The True Face of Love (II)

Second Part
Confirming in Being
Tomás Melendo

 

Stay on track!

Careful!

Don’t be annoyed if I insist that there are many ways of studying a text, just as there are many ways of observing reality. Often we do not notice something’s existence or we let certain attributes of a person pass by unnoticed simply because we are not paying attention.

Something similar happens with books. We have to put our mind to work tirelessly to make the most of what they have. If this does not happen, we may very easily miss issues that are clearly presented, but that mean nothing to us because of our lack of interest or attention.

Thus, before you begin this next section, I would like you to stop and think about the following questions.

 

• Explain the reasons —if any— that would lead you not to seek the good for the people you love. Develop your answer and explain as you see fit.

• Do you think there is some way of summarizing the goods we have to give to the people we love? Try to do so.

• In your opinion, where does true love begin? What would be the first and most radical thing that someone experiences when they fall in love or as they grow more and more in love? How would you express what you desire to happen for the one you love most?

• As Cicero states, “Love is nothing other than loving the beloved without self-interest and without looking for anything in return.” This is a fairly common statement and it will surely not be cause for amazement. But when he adds that the benefits of friendship come precisely in the measure and proportion that one does not go looking for them, doesn’t it sound like a merely rhetorical phrase, a kind of adornment without a real foundation, something that “sounds good” but at bottom is not feasible?

However, if we study happiness, we meet up time and again with suggestions along the same lines. What do you think of all that?

 

Before straying even further from the topic, I invite you to jump right in.

1. The goods of the beloved…

I suggested earlier that the nucleus of this text would consist in clarifying the following question: what should be the good I desire and pursue for my beloved? How do I give concrete expression to my love for the other, for others?

As we prepare to answer, two paths open up before us: that of analysis and that of synthesis.

If we take the first path, that of a photographic and detailed description of the benefits we should give to our loved ones, the path will become infinite, since I should pursue all the goods that could serve my loved ones insofar as they are within my reach.

This comes with one aforementioned condition, however: that it is about real, objective help that can truly perfect the personal greatness of those for whom I obtain it.

But then our task becomes endless, since the number of these goods is limitless.

For why should I refrain from offering an advantage to my wife, to my children, to my closest friends, to my neighbors, even my acquaintances… as long as that benefit is at hand and contributes in some way to their improvement or perfecting? Have we not seen on other occasions that doing good (approving and promoting it) is one of the requirements that reality itself —people in particular and above all— impose on the human being?

So, setting out on this path leads us to an alley —not a dead end, but a side road with no end. It is what the classics called an impasse.

I should pursue all the goods that could help those I love insofar as these goods are within reach.

… are reduced to two

Let us try the other path, that of synthesis. Now the question becomes simpler.

We can affirm that all the goods of the beloved are reduced in the end to two:

a) That the person be, that he exist.

b) And that he be good, that he achieve his plenitude as a person, his perfection, and with it, what we call happiness or bliss.

If we think it through slowly, anything authentically good that we could desire for someone is summed up in these two main goals: that he be, and that he be good.

Or rather, that he be and that he be good… and anything that helps reach those objectives, only insofar as it does so.

All the goods of the beloved are reduced to two: that he be and that he be good.

 

IV. That the beloved exist

 

Don’t give up yet, don’t give up, please…!

 

Careful!

There are so many ways of reading or studying a text and observing reality! Quite often, we may not notice something or we may let certain properties or characteristics of a person, animal, or thing pass by unnoticed… simply because we are not looking for them.

Something similar happens with books. We have to awaken a healthy curiosity to find what they can teach us. If this does not happen, we may very easily end up not even noticing obvious and well-developed issues.

Thus, before you read this section, I would like you to try to answer these questions or at least reflect on them.

I assure you that you will thank me, if you truly want to know reality for yourself, which is the only way of truly knowing it.

 

• It is likely that my way of seeing love may seem excessively intellectual and cold to you. The idea of seeking out the good is fine. But what about the passion, enthusiasm, and thrill that is proper to a person in love? Is there room in this approach for such phenomena, which really cannot be denied? Try to look for a gap in the coordinates I have marked out; I assure you that there is one.

• To make it harder for you and to help you to reflect: in what proportion and in what way can a person who is ungifted or self-debased be loved? Should we seek their good no matter what, or do we love them with the ardor proper to romantic loves? Could it not be in both ways?

