasm-- just like a person in love for the first time.

    Cheers! I hope you are well. :)

  4. Dear Reader,

    I will have to get back to you soon.

    Your question--"is it still true love if it is not returned?"--has been a problem for me since last year, when a student asked me that too. I feel that it has to be reflected on slowly and patiently. But top of my head: Have we not experienced truly loving someone, giving a perfect love, without it being returned or reciprocated? The question then is this, whether my perfect love is diminished by the lack of reciprocity, if my call is cancelled by the absence of an answer.

    Let's think about it. But any thoughts? (To have asked something means you in some way already know an answer). Thanks, dear reader.

  5. Dear friend,

    I remember you. It sure is nice to hear from you after quite some time. I wondered where you have been. Hello again.

    Really? Well, yes, come to think of it. Perhaps most obvious is my speaking about what I do, that I teach and all. But on the whole, I did not notice too many changes. It's great how we need an other to know ourselves better, to point out to us things which, while under our very noses, escape us. Thanks. I kind of feel good about it, actually, no longer consciously "hiding." (To tell you the truth, I'm just shy. How absurd, me announcing my thoughts to everyone here in this public space, and to claim shyness!) I also hope it looks good, too--without the vanity I fear.

    Yes, perhaps love is the only things worth talking about. But it takes daring and self-abandon to talk about love these times. Easily, I'm thought cheesy by some students and surely some readers, thought to be a hopeless romantic, assumed as someone deeply in love. Yes, these are plausible; but I'm afraid to admit that these are not my reasons. Perhaps, as you intimated, it's just that I find it wonderful, terrifying, and endless. One can never speak enough of love. And of infinite things we are required to infinitely think and speak. And to be more practical about it, we write about we know, what we have suffered to know, things that have pierced our hearts and wounded our minds in our lives. Other kinds of knowledges, won through this book or that teaching, and not wrested from the world--is just too easy.

    I said it before, and hastily I'll say it again, I wish I knew you if I still do not.

    Hope you are well, dear friend.

  6. Anonymous2/28/2011

    Hello dear saint,

    Thanks for replying and thanks for sharing your thoughts and inspirations here in your blog, it's quite thought-provoking so I come and drop by when I'm feeling a bit "existential"...or when things don't seem to make sense anymore--hmm about your extension question regarding the point in question... sure, I have loved without having the love returned, I guess one time or another most of us have had an experience of the "unrequited love"-- what happens to it... well, it's hard to answer completely as I began to think also(while we are on the subject)what does "perfect love" mean, as you used the phrase in your reply? What really does it mean?

    As experience goes, I may say that "love" is love when it is translated to commitment, when love goes beyond "sweet words" and giddy feelings and crosses the door of no turning back, I guess when one stops thinking and just says "to hell with it, let's take this to the end..or the next level" wherever that is.

    I guess love is true and "perfect" that way when it is given without conditions and is just there- a gift one has no choice but to give- lucky if it were reciprocated but what can we do if it wasn't^_^. It doesn't disappear also, so maybe in that way we can call it "perfect" somewhat.

    Love is not bound by Time and when conceived and was born at a certain point will have had a deep impact and effect on the person who loves. One is never quite the same after after looking it in the face.

    By saying that it was "perfect love" if looked at in this way, then the definition itself may very well answer the question, I think...

    Will it therefore, be lessened or even canceled if not returned?

    If something is perfect,then it is not bound by time, right? It cannot be added to and should not be added to as it may lose perfection if adulterated. By itself, it can and has reached its purpose and its mark.

    If so... it doesn't matter anymore if it was returned or not. Come to think of it...
    It is and was in itself the termination?

    So... the next question may be^_^ (sigh) Do we really love with a perfect love? Can WE love with a perfect love, us being imperfect as we are...

    Thanks for the opportunity to think and write dear saint, I hope I made a bit of sense.

    Stay warm in your waiting and your journey always!:)

  7. Hello, dear friend. It's good to hear from you again. I hope you are well.

    Interesting, the things you say here! I think they are quite on the mark, and they simplify the matter into what is essential.

