2008 :: Issue 2/Spring :: Meditations on Love
from the readings of Kimble James Greenwood
These passages have sustained me, many of them for most of my life. I can not engage in a new love affair without the words of Lawrence Durrell, or John Fowles, or J.V. Cunningham coming back to me—as hauntings, as warnings, as simple fact. Like most of us with any experience at all, my feelings for love are wholly ambivalent. I’ve considered myself a romantic, a lover, most of my life. But I am no less a skeptic, a realist. These days, rather than engage in new love affairs, I need only read these words that I have accumulated. They stand sufficient.
But the love affair, while usually taking top billing, is only one usage of love represented in these passages. There is a broader use: an attitude toward life characterized by alertness, appreciation, gratitude, wonder, joy, and delight; awe before beauty and mystery; and humility before the profundity of life and living. That use of love needs no excuse or modification, and is an aspiration I remain committed to.
When man begins to permit himself full expression, when he can express himself without fear of ridicule, ostracism or persecution, the first thing he will do will be to pour out his love.—HENRY MILLER, Sexus
But in this shadowy lower life
I sleep with a terrestrial wife
And earthly children I beget.
Love is a fiction I must use,
A privilege I can abuse,
And sometimes something I forget.—J.V. CUNNINGHAM
He loved as a novelist should, with much care and originality, and small success. It was not sex he was after but the full exercise of his feelings: he craved novelty and self-knowledge. Sex was biological and therefore mindless, and could be had for money; love engaged the heart and the intellect and offered the endlessly self-conscious Stendhal a very dignified literary role: the lover.—STURROCK on Stendhal
“Idle,” she writes, “to imagine falling in love as a correspondence of minds, of thoughts; it is a simultaneous firing of two spirits engaged in the autonomous act of growing up. And the sensation is of something having noiselessly exploded inside each of them. Around this event, dazed and preoccupied, the lover moves examining his or her own experience; her gratitude alone, stretching away towards a mistaken donor, creates the illusion that she communicates with her fellow, but this is false. The loved object is simply one that has shared an experience at the same time, narcissistically; and the desire to be near the beloved object is at first not due to the idea of possessing it, but simply to let the two experiences compare themselves, like reflections in different mirrors. All this may precede the first look, kiss, or touch; precede ambition, pride, envy; precede the first declarations which mark the turning point—for from here love degenerates into habit, possession, and back to loneliness.”—LAWRENCE DURRELL, Justine
The sophistries which console—the lies which keep love going!—LAWRENCE DURRELL, Balthazar
The lovely thing about marriage is that life ambles on—as if life were some meandering path lined with sturdy plane trees. A love affair is like a shot arrow. It gives life an intense direction, if only for an instant.—LAURIE COLWIN, The Lost Pilgrim
When man don’t love you, more you try, more he hate you, man like that. If you don’t love them they after you night and day bothering your soul case out.—JEAN RHYS, Wide Sargasso Sea
Dear, if unsocial privacies obsess me,
If to my exaltations I be true,
If memories and images possess me,
Yes, if I love you, what is that to you?
My folly is no passion for collusion.
I cherish my illusions as illusion.—J.V. CUNNINGHAM
I wanted my love reflected in someone else’s eyes.—RAY BRADBURY in lecture (1972)
He loved everything, he was full of joyous love towards everything that he saw. And it seemed to him that was just why he was previously so ill—because he could love nothing and nobody.—HERMAN HESSE, Siddhartha
How have we the courage to wish to live, how can we make a movement to protect ourselves from death, in a world where love is provoked by a lie and consists solely in the need of having our sufferings appeased by whatever being has made us suffer. —MARCEL PROUST
But what we think is less than what we know; what we know is less than what we love; what we love is so much less than what there is. And to that precise extent we are so much less than what we are. —R.D. LAING, Politics of Experience
Man is in love and loves what vanishes.—W.B. YEATS
Love is mutual flattery.—KIMBLE JAMES GREENWOOD
Love, it’s a bitch.—MICK JAGGER/KEITH RICHARDS, “Bitch”
Are you willing to risk it all,
or is your love in vain?—BOB DYLAN, “Is Your Love in Vain?”
