excerpts on love.

Marc Chagall. The Birthday. 1915. The MOMA, New York

Becoming a person entails self-organization; no matter how rich and multiplicitous it is, no matter how “true” or authentic, self-structure forecloses and truncates many dimensions of experience. Density and complexity are inevitable sacrificed in favor of simplicity and dependability. In the very distinction between self and not-self, a grid is superimposed upon the complex interpenetrability between between self and other. Loss of richness, immersion, and density is an inevitable feature of development, of becoming a person.

Is romantic love something we can will to develop and intend to maintain? When we are tired of it or distressed by it, can we will or intend romantic love to diminish or to cease altogether? Or if romantic love is outside our conscious, willful control, is it initiated, run, and terminated by some sort of hidden agent, a subconsciousness within us? Are there multiple intentions, dispersed motives, that converge to determine our romantic feelings? Or alternatively, might we regard powerful emotional experiences like romantic love as generated out of some combination of conscious agency and unconscious motives? If “I” give my love to you, what exactly am I giving and who is the “I” making the offering, and who, by the way, are you?

We want and need many different things at once: dependability and surprise, having and longing, knowing and imagining. And in our passionate relationships we feel many things in rapid succession: desire, vulnerability, adoration, betrayal, hatred, pathos, guilt, and possibly renewal. But it is no simple matter to determine whether the firm stability we long for is reality, illusion, or delusion, and whether castle-building draws one away from life or generates a domain within which a more vibrant, meaningful life can be created.

The cultivation of romance in relationships requires two people who are fascinated by the ways in which, individually and together, they generate forms of life they hope they can count on. It entails a tolerance of the fragility of those hopes, woven together from realities and fantasies, and an appreciation of the ways in which, in the rich density of contemporary life, realities often become fantasy and fantasies often become reality.

— Stephen A. Mitchell, Can Love Last?


2 responses to “excerpts on love.

  1. I disagree with your Chagall interpretation. I see man not living up to his duty to love the woman, only giving her hapless consideration when it suits him. Why is his backed turned to her? Why does he float away? Why does it look so painful for him to express love?

  2. We write our own truths.

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