This content was published first in The Sunday Letters Journal: https://sundayletters.larrygmaguire.com/p/does-anyone-really-love-anyone-else by Larry G. Maguire on Wed, 29 Mar 2023 12:42:20 GMT
“We never love anyone. What we love is the idea we have of someone. It’s our own concept, our own selves, that we love.” Fernando Pessoa
When I think about the one I love, I wonder who she is, what she is beyond the presentation she gives me or my interpretation of that. What does she really think? What does she really feel? What is it in me that gives her what she needs? Maybe I don’t or only partially give her what she needs. Who or what am I to her? I only partly exist. I exist in the physical sense, it seems, and I appear to exist in a way that is more than this, but I can’t be sure of either.
When two human beings are immersed in one another’s bodies, who is really there? Who is she to me, and who am I to her? In the dark, our bodies could be anyone or no one. We get lost in the ecstasy of the act. I disappear, and she disappears, and all there is is something inexplicable. And after, we pretend again. Or were we just pretending?
In his apparently depressing account of life, Fernando Pessoa suggests that no one loves anyone. We create an idea of the perfect, or perhaps merely acceptable, partner, and we fall in love with that—become obsessed with that. We attach to them this idea of that someone we could love, and they accept it, and we accept them. And so they wear our mask, and we wear theirs. It’s like an unspoken agreement, tacit compliance to come together and play out this life together while pretending, unconscious, and afraid to be left alone.
For Lacan, the situation was similar1 . Something is missing, a sense of absence, an inner vacuum. It is a feeling that we had something before, and now it’s gone, but we don’t know what it is. And so we look perhaps forever. In the intervening period that we live our lives, we find substitutes—people and things—that serve to fill the gap inside. But these are all insubstantial. Things and people die, and then we are faced with the inescapable truth that this vacuum cannot be filled. On our last day, we return to it and then understand again that the void inside was really the inability to see ourselves. Therefore, who I think I am and who she is is an illusion we have conspired to create.
Is there an aspect of us all that knows the truth of things? Do we really know that it’s all one big beautiful, sometimes horrific sham, but we decide to play it out regardless? What is my insecurity and doubt, except my understanding of the truth that life is fleeting and that to love another person is merely a convenience. A way to avoid the reality is that whatever I am in this world, I am ultimately alone. I came into this world alone, and I will go out alone, and in the confines of my mind and my thought and feeling that I am also alone.
And that realisation doesn’t have to be a problem. Maybe all of you are the same me that I think I am and that this experience we call life and all its problems doesn’t have to be problematic. To realise we are, in fact, alone is, in a way, the freedom we are all looking for.
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1 No Subject – Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis. (2019, May 26). Lost object – no subject – encyclopedia of psychoanalysis . Retrieved March 29, 2023, from https://nosubject.com/Lost_object
2 Pessoa, F. (2017). The Book of Disquiet: the complete edition . New Directions Publishing.