We continue what we started last week when we made our first passage down the way of love by coming face-to-face with the personal revolution of the question, “Does anybody love me?”
At a certain point, though, to ask oneself the question, “Does anybody love me?” must give way. Not because it is insufficient, but because it is not the final stage along the path of love. It needs purification. If we stop here, we stop at an abyss. To ask, “Does anybody love me?” is to open oneself up to vulnerability, nakedness.
…it thus assigns me an irreversible dependency on that which I can neither master, nor provoke, nor even envisage. By opening the very question of assurance, I become a lack to myself… I am, therefore I am lacking. (41)
Perhaps this nakedness is too much? Perhaps I cannot stand at the brink of this abyss and tolerate my options? Maybe it is not possible to cross it? So, then maybe I will make the move that so many people make – I will try to assure myself by loving myself, and that will be enough. Something in us must always know this is a despair-laden fool’s game from the start.
If I had, strangely, to lay claim to loving myself, I would thus have to assure myself by myself of an authority who surpasses, by far, my own expectation and my own lack, so as not only to give me assurance, but above all to reassure that very assurance. To the question, “Does anybody love me?” an answer that is only affirmative is not enough – only the excess that surprises and surpasses would suffice. Thus, to love myself, I would have to go beyond myself, in order to respect the measure of love, which has none. I would demand of myself an excess of myself over myself. But who can add one cubit to his stature? (46)
Okay, so maybe I will indeed have to look for this answer, this assurance, from an “out there”. But, if I look around me, in my situation, and try to find this ‘out there’ that loves me, where can I find it? Nothing seems to present itself to me with enough urgency and “excess”. I demand it feverishly and end up demanding it from something that cannot give me that “excess” that I need. Looking around, I will find nothing but idols, which always end up provoking hate. So, not only will I not find the excessive love I need, but I will also end up hating the other for not meeting the demands, and myself for making the demands. Is this our tragic destiny – to begin in love and result in hate?
This leads us to the next release along the path that opens to new horizons. Strangely, its not enough to find that some one loves you – unless you are transformed into a lover yourself (one who yields/loses himself to love from all directions). To receive the assurance of being loved and remain indifferent to it is a kind of self-contradiction – a kind of suicide. So the question “Does anybody love me?” pushes us into the next – “Can I love first?” (In a sense they are like two eyes on the same face).
It is among the most awe-inspiring, scintillating and deep things in life that we, who are lack personified, can merely send off into love. Like standing full-breasted at the bow of a ship, we can launch out into the abyss and find ever-increasing notes of holistic pleasure and triumph. “I become amorous simply because I want to!” (93). There is something that “issues from me deep within an elsewhere than is more inward to me than myself” that allows me this unimaginable privilege to love, to be a lover.
What is more, the lover never has anything to lose; he could not even lose himself if he wanted to, because giving without a guarantee, far from destroying or impoverishing him, attests all the more clearly to his royal privilege – the more he gives and the more he loses and disperses, the less he himself is lost, because abandon and waste define the singular, distinctive, and inalienable character of loving. Either love is distributed at a loss, or it is lost as love. (71)
And it is in this loss that assurance still comes to me.
[I have] solely the assurance that I love – which is enough… I have the assurance that I am making love… it comes from an elsewhere that is more inward to me than myself: the elsewhere that comes upon me in the very gesture in which I give up what I have (my gift) and what I am, in to assure myself only of what I truly make in this instant – love. I receive the assurance of my dignity as a lover. (74-75)
So I must be caught up in and by love. I must give way to it. Or I find that I am not. I am in vain – I am, and I don’t care. It is not enough to be thirsty to assure myself of meaning (though it is necessary), I must also jump in the river! I must hear a question in the depths of me that shows me my lack, vulnerability, poverty and insufficiency. And then I must also (in practically the same moment) find myself in the midst of this power that catches me with a divine madness and sends me forth like a wave hurtling towards the shore of assurance and affirmation.
I must call out to the abyss and I must hear a voice returning in an echoing, excessive wave that overtakes me.
Deep calls unto deep / at the thunder of your cataracts; / all your waves and your billows / have gone over me. / By day the Lord commands his steadfast love; / and at night his song is with me, / a prayer to the God of my life. (Psalm 42:7-8)
This is the “excess” I need. This is life itself. This is how I can assure myself against vanity (“What’s the use?”).
I find myself at the moment I hear the eternal whisper approach me saying, “What is this love that loves us?” and when, fulfilling all hope, I find that I love loving for the love of love.
And I don’t have to be that good at it:
At the instant of his initiative, the lover does not know if he acts of his own accord or under an influence, nor under what influences; nor does he know any better what he is truly undertaking, or how far he will succeed. And we cannot ask more from the lover, incomparably more than what his conscious power can cover. (91)