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Dear Saint


Dear thesaint,

If one is already whole and need not another, why do we seek for a beloved’s companionship?  By whole we mean that I have my “self” to give, and that self is already whole, as opposed to one being broken (one can picture “ayokong mahalin mo ako nang tagpi=tagpi pa ako, gusto kong buo ang sarili ko bago ko ibigay sa iyo”).  I’m thinking that this is supposed to be close to Augustine’s “inquietum est cor meum donec requiescat in te,” but the beloved in this world is of this world, born in this world, borne of this world: corporeal and finite; in contrast to God.  But how can we say this without practicing idolatry or succumb to icon-ism?  Can we relate this to Marion’s “eventfulness” of an event, when a beloved is an event?  But do we not want to repeat the same love-event (in different particular instances) with this one particular person? 

I’d love for this to be posted in your blog.


I'll take the first one, and from there I hopefully can get to the last and more difficult parts of your question.

1. Wholeness. This is more of a personal observation rather than an answer coming from another thinker, but I think that we still seek for another's companionship even if we are "whole" or "complete" because that wholeness or completeness will be in vain if it is just mine and I do not share it. It's like a castle with many doors adorned with rich tables and never wanting--it's complete in itself but empty if you remain alone in your grand castle. My completeness shall only be complete if someone else is to receive it. I cannot, for instance, be able to have a grasp of my self, or see it as an object, until I hand it out, that is, unless I give it. I only know truly, or for the first time discover, how rich I am when I am able to surrender it, or at least ready to. Otherwise, I shall never know. It will be like having all the fine china sitting on display and gathering dust--I cannot enjoy it because no one else can enjoy it as well. 

Now, it would be a very different case if I seek for a beloved's companionship so I can ask her to fill a lack on my part, as if she were the "missing piece" (take a look at that beautiful story by Shel Silverstein, which tells us of the human condition) which would make me whole; even though this is usually done, that is a very questionable reason, or simply a bad one, to love. That is, as Levinas said, an appropriation of the Other, a seeking or going forth which already has the return in mind even before it even departs (like Odysseus). Not only does desire confess the lover's lack or, as you said, his brokenness, but it also reveals his selfishness, or that need to glorify the I, which at bottom reveals itself to be self-love. And when I love my self more than anything else I do not only steal away from my supposed beloved or companion what she is, thus diminishing her, but I also admit my unhappiness with my self, or that kind of loneliness which is far from the solitude or completeness that a lover requires in order to perhaps truly love, in case love is truly about the giving and not the receiving.

2. On Augustine. Granted for example that I believe myself to be whole or complete, and that, more importantly, I wish to love selflessly and I have no agenda for myself--why then do I sincerely desire to love still, or seek companionship? Why do I nevertheless feel that lack which is no lack, or desire what I need not really desire in the sense of the word because I am already whole? Yes, Augustine would say that the reason we are still wanting even if we seem to have everything, or are, in a word, happy, is that we cannot really be fulfilled by the things of this world as "our hearts are restless until we rest in Thee." That we only think that we are happy, complete, and not lacking, but in our innermost selves we yearn or desire for God, who alone will be able to grant our hearts rest. Until then, our hearts will wander about the earth, searching for solace and peace in wealth, wisdom, and other people, only to realize that these will never fulfill the desire which God implanted in us, like a homing device, making us seek Him and only Him--He who alone can grant us happiness.

And yes, until that time, before we leave the City of Man and are welcomed at the gates of the City of God, we will have to err and be mistaken by thinking that this or that earthly being will make us happy. And we can only be disappointed because, as you said, these things are "born in this world, borne of this world: corporeal and finite; in contrast to God." But there is no other way than to be in fact mistaken that corporeal beings shall be enough to make us happy. We first have to pass through the finite in order to cross over to the Infinite; we have to first learn to love here on earth before we can love what is beyond this earth; we have to be mistaken in order to understand what it is that our hearts truly desire. Augustine himself, as we know, passed through the dark valleys of the earth, scouring it for happiness, only to realize that power, wisdom or love shall never be enough. But he first had to go through these things so as to be able to tell us that these will not make us happy. Hence his Confessions.

3. Idolatry. Most of us, sadly, will never even be able to have the epiphany Augustine had, in the same manner that most of us will not be saints. Most of us will be imprisoned in the City of Man, not even knowing that there is a City of God, not knowing that there is another happiness, which will be "more" complete. This is where idolatry takes place. When I love an innerworldy being (a beloved, possession, career, etc.) and think that it is everything, able to give me all the happiness I require, I glorify it and thus idolize it.

But such a projection or idolatry is only possible because of that "implanted" desire in us. In a certain sense one who doubts can say that it is God's "fault": in giving us a desire which really desires for what is not finite, or what will not be found on this earth, He makes it possible for us to mistake Him in what is not Him. To a certain extent, it's not fair. And perhaps God is not fair. But that is what makes us creatures and He alone Creator. So we shall always err and be given to the temptation of idolatry.    

Taken from another viewpoint, we can also commit idolatry even if we do in fact recognize that God alone can complete us. This will be the main objection of Nietzsche, that we impose upon God what we lack and what we desire to be--which is really the Overman, the complete man. But this kind of idolatry is one which Nietzsche thought we can already do away with in the sense that God as an idol for the overman can be set aside so man himself can become the superman. Maybe Augustine himself, if we are to speak for Mr. Nietzsche, committed idolatry in identifying God as that being which would complete us because God would then be only an inverted image of man. God will thus be created based on "our image and likeness," as the answer to our longing, the fulfillment of our hopes, our highest desire. If we were not lacking anyway, and were completely happy, would we still need God? Enter the "death of God."

4. Footnote. Even the saints, according to E. M. Cioran, display their own kind of "will to power." But unlike men who strive to gain and heighten their power in the world, saints would be those who have the same desire for power beyond the world. Saints desire to enter the world without by disdaining the world within, they deny this world in favor of the next. But that is still will to power according to Cioran, just an inverted one--and clearly idolatry nevertheless.

5. As for the last part, regarding Marion, I really do not know how the beloved as an event comes in. Do you mean who the beloved answers our desires in an event? Would you like to clarify, my friend?

I apologize for the late response. Thank you.



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