They say that love’s a sweet thing
And for lovers the sun will always shine
But in spite of what they say
I think of love this way
Love is bitter
Love is hopeless
Love is blind—RANDY NEWMAN, “Love is Blind”
The only time
That love is an easy game
Is when two other people
Are playing it —PAUL SIMON, “Oh, Marion”
L’amour de l’art fait perdre l’amour vrai
(The love of art means loss of real love)—RICHEPIN
All love is tragic. Requited love dies of satiation, unrequited of starvation. But death by starvation is slower and more painful.—LOU ANDREAS SALOME
In all love—sexual or maternal—exist at once selfishness and generosity, desire to possess the other and to give the other all.—SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR, The Second Sex
Using another as a means of satisfaction and security is not love. Love is never security; it is a state in which there is no desire to be secure; it is a state of vulnerability.—KRISHNAMURTI
It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.—VINCENT VAN GOGH, Letters to Theo
What a mystery life is; and love is a mystery within a mystery.—VAN GOGH
Without love, pain and failure are pain and failure, nothing else. But with love they are beauty and meaning in themselves.—WILLIAM SAROYAN
And then I found we were only strangers
And that there had been neither giving nor taking
But that we had merely made use of each other
Each for his purpose. That’s horrible. Can we only love
Something created by our own imagination?
Are we all in fact unloving and unlovable?
Then one is alone….—T.S. ELIOT, “The Cocktail Party”
Love is the mystery between two people, not the identity.—JOHN FOWLES, The Magus
Love is so strange, so conducted, since time began, under the illusion that it brings the lovers closer together; which it does, of course, in all sorts of physical and psychological ways. But it is also based on some profoundly blind assumptions, the prime fantasy being that the nature of the loved one during the first passionate phase is the everlasting true nature. But that phase is an infinitely delicate balance of reciprocal illusion, a meshing of wheels so finely cogged that the slightest atom of dust—the intrusion of hitherto unrecognized desires, tastes, twists of character, any new information thrust into the idyll—can wreck the movement. I knew this, I had learned to watch for it as one learns to watch for signs of familiar disease in certain plants.—JOHN FOWLES, Daniel Martin
Phrases like “I love you” always secretly mean a sort of uncertainty. That’s the only reason I don’t say them.—JOHN FOWLES, Daniel Martin
To be philosophical, to be dogmatic, to be doctrinaire—this is easy. To tackle a problem intellectually is very easy. But to tackle a problem existentially—not just to think about it, but to live it through, to go through it, to allow yourself to be transformed through it—is difficult. That is, to know love one will have to be in love. That is dangerous because you will not remain the same. The experience is going to change you.—BHAGWAN SHREE RAJNEESH
Love is like a faucet,
It turns off and on
Oh love is like a faucet,
It turns off and on
Sometimes when you think it’s on baby
It’s turned off and gone. —as sung by BILLIE HOLLIDAY
Non love makes us blind.—ABRAHAM MASLOW
There is only one serious question. And that is: who knows how to make love stay?
Answer me that and I will tell you whether or not to kill yourself.
Answer me that and I will ease your mind about the beginning and the end of time.
Answer me that and I will reveal to you the purpose of the moon.—TOM ROBBINS, Still Life with Woodpecker
There are no events but thoughts and the heart’s hard turning, the heart’s slow learning where to love and whom. The rest is merely gossip, and tales for other times.—ANNIE DILLARD, Holy the Firm
To me, irony is failed heroism turned antic. It’s tragedy in a pratfall. In a sense, it’s the anxiety that surrounds a profound idea. As a friend of mine put it, irony is the last vestige of love—love touched and frightened by its own pretensions.—ANATOLE BROYARD
You are being made by the desire in your own bedrock, which is, of course, nothing else than your complexes, your problems, your unalterable bedrock pathologies. That’s where the heat is and that’s also where the increase of love is going on.—JAMES HILLMAN
Love of life in all its forms is the basic ethic of Witchcraft.—STARHAWK, The Spiral Dance
Children of the future age,
Reading this indignant page,
Know that in a former time,
Love, sweet love, was thought a crime.—WILLIAM BLAKE
We frequently suspect our lover of “monstrous” things; do we not often play “monster” to one another in relationship—almost as if it is somehow essential to relationship? Is not all the phenomenology of love and relationship regarding suspicion, jealousy, unfulfilled and demanding need, clutch, and so on, just this—the essential stimulus for sending Psyche on her way, out of unconscious love, into her mission…of conscious love?—RUSSELL LOCKHARD, Words As Eggs
Love, like art, is a continual and mysteriously renewable defiance of limitation.—MICHAEL VENTURA
One must learn to love.—This is what happens to us in music: First one has to learn to hear a figure and melody at all, to detect and distinguish it, to isolate it and delimit it as a separate life. Then it requires some exertion and good will to tolerate it in spite of its strangeness, to be patient with its appearance and expression, and kindhearted about its oddity. Finally there comes a moment when we are used to it, when we wait for it, when we sense that we should miss it if it were missing; and now it continues to compel and enchant us relentlessly until we have become its humble and enraptured lovers who desire nothing better from the world than it and only it.
But that is what happens to us not only in music. That is how we have learned to love all things that we now love. In the end we are always rewarded for our good will, our patience, fairmindedness and gentleness with what is strange; gradually it sheds its veil and turns out to be a new and indescribable beauty. That is its thanks for our hospitality.—NIETZSCHE, The Gay Science #334
I believe it is not unfaithfulness which drives the great lovers but that when you are sensitized to love, when you vibrate deeply sensually and love passionately, it is like a current in the body which, being perpetual, creates a warm contact with all. I feel so many people physically, amorously, because I am in a state of love, like a mystic, and it is greater than myself, it is immense, this overflow. Just as activity creates activity, energy creates energy, creation creates creation, so passion creates more and more capacity for passion.—JEAN CARTERET, as quoted in Anais Nin’s Diary, Vol. 2
The one obstacle love can’t overcome is time.—DENIS DE ROUGEMONT, Love in the Western World
From The Symposium by PLATO (Pausanias speaking):
…observe that open loves are held to be more honorable than secret ones, and that the love of the noblest and highest, even if their persons are less beautiful than others, is especially honorable.
Consider, too, how great is the encouragement which all the world gives to the lover. …And in the pursuit of his love the custom of mankind allows him to do many strange things, which philosophy would bitterly censure if it were done from any motive of interest, or wish for office or power. He may pray, and entreat, and supplicate, and swear, and be a servant of servants, and lie on a mat at the door; in any other case friends and enemies would be equally ready to prevent him, but now there is no friend who will be ashamed of him and admonish him, and no enemy will charge him with meanness or flattery; the actions of a lover have a grace which ennobles them; and custom has decided that they are highly commendable and that there is no loss of character in them; and, what is yet more strange, he only may swear and forswear himself (this is what the world says), and the gods will forgive his transgression, for there is no such thing as a lover’s oath.
…In Ionia and other places, and generally in countries which are subject to the barbarians, lovers of youths share the evil repute of philosophy and gymnastics, because they are inimical to tyranny; for the interests of rulers require that their subjects should be poor in spirit, and that there should be no strong bond of friendship or society among them, and love, above all other motives, is likely to inspire this, as our Athenian tyrants learned by experience; for the love of Aristogeiton and the constancy of Harmodius had a strength which undid their power. And, therefore, the ill-repute into which these attachments have fallen is to be ascribed to the evil condition of those who make them to be ill-reputed; that is to say, to the rapacity of the governors and the cowardice of the governed….
…whether such practices [of love] are honorable or whether they are dishonorable is not a simple question; they are honorable to him who follows them honorably, dishonorable to him who follows them dishonorably.
Evil is the vulgar lover who loves the body rather than the soul, and who is inconstant because he is a lover of the inconstant, and therefore when the bloom of youth which he was desiring is over, he takes wings and flies away, in spite of all his words and promises; whereas the love of the noble mind, which is in union with the unchangeable, is everlasting….
…There is a dishonor in being overcome by the love of money, wealth, or of political power, whether a man suffers and is frightened into surrender at the loss of them, or is unable to rise above the advantages of them. For none of these things are of a permanent or lasting nature; not to mention that no generous friendship ever sprung from them.
And these two customs, one the love of youth, and the other the practice of philosophy and virtue in general, ought to meet in one, and then the beloved may honorably indulge the lover…; the one capable of communicating wisdom and virtue, the other seeking after knowledge, and making his object education and wisdom; when the two laws of love are fulfilled and meet in one—then and then only, may the beloved yield with honor to the lover.
From Henry and June by ANAIS NIN:
Everything with me is either worship and passion or pity and understanding. I hate rarely, though when I hate, I hate murderously. For example now, I hate the bank and everything connected with it [where her husband worked]. I also hate Dutch paintings, penis-sucking, parties and cold rainy weather. But I am more preoccupied with loving.
We have yielded in spite of our individualism, our hatred of intimacy. We have absorbed our egocentric selves into our love. Our love is our ego.
For you and for me the highest moment, the keenest joy, is not when our minds dominate but when we lose our minds, and you and I both lose it in the same way, through love.
…when [Henry] writes he does not write with love, he writes to caricature, to attack, to ridicule, to rebel, to destroy. He is always against something. Anger incites him. I am always for something. Anger poisons me. I love, I love, I love.
Writers make love to whatever they need.
I feel prodigal with my feelings when you love me….
Do not seek the because—in love there is no because, no reason, no explanation, no solutions.
Is how one is loved always so important? Is it so imperative that one should be loved absolutely or greatly? Would Fred say of me that I can love because I love others more than I love myself? Or is it Hugo who loves when he goes three times to the station to meet me because I have missed three trains? Or is it Fred, with his nebulous, poetic, delicate comprehension? Or do I love most when I say to Henry, “The destroyers do not always destroy. June has not destroyed you, ultimately. The core of you is a writer. And the writer is living.”
Suppose I don’t want Henry’s love. Suppose I say to him, “Listen, we are two adults. I’m sick of fantasies and emotions. Don’t mention the word ‘love.’ Let’s talk as much as we want and fuck only when we want it. Leave love out of it.” They are all so serious. Just this moment I feel old, cynical. I’m tired of demands, too. For an hour today I feel unsentimental.
When Henry hears Hugo’s beautiful, vibrant, loyal, heart-stirring voice over the telephone, he is angry at the amorality of women, of all women, of women like myself. He himself practices all the disloyalties, all the treacheries, but the faithlessness of a woman hurts him. And I am terribly distressed when he is in such a mood, because I have a feeling of being faithful to the bond between Hugo and me. Nothing that I live outside the circle of our love alters or diminishes it. On the contrary, I love him better because I love him without hypocrisy.
And then Hugo drives me home in the car, and he says, “Last night I was awake, and I thought of how there is a love which is bigger and more wonderful than fucking.” Because he had been ill for a few days and we had not made love, but slept in each other’s arms. I felt as if I would burst from my fragile shell. I felt my breasts heavy and full. But I was not sad. I thought, Darling, I am so rich tonight, but it is for you, too. It is not all for myself. I’m lying to you every day now, but see, I give you the joys I am given. The more I take into myself, the greater my love for you. The more I deny myself, the poorer I would be for you, my darling. There is no tragedy, if you can follow me in that equation.
I feel the need of telling [Henry] I love him because I do not believe it.
I have returned, by very devious roads, to Allendy’s simple statement that love excludes passion and passion love.