    I like how you "defined" perfection as that which cannot be restricted by time, therefore unchanging, endless, and how it cannot be added to or diminished from. That would be the textbook "definition" of God's perfection, how old philosophers defended God's essence and, yes, His love. And if we consider love as such, then verily love then, even if unreturned, unrequited, can never be diminished in itself and for itself. That is to say, a love cannot be cancelled even if it is blocked, as hate cannot be mediated even when it is denied.

    Like a gift, as you said, which is I think a perfect example. Imagine a pure gift that was given for no reason, selfish or otherwise. If I give you a gift, I leave you with something, an "object" (that is, say, to stand for my love), and this gift becomes in itself independent from me already: it's no longer mine but yours to receive. However, because of one reason or another, say that you do not accept it, or you reject it. What happens to the gift itself?

    Doubtless the gift remains what it is: it does not materially disappear, its "value" is not diminished, its intention remains. The gift as gift remains even if it has no receiver. I will not, of course, claim it back, just use it for myself, or give it to another so that it wouldn't be a waste, "para hindi sayang"; for me to claim it and keep it would be the last thing I would do because that would ultimately invalidate the perfection of my gift: so I didn't mean to give it perfectly to start with. So the gift is left there, looking like a waste, an ugly reminder, a lost hope; but it was in the essence of the gift from the start to become possibly unaccepted. For what kind of gift is required to be received? If she were required to receive it, then the gift is not a gift, much more a perfect one. Thus the risk of the gift, the danger, the joy and anxiety of a departure with no certain arrival.

    . . . (see next)

  8. . . .

    But if purely given, and if perfect, the gift will nowise turn ugly, useless, a waste even if it is unclaimed. To the contrary--it shines ever brighter than all received gifts, it glistens in its silence, relishes in its perfection. Because unclaimed gifts continue to seek for the givee, looking for him, searching for him, offering itself again and again so that it may be received, that it may finally find its home. Unreceived gifts, like unrequited loves, are like moons in orbit that show their brightness in the night, always reminding those who know where to look that they remain, that they are there--or that at least they were given once and for all. Once and for all: this is what a perfect love could possibly mean because to love perfectly is to love only once but still for all times.

    We usually know what it feels to be refused, to be rejected; we know what it means for our love to go unnoticed, for our calls to be unheard, for our desires to miss their mark. But we usually too easily move on, from one unaccepted love to the next, from one doomed possibility to a more promising hope. Then we at times say through wise hindsight that "it wasn't really meant to be," that it was doomed to begin with, a mistake, that we didn't really love, and that its OK.

    But we also know that there are times when even if our love was not returned we still truly, perfectly loved. Nothing can take that away from us. You cannot take away anything that I no longer have. When we really loved no one else but us can deny us the name "lover." Even the ones I loved and who did not love me back cannot touch me. It is this very untouchability that protects those who loved and lost which guarantees that however imperfect we can be, we can still give a perfect love. We can test all our supposed loves against that: I know if my love is perfect if you will not be able to do anything to me anymore to make me give up my love for you. Not even hate.

    But that such a love is plausible does not mean it can happen always, though in rare occasions it does. This is why such a perfect love is usually attributed to God, and rarely to us. Thus the very point of Christ who taught us the love of God so that we may learn to love also in that way.

    I hope I made some sense too. Thank you very much for also giving me a reason to further think about this "mystery," perhaps the most important one. May you, too, be safe in your journey. You bless this clearing with your purity.

  9. Anonymous3/02/2011

    The horizon is right in front of us,
    It is shining,

    as it reflects the sun...

    It sheds light (and peace- a bird's hymn)
    in the dark corners of the soul too
    as our eyes behold what
    lets itself be seen,

    from afar...

    It is morning now,
    let us continue to walk then,

    with a spring to our steps.

    Thank you, dear dear friend...
    and you made a whole lot of sense^_^


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