Try googling “Love.” You’ll begin so far down the disambiguation tree that you’ll give up pretty soon. “The important things about love,” you’ll think, “are things I can already say, or think of.” And then write down, of course.
Maybe you’ll be on the bus, like I was, in between opportunities to do something you either really want to do or really need to do, and so will jump excitedly at the thought of thinking about, googling, and writing about something as dispersed and unwieldy and esoteric and language-blooming as “LOVE.”
Lately you’ve written about HOPE and BEAUTY because those are also that sort of thing to think about, brutally between what you want and what you need to do and— now that you think about it/ realize what you’ve just written— somehow very amenable to traditional-style tattoos, two of which you have, one an ironic and earnest homage to your mother, the other a portrait of your ex, who you tend to think of as your one true love.
But then you’ll get an email with a link to the latest update of a newsletter/ blog written by an up and coming and truly brilliant writer, and that text will be about love, both in the sense that it sort of orbits or hangs around the idea but also mentions it explicitly, as well as better than you ever could.
Interestingly enough, that is when you’ll actually start to write this.
That essay, though, turns out to be more about consolation, which means “comfort received by a person after a loss or disappointment.” The relationship between love and consolation is a lot like the relationship between “comfort” and “a person” in that definition. The essay reads like a critique of that relationship, though: of the lazy assumption that one of the things love does is consoles you. Or that love does anything. As though it were a merely a subject. And that feels right to you.
But you’ve been thinking about Mr. Rogers, and this quote of his that reads
“Love is at the root of everything— all learning, all relationships. Love or the lack of it.”
The words “the lack of it” tacked onto the end have felt incredibly brutal and increasingly necessary to you: the high relief of something’s opposite or absolute lack isn’t just conceptual for love, love as not a subject but as something else, something that bears the characteristics of something that motors (subject) but also the movement of that motoring (verb), which I suppose means the form. Love is form or only knowable as such. And its absence has a form too, marked by love, or it’d be something else entirely, known by it’s movements and its effects.
Everyday you remember that you like to define “form” as “the shape of the way something moves.”
The funny thing is that some of the movements and effects of love— pain and struggle— are also the movements and effects of its lack. Maybe there is no such thing as an actual complete lack of love?
What does lack of love move toward? Nothingness? If that’s true then the absolute nothing of love mirrors the absolute concept of nothing itself— “something else entirely”— which feels interesting. But then you remember that this is actually a super old theological discourse, where folks pitted the idea of
- existence itself as love and nothing as the lack of love— which means that existing is a product/ part-and-parcel to love, and that heaven is ultimately expanding love/ ultimate something, while hell is simply the return to nothingness, to nihil
- everything possible being within the realm of existence, both good and evil, love and it’s lack— a cosmology where nothing is impossible.
And then you remember that the reason the first version— which you like better— was postulated was in order to preserve the supreme and uber and superlative unknowability of God himself, which was something they felt they had to prove because at one point Paul or someone said something along the lines of “we can’t call God good because he is beyond that— our limited conception of good or evil or whatever is necessarily surpassed by the just super ultimate beyondness of God” (paraphrase), which was why Dionysius the Areopagite used the term “supra-existent” which sounds both badass and right.
Then you realize that your avowed fondness for apophatic theology has either informed or simply luckily syncs up with your conception of beauty, which is basically that something has to be at least a little bit sad to be beautiful and the world is very much at least a little bit sad and is therefore beautiful which means that, coupled with the affirmation of simply existing as being good and a product of love neatly brings beauty into the fold and now you’re not sure if you’re simply finding ways to console yourself.
As a subtext you remember a wiki-rabbit hole you went down this morning that started with remembering how David Bowie played Pilate in one of the Jesus movies, and you wanted to find a screencap of the moment he looks into the middle distance and asks “what is truth,” and how that traced to [Alethea] which traced to [Lethe] which to [“World Disclosure”] which traced to Heidegger’s [The Origin of the Work of Art] and ultimately to the [Hermeneutic Circle] which you’ve bookmarked with the mental note that you need to brush up on that even though you feel as though you’ve sort of got it figured out.
The real question is whether or not Pilate’s question was rhetorical.