Still, I want Henry tonight, my love, my husband, whom I am going to betray soon with as much sorrow as I felt when I betrayed Hugo. I crave to love wholly, to be faithful. I love the groove in which my love for Henry has been running. Yet I am driven by diabolical forces outside of all grooves.
From Against Love by LAURA KIPNIS:
Consider the blaringly omnipresent propaganda beaming into our psyches on an hourly basis: the millions of images of lovestruck couples looming over us from movie screens, televisions, billboards, magazines, incessantly strong-arming us onboard the love train. Every available two-dimensional surface touts love. So deeply internalized is our obedience to this capricious despot that artists create passionate odes to its cruelty; audiences seem never to tire of the most repetitive and deeply unoriginal mass spectacles devoted to rehearsing the litany of its tormentors, forking over hard-earned dollars to gaze enraptured at the most blatantly propagandistic celebrations of its power, fixating all hopes on the narrowest glimmer of fleeting satisfaction.
As we know, “mature love,” that magical elixir, is supposed to kick in when desire flags, but could that be the problem right there? Mature love: it’s kind of like denture adhesive. Yes, it’s supposed to hold things in place; yes, it’s awkward for everyone when it doesn’t; but unfortunately there are some things that glue just won’t glue, no matter how much you apply.
…falling in love is the nearest most of us come to glimpsing utopia in our lifetimes (with sex and drugs as fallbacks)….
…falling in love…commits us to merging. Meaning that unmerging, when this proves necessary, is ego-shattering and generally traumatic. The fear and pain of losing love is so crushing that most of us will do anything to prevent it, especially when it’s not our choice. And since forestalling trauma is what egos are designed to do, with anxiety as an advance warning system (unfortunately a largely ineffective one), this will mean that falling in love also commits us to anxiety—typically externalized in charming behaviors like jealousy, insecurity, control issues (the list goes on)—or, in some cases, to externalized violence….
But love affairs can feel utterly transforming, and how few opportunities there are to feel that way in normal life, which by definition militates against transformation. You get to surrender to emotions you forgot you could have: to desire and to being desired (how overwhelming that can feel when it’s been a while), and the thrill of the new thing, of course, but what really keeps you glued to the phone till all hours of the night—conversations sparkling with soulfulness and depth you hadn’t known you possessed, exchanging those searching whispered intimacies—is a very different new love-object: yourself. The new beloved mirrors this fascinating self back to you, and admit it, you’re madly in love with both of them.
In his essay “Flirtation,” the quirky German sociologist Georg Simmel (a contemporary of Freud’s) notes that love has a tendency to expire with the fulfillment of its yearning. If love lies on a path from not having to having, Simmel says, invoking Plato, then possessing what you wanted changes the nature of the enterprise—and along with it, the pleasure in it. (Once you have something how can you want it?) Hence the evolution of flirting, a way of being suspended between having and not having, and keeping possibilities open. Being suspended between consent and refusal is the path to freedom, says Simmel; any decision brings flirtation to an end.
From Thus Spoke Zarathustra by FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE:
You cannot endure to be alone with yourselves and do not love yourselves enough: now you want to mislead your neighbor into love and gild yourselves with his mistake. …Your bad love of yourselves makes solitude a prison to you.
But let this be your honor: always to love more than you are loved and never to be second in this.
Thus the Devil spoke to me once: ‘Even God has his Hell: it is his love for man.’
And I lately heard him say these words: ‘God is dead; God has died of his pity for man.’
Where one can no longer love, one should—pass by!
From Women in Love by D.H. LAWRENCE:
“Pah—l’amour. I detest it. L’amour, l’amore, die Liebe—I detest it in every language. Women and love, there is no greater tedium,” he cried.
She was slightly offended. And yet, this was her own basic feeling. Men and love—there was no greater tedium.
“I think the same,” she said.
“A bore,” he repeated. “…I tell you what, I would give anything, everything, all your love, for a little companionship in intelligence…”