• We return to the same issue. Isn’t wanting the beloved to be good as a fundamental manifestation of my love rather namby-pamby and a bit removed from what we ask of love these days? I confess, if it is any consolation, that years ago, while we were eating, my youngest daughter said that she did not want to be like her sisters “because being good is too boring.” What do you think about it?

• In short: can we love passionately just by wanting the other to be better and better?

 

If your answer is no, then I tell you: we can.

1. Saying yes

As I have already noted, loving a person is, in essence, about confirming them, saying yes to them, not so much with words —although sometimes also— but with one’s whole life: with our qualities and our defects, when we recognize them and face them in the right way.

Loving means giving our entire being —intellect, will, affectivity, attitudes, skills, possessions, capacity for self-giving and service, reachable or unreachable dreams— to shore up the being of the person we love.

It means pouring out all that we are, feel, can do, desire, have, or even remotely hope to have, to support the one we love, so that the beloved will unfold and develop until they reach their culmination of perfection.

The question is of old, at least from the time of Aristotle. But in our times, it is perhaps Josef Pieper who has been most determined to highlight the following: when we fall in love —or become more and more in love, which is perhaps the point of marriage, since if not, there would be no sense in getting married at all— the first thing that arises within are feelings and convictions like: It’s fabulous that you exist! I want you to exist with all the strength of my soul! What a wonder, what a joy, what a delight that you were created!

Seen in that way, loving would consist, in the final analysis, in “applauding God,” telling him: “With this person, you have really outdone yourself” or “Now you have really shown what you can do” or “Hats off to you this time!”

Bécquer gave more polished expression to the same idea with his enduring verse:

Today earth and heaven smiled upon me, / today sunlight reaches to my soul’s depth, / today I saw her…, I saw her and she looked at me… / today I believe in God!1

And thus, love, if it is lawful —and not these sad, self-centered falsifications so prevalent today— always draws one closer to God. Love also draws us closer to Him when we are not aware of it or of the existence of infinite Love. God always encourages, and that is ultimately the important thing, even when you, dear reader, or I do not know him.

Plato caught a glimpse of it, with his greatness and his limitations. For him, both philosophy and love —conceived as eros— raise us up to the highest Good, although in different ways: through the intellect and through the life we live, through love. However, he did not establish a clear separation between the two of them.

Giovanni Reale expresses it more or less in these words: Eros is a power that raises us up to the God, and the erotic in turn manifests itself as an alogical way that leads to the Absolute.

Loving a person is, in essence, saying yes to them, not so much with words, but with one’s whole life.

2. Saying it effectively

On the other hand, the confirmation in being generated by love is not just a whim, a kind of inconsistent desire: quite the contrary, similar to what happens in the creative act,2 love between human beings has the principal and inevitable effect of making the beloved really real (for the one who loves). Love makes that person truly exist for me.

Although this affirmation may seem a bit abstruse at first, it is easy to illustrate through an example.

When we go on an outing or take a trip, when we move from one place to another or attend a show or a meeting, we often cross paths with hundreds and even thousands of people about whom we can say absolutely nothing, people whom we would not even be able to recognize later on, and who have not influenced nor will influence our behavior in any way. It can be said, therefore, that none of them exist for us: “we couldn’t care less” if they had not been born or if other people existed instead of them.

But when I come home or go to work, when I meet with a group of friends or acquaintances, people I do appreciate, all of them exist for me. They awaken feelings and reflections, urge me to care about them, and change my behavior, which is the clearest manifestation of the other’s real and consequential presence to me. In other words, they involve me in the material and spiritual details that make their lives more fruitful and joyful… because I do behold them as real.

Juan Ramón Jiménez expressed it brilliantly, with details that not only create a beautiful hymn to the dignity of any human existence, but are above all a great exaltation of motherhood:

Whenever we returned home by way of the Calle de San José, the retarded boy was at the door of his house sitting on his little chair, watching the others go by. He was one of those poor children who never receive the gift of speech or the gift of grace; he was a cheerful child, but sad to see; everything to his mother, nothing to anyone else.3

These last words underline the colossal reality that for a mother, as for anyone who truly loves, the child, brother, or friend is her everything who imbues value on the rest of the universe and makes it be and be good. And that everything is not exclusive to just one of her children or to her husband; rather, each one of the beings she so intimately appreciates, by the power of her affection and without any contradiction, is everything to a wife and mother in love.

(Once again, we see that in properly human domains, quantitative laws fall short: the person is, so to speak, the kingdom of the quality-quality.)

The principal and inevitable effect of love between human beings is to make the beloved person really real for the one who loves.

2.1. What is most opposed to love

Confirming the other in being, therefore, makes the beloved subject really real.

This is something we will see even better if we look at it from the opposite extreme.

One opposite of love, which goes hand in hand with life, is indifference. This attitude acts as if the other did not exist: it makes them “nobody.” The other opposite to love is hatred, in its most serious, hard, and certain meaning —although less emotional and visceral. And hatred goes hand in hand with death.

Therefore, indifference is in a certain way more radical, since it presupposes the non-existence of the other and acts in keeping with it. Meanwhile, hatred —which at first is less hurtful, since it does not ignore the other person— turns out to be more active: it seeks to annihilate the hated subject and if it can and if it is authentic and radical, it carries out that suppression.

(Think, for example, of fratricidal wars, the different types of terrorism, the settling of accounts between certain ethnic groups or families, genocides…).

2.2. Eliminating the hated one

Now then, when someone not only does not love, but hates, and truly hates, what they really seek —more or less consciously— is to eliminate the being of the unloved in at least two ways:

a) Suppressing the other as other, valuing them only insofar as they serve my own likes, passions, or interests: making them an appendix of our egotism, as a prosthesis of our own self, as Delibes so accurately expressed it.4

b) Or annulling them in a radical way, ripping them out of the group of existing beings or preventing them from entering into the feast of life: euthanasia, abortion, contraceptives, terrorism, racist or other phobias, violence in general…

And when each person in an entire civilization focuses excessively and sometimes neurotically on himself and his own affairs (here is the worrying expression that is so widespread: “That’s not my problem”), we find a world in some way dominated by indifference. And thus we should not be surprised that it gives rise to a real culture of disinterest, selfishness, and —as we are frequently reminded— even of death.

When someone hates, and truly hates, their ultimate goal is to eliminate the unloved being.

3. Saying an absolute yes

But let us return to the affirmative side of things. A truly worthwhile love not only confirms or corroborates the beloved in his being, but does so with such frankness and radicality that even if an unhealthy psychological dependence ensues from it, the one we love ends up being essential to us for everything: from the most common and seemingly ordinary things to the whole of the universe (and also in the similar sense, the beloved becomes our everything).

This time it was Ortega who expressed the idea masterfully, in the following paragraph from his Studies on Love:

Falling in love even once is an insistence that the beloved exists [he says a “thing,” but that seems incorrect to me]; a refusal to accept (since everything depends on that one thing) the possibility of a universe without it [“that thing,” he still says].”5

Based on this, we can formulate a practical question of enormous existential import. Spouses above all (and in their way, dating or engaged couples) could ask each other: are you able to imagine life without your spouse? Do you see yourself “functioning” with relative normalcy if he or she were missing from your life?

I would like to point out:

a) It is not a question of whether, by some unfortunate event, the husband or wife passes away and you pick yourself up with the help of God and the other people who love and care for you.

b) But it is a question of whether right now, in this precise moment, you feel capable of going on living without the one you say you are madly in love with standing by your side. It’s about whether you can “imagine yourself” without him or her.

c) Because if the answer is yes, then one might intuit that your love has not matured as much as one could hope.

In this respect, a friend in his 50s told me, deeply moved: “After many years of living together and striving to raise a large family without sufficient resources, my mother fell gravely ill. We had to move her from where we lived to a distant but large city where she was operated on. During the operation, I saw my father sitting on a bench in the middle of the hallway, and for the first and last time in my life, I saw him —at 6 feet 2 inches and over 220 pounds— crying, disconsolate, hot tears flowing. I tried to ease his pain and all I could hear again and again were his trembling lips and sighs: ‘But what will I do without your mother? What will become of me if she dies on me?’”

It is not an infrequent event —quite the contrary. But my friend’s emotion, quite a few decades after it happened, gave me an incomparably more lively impression of what I just presented.

Loving a person means being determined for them to exist; not admitting, insofar as it is in one’s power, the possibility of a universe in which that person is absent.

 

V. Positive confirmation

 

Let’s get on track again!

 

Careful!

There are many ways to read or study a text and to observe reality. Quite often, we may not notice something or we may let certain properties or characteristics of a person, animal, or thing pass by unnoticed simply because of a lack of interest or attention.

It also happens with books. If we do not actively activate our intellect, we may very easