The Slovenian philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, argues “The one measure of true love is: you can insult the other.” Zizek points out that viciousness can emerge from intense passion. What our culture calls love is the opposite of love: it is manipulation, fear, control, possessiveness and anxiety.
In the film Great Expectations, the other is always departing, going on a journey. The solitary voice at the beginning of the film tells the story of being in the gulf. Love engulfs as we search for an anchor or stable point.
With desire, I wish to be glued to the other and to drink from the same source—one set of lips passing into the other. Diderot writes, “Bring your lips to mine so that out of my mouth my soul may pass into yours.” These words tell us nothing about love. If love were in the mouth then dentists would be the masters of love.
What do we love? The sparkle of the eyes done with a Revlon glow, the curve of a body part, the jump of the heartbeat that quickens the blood? We love the image and the imagery. We love what we think the other to be. This is mere fantasy. The person is not loved. Love is loved. The feeling of love is loved. But love does not desire itself. Gaudium is defined as the pleasure experienced by a soul. I love for the pleasure given to me by your body. If we search or scrutinize the body of the other, what will we find? Is this body/corpse the cause of my desire?
The French psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan argues, “I love you is not a sentence. It does not transmit meaning.” Roland Barthes continues by writing “To try to write love is to confront the muck of language: that region of hysteria where language is both too much too little.” Some chase after these three words. When spoken the other expects a response. How should one respond? What would be a sufficient response to “I love you.”: “I love you too.” “Great!,” “I like you a lot,” or “I am a trap that you need to avoid now!”
The Greek poet Sappho describes love with these words:
For when I glance at you
even an instant I can no
longer utter a word.
My tongue thickens to a lump
and beneath my skin breaks
out a subtle fire.
My eyes are blind, my ears
filled with humming and
great streams done my body.
I am seized by a sudden
shuddering. I turn greener
than grass and in a moment I shall die.
Sappho gives us an excellent description of having the flu. Roland Barthes writes, “Love at first sight is a hypnosis. I am fascinated by an image, at first shaken, electrified, stuffed, paralyzed.”
Anthony de Mello argues that we are never in love with anyone. We are in love with the idea we have of that person. This explains how we “fall in and out of love.” De Mello urges us to stop complaining. Why should we expect any better? He urges us to expect the worst because all of us are selfish and act from selfish desires. De Mello shows us that people are not nice. Once we drop our false ideas and see through our illusions, we might be able to learn what true love is. Love is the opening. As Katherine of Sienna writes, “In you, I think of you. But to think of you means I care for you.” The challenge is to combine universal love with concrete love. If the mystics are to be believed, love shines through all things. It illuminates the world. Love is always becoming. It is in-process and never static.
When the heart is hard, anger and hate have taken root. Is it possible to excuse the hardness from the human heart? Can the disease of hate be extracted so that it can no longer coil and recoil? Can love twist away from the hate that mutates the flesh? Can love be unbound from hate so that we may finally learn what love is? The aporia of love forces us to the teachings of Jesus and the starting phrase that love must love what is most hateful if love is to exist. He preached, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…if you love those who love you what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” While advancing this hard saying, Jesus laments, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” Jesus laments the lack of not having a bed. Bed originally meant a sleeping place dug in the ground. The link between the bed as a site of love, place of birth, and location of death is clear. The bed as Lacan shows is the place where we “squeeze each other tight.” Squeeze is related to the word queasy, which means to wound, hurt and make uneasy. Lacan is implying that there is no love without hate. But he fails to see that love is that which will make us rise.
In his seminar Encore, Lacan shows how love always fails. Think here of how one falls in love which is to identify with what the person is not. One can fall for the woman who wears a pearl necklace or for the man who wears black. One can fall for a fragrance rather than love the person who wears it. Lacan attempts to show that the person stripped bare is rarely loved. We confuse love with appetite. The book of Ecclesiastes expresses the problem of appetite, “All human toil is for the mouth, yet the appetite is not satisfied.” The mouth is like a cave, cavern or pit that devours what is placed in its folds. Because the mouth must devour, and the stomach digest and the anus excrete, appetite is never satisfied.
Appetite from the Latin adpetere means to go to, to seek out, and to have desire towards. This type of un-ending desire is a nuisance as Lacan rightly points out. The cycle of seeking out, obtaining, becoming bored, seeking out again is what the Buddhists call the wheel of suffering or samsara. Lacan argues, “the law of the heart…is a bigger nuisance than paranoia.” Para-noia means beyond the mind. Love may leave us outside of our right mind. Lacan shows how the other person can be turned into an image, an idea or object. The other can be reduced to breast or phallus. In this oral live affair, the person becomes an object to cling to, to suck, to lick, to play with and spit out. The oral approach to love flees from the person once they are revealed something that smells, complains or irritates. Such “love” is delusional because it misleads. This delusional love can become a nuisance. Nuisance from the Latin nocere means injury, hurt and harm. Related to the nuisance is the word noxious. Noxious comes from the word neks, which in Greek means a dead body. Such love kills and devours. To love the image and the imaginary means the singular person is not loved. For Lacan, it is best to avoid the declaration of love since that which we seek cannot be found in the other’s body nor in the images we project.
To love is to be exposed in nakedness beyond nudity. Love is not about fusion. There is always a fracture that prohibits complete fusion into One. Here the message of the Nietzschean film Little Miss Sunshine would be that love can shine through the gaps of our being-fucked. This love can save us from motel rooms where modern wreckage rests on a heroin soaked mattress. The film shows us that even if death is behind us in close proximity, it can push us forward to love and transform those around us. The love that is stronger than death can shift us into another mode of living even when the clutch on our yellow submarine mini-van is worn out. This loves drives us to affirm life with an exuberant joy. The one who lives in joy does not commit suicide when mere happiness departs.