My last few posts are linked: Love is a form of hubris that entails a loss of the self.
1) Love is not only something real but something radically real, something that changes us and makes us different to what we were. When we fall in love it is only ever for the first time, but love does not regress to some original dynamic - it creates afresh by bursting us open. It is a force that is precisely out of our control: Instead, we are placed eagerly in its hands. Love is a process of change that is always possible - 'we' cannot be 'beyond' love; love is a force that moves to the 'beyond' of 'us'.
2) We do not know and cannot know what love is. The process of love itself is unthinkable. We undergo this or that love, we can express it more or less, become more or less in love, but we cannot capture it within our concepts about ourselves - there can be no social history of love, nor any personal history that is permitted to say 'what it is'. What we can talk about is 'how it is' with us, which includes any talk about how it has been (we can recite our personal history of love to ourselves, dispassionately, but this shows our present constitution, our relative inability to be in love).
3) It is by a system of signs that we understand love. Our character is put under strain, and this is how we feel it - violent emotions disrupt and distort 'us'. We endure and then we break.
"Love is a gross exaggeration of the difference between one person and everybody else" - George Bernard Shaw
In this view, there are objective standards of differences between subjects that become in a sense inflamed and distorted when we fall in love. When we are in love, our social determinations tend to tear apart, but from Shaw's point of view this is something to be understood in terms of social reality, with the message that we should bring love back down to earth.
I ask - why would we do this? For what purpose? It seems that social purpose has overriden love, that the self has been able to deal with the emotions it feels within the systems of meaning it already inhabits. But love is something that we temper, qualify and make useful precisely when we are not in love. When we are in love things stop making sense.
We ask ourselves: "What good is this love to me?" But it doesn't matter. It never mattered. The idea of self-sacrifice never starts to become important; the questions of what we lose and what we gain hang relative to a 'reality' that reality has already dissipated. We cannot trace shadows in a room full of light.
In love there are no conceptual participants other than those which become eternal, and real love knows no laws but its own:
"Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
That alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! It is an ever fixed mark,
That looks upon tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, though his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom:
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved."
-William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
The reader might contend that this is idealistic; a standard romanticisation of love that doesn't fit the facts. But what facts do we attempt to make 'love' fit?
Since love happens immanently to a given subject, there is no equivocity involved, but only ebbs and flows of emotion as they swell up within us. Love gives expression to a return of difference (to use Deleuze's terms), which means that everything we think we know about love misses the point - that love returns as forever new feelings. Feeling something and trying to recontextualise it through the comparative history of people you have loved is to seek to chain love to similarity that stays within the idea of the self and does not go beyond it (i.e. does not speak of love at all).
For Deleuze, thinking is something that constantly pushes the boundaries of thought, and should not be assimilated via preformed images, since in this way the mind only reflects upon itself (albeit with certain intensities) - it sees its categories of recognition out in the world: Good morning Theaetetus. In the same way, if we are truly to begin to love, we must learn to love afresh, anew, for the first time. To see in expressions of love only promises made a thousand times before is to see our own emotional structures reflected back upon us, and by this means we put love in shackles. To learn to be in love is to be aware, when something connects, that it connects. This means emotional struggle and toil, as we begin to love with greater depth and subtlety of emotion. We struggle to be more in love because we begin to affirm that we are in love, and this is sufficient.
Let us take a case, and one that has become very dear to me - Spenser's Amoretti. Sonnet 30 of the Amoretti reads as follows (translated from the Middle English):
"MY love is like to ice, and I to fire;
how comes it then that this her cold so great
is not dissolved through my so hot desire,
but harder grows the more I her intreat?
Or how comes it that my exceeding heat
is not delayed by her heart frozen cold:
but that I burn much more in boiling sweat,
and feel my flames augmented manifold?
What more miraculous thing may be told
that fire which all things melts, should harden ice:
and ice which is congealed with senseless cold,
should kindle fire by wonderful device.
Such is the power of love in gentle mind,
that it can alter all the course of kind."
Love overrides all our assumed typologies, moral positions and 'lifestyle choices'. Knowing this to be the case, shouldn't we avoid love: isn't love something that is profoundly useless, that takes away the strengths we use to move through life, and that causes us harm? Shouldn't we resist love, and preserve notions of the self? Shouldn't we forgo the anarchy of becoming-what-we-will-be for the tidy management of reality as a list of social contracts? Isn't this the only way to survive?
No. This is death itself.
Love is not a contract that we enter into, nor can it ever be. Love that can be accepted given prearranged conditions is not love at all, since 1) to fall in love is to be changed, and 2) the idea of a change that does not change anything cannot be called a change. The sense of responsibility we feel toward each other is not engendered through a contract that one of us must propose and the other accept, as this is merely 'responsibility' in its abstract, legal formulation. Love does not obey the law, and in asking it to we leave the affirmation and expression of love behind, and with it our chance of truly connecting with someone, all for the sake of security. Why do we care about each other's feelings? Is it because we are obligated, or because we empathise? It must (for the love of life!) be because we make the attempt to understand.
Permit me to ask - if you, dear reader, were in love, and this love was not returned, would you expect the other person to treat you kindly and gently only because they felt an obligation to? Does their kind behaviour now bring you comfort? What of the thought that the other person might have, i.e. 'Well, I didn't ask for your feelings, so I don't have an obligation to deal with them'? I hope we would want to point out that the opposing circumstance, in which the feelings were asked for, is just as barren and bereft of life as the present one.