So while making my last post, I noticed that I sent that crazy ramble to my professor, and not the following which is what I meant to send:

Jacques Derrida states, “all responsible witnessing engages a poetic experience of language,” which is to say that the most responsible way to bear witness to an event is through a poetic language that does not claim to grasp the moment, capture it, or totalize it. Derrida also states that love is a question between “who” one loves or “what” one loves. The question is: does one love the other or some quality about the other. It is my belief that these statements can inform a certain reading of many different concepts that are depicted in literature, most obviously conceptions of love, but also conceptions of heartbreak. I believe that these moments in literature invoke Derrida’s conception of poetic language to try to convey to the reader a sense of these abstract concepts such as love and heartbreak. Furthermore, I believe that within the idea of conveying emotions beyond thematization in poetic language that Martin Heidegger’s conception of identity (Being) as always moving ahead of itself, as being-in-the-world-towards-others, rather than a static, non-moving, self-same identity, is the reason that love and heartbreak cannot be put into words and why it is that poetic language is the best way to convey these ideas .

Stemming from these ideas, I believe that there is a serious critical gap in exploring conceptions of heartbreak, which I believe follow the same conceptions as love. That is to say that heartbreak, like love, can best be explored through this poetic experience of language. Additionally, I believe that there is a phenomenology of heartbreak that has been explored but not explicitly put into words. Though not explicitly about heartbreak, as mentioned earlier, I believe that heartbreak can only be themetized through poetic language. I also believe that Harold Schweizer’s phenomenological look at enduring time in his book On Waiting can inform a view of heartbreak, which is after all, a waiting to “get over it.” These ideas intersect with Derrida when he examines ideas of mourning. Derrida explores having to carry on after an other has passed: “The survivor, then, remains alone….At the least, he[the survivor] feels solely responsible, assigned to carry both the other and his world, the other and the world that have disappeared” (140). But what happens when the world of the other is only gone from me? In heartbreak, the other is gone but not gone from the world, so while I carry the world of the other in me, the other’s world is not gone.

I feel that Schwiezer’s conception of waiting can inform these questions. Schwiezer outlines a theory of waiting using Henri Bergson. Basically, there are two temporalities: one thought and one lived (time and duration). Clocks give us thought time– an abstraction that is measured. Bergson gives an example of enduring time by saying that watching a lump of sugar melt in a glass of water gives us lived time– time that must be endured– a time that must be waited “willy-nilly.” This willy-nilly implies vacillation, which Bergson terms “impatience” (16). It is in this lived time, this time that is not calibrated to our will, that time becomes “time as the other than.” Duration then seems “other than” as in other than can be measured; therefore, it is time that is consciously endured rather than the time in which things get done (16): “In waiting, the hour cannot be turned into lunch; the waiter must live the hour” (Ibid.). The hour can not be a distracting; as Schwietzer puts it the hour can not be turned into a “lunch hour.”

What is implied here is that in waiting the waiter cannot defer or prolong, shorten or lengthen, his time and thus his “being.” In waiting the waiter feels his own being. I get here a feeling of Heidegger’s “being-towards-death.” From what I understand of Heidegger’s anxiety:

Heidegger argues that our ontic feelings of anxiety testify to the “groundlessness” of human existence, revealing an ineradicable insecurity which Heidegger connects to the fact that our existential trajectories – the life-projects, roles, and identities that define who we are – have “always already” been shaped by a past that we can never get behind and head off into a future in which these self-defining projects will always be incomplete, cut short by a death we can neither avoid nor control. In Heidegger’s famous phrase we exist as a “thrown project”: thrown out of a past we cannot get behind, we project ourselves into a future we can never get beyond. “Existence” (from the Latin Ek-sistere, out-standing) is this standing-out into time, a temporal suspension between natality and mortality (

If anxiety arises out of our existential trajectories, then wouldn’t we feel that groundlessness more when we are forced to endure time? If the anxiety is a result of being always-already shaped by a past we cannot get behind and being thrown into a future we can not head off, then wouldn’t we feel this anxiety in moments when we, as Schweizer puts it, “feel our being” in waiting– because in waiting our being cannot protract or contract, we vacillate, we are in this state of willy-nilly “will I, won’t I.” This dithering is made manifest in our pacing the room; The walking back and forth is the waiter wanting to get away from a body that endures– the body is always a reminder of mortality. (Again, I think of a “Being-towards-death”).

I extensively look at these conceptions of time and existential anxiety because I see in these phenomenological experiences much of what a phenomenology of heartbreak would feel/look like. In heartbreak, the heartbroken must endure time. He must wait to “get over” the person, and this “getting over” becomes problematic when thinking about what Derrida has to say about mourning. What happens then when the loved one is not dead but just gone and out of my life? Is there not a mourning there, but one that is much different (and yet eerily similar) to Derrida’s mourning. According to Derrida, in order for mourning to succeed, it must fail. Mourning is the getting over of a lost loved one, but does it not feel wrong to think we can get over the death of a beloved; therefore, Derrida’s conception of mourning is that is must fail in order to succeed, but in heartbreak, doesn’t the mourning have to succeed? But it can’t fully succeed because the person is not dead, just not there, which leaves us back to why Derrida says that mourning as “getting over” would seem odd, especially odd if the person is still alive, or so I would think. Or is it that mourning does succeed because we can finally get over the person? While this latter question implies a possible solution, I still find it problematic because, to use Derrida again, when the other is gone we must “carry the world of the other” but the world of the other hasn’t gone anywhere, just away from me. Yet I can’t help but to have the world of the other in me in dialogue.

Another possibility I see is that since, as Heidegger says, Dasien is always-already thrown forward and taking up possibilities and future possibilities, is heartbreak, then, the realization of having certain possibilities no longer available? This is what existential anxiety is, after all, so is heartbreak then just an intense experience of existential anxiety? To contrast that idea, is love then the suddenly multiple possibilities before me?

I think, therefore, that there is a connection to be made between love and heartbreak, which I think phenomenologically are the same experience interpreted in different ways, and I think ways to interpret these emotions are through Derrida’s conception of poetic language and through a philosophy of waiting. I think that the conditions of possibilities for these ideas are found in Heidegger’s conception of Dasein, and I think that heartbreak, like waiting, can be interpreted through Heidegger’s idea of “present-at-hand ”