I was at a party this weekend talking to some friends and a discussion about crushes and love came up somehow. I was trying to explain to them some ideas I have been kicking around in my head ever sine I completed my thesis. These are thoughts I have had since watching two documentaries. 

The first question when it comes to “love” is: what is love? How do we define it? Love is one of those things, I think, that can’t be described in language. Anything you have to say about love is only about love, not love itself. This idea comes from Derrida:

The who or the what of love, like the who or the what of being: We cannot place our finger on the “thing” that it is. And I was unable to explain this to my friends (but that might have had something to do with the alcohol they were drinking). 

After thinking about it for a while, I thought of our ideas about love, and how these ideas (and this idea of the “que” or the “qua”) can be seen in Cinderella. Here we have a “love” story, but what is it that the prince falls in love with? Essentially a foot. What is going on in that story that the prince can’t recognize his love by sight, sound, touch, smell, but by the show she wears? Thank goodness that her foot didn’t bloat after a night of dancing, or that none of the other women in the land has the same size foot as Cindy. But it is this essentialism that defines our Western conception of love. 

Looking at Romeo and Juliet, we have Juliet saying that “a rose by any other name still smells as sweet”– and it is this rose that we equate with love. This essential something– this self-same identical person that we fall in love with. This is what Derrida points out so aptly. How many times do you hear about a relationship that falls apart because someone in the relationship “changed.” :

For some reason we equate change with something bad (at least in a relationship). Isn’t this what ruins the relationship in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall? Alvie meets Annie, falls in love with her, encourages her to take classes and “better” herslef, and then when she changes, she outgrows him and they break up. So what was it that Alvie fell in love with? Was it Annie? But what about Annie did he fall in love with? And what did Annie see in Alvie? What about Alvie was any different? He is a comletely static character, which is why the audience can see why Annie leaves him, but where does that leave love?

I finally understood this opening scene when taking a Woody Allen class:

This idea of not wanting to belong to a club that would have you as its member is what I understand Lacan is talking about when he talks about desire. Whenever I’ve been in a decent relationship (and this is, more and more, applying to friendships even) I always wonder why the other person likes me. What do I posses that the other person likes and wants to be around.  Being at this party as a non-drinker, non-smoker, I have realized that I am getting a little boring in my middle-age, so why do people hang out with me? (I am exaggerating here for the purpose of discusion– because as I say these things, I can also say that whenever a girl turns me down I always wonder what is wrong with her: I am smart, and funny, and handsome– but it all goes back to the idea of what is “love”)– Rather, I should probably emphasize “what is love?”

I think, ultimately, that we shouldn’t put any kind of label on love and try to define it in words. That is the job of the poet: to write about love in a mysterious way. And here I wish I knew more about Hiedeggar and poetic language. 

It is through Hiedegger, afterall, that I get this idea of love as not something concrete. As Derrida says, the question of love is the same as the question of “being.” Is being a who or a what? If we take being as being this constantly thrown forward then there is no “thing” that we can call love (or being). If being is being-in-the-world-with-others-towards-death, then it is not a static self-sameness identity that we can grasp. There is no rose or foot to put our shoe on, in this case. 

In Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters, this is clearly seen. Here there is a novel where the “who” and the “what” are constantly changing. The main characters are constantly changing their identity and even there psychical bodies, so there is no static who or what to love. But the story is one about love regardless of not having a static thing to love. This is true love– an unconditional one that stays no matter what the object of love “is.” 

Love is like being then– always thrown forward ahead of itself and never static. Love is not a foot (that is a fetish– that is lust). Maybe there are so many divorces because people don’t realize that if their partner changes, that is a good thing, and that maybe they should change too. If you don’t move a muscle, that muscle atrophies and dies. Love and being are the same way, no?

And just for fun: Where does love come from? I think Zizek answers that question in an interesting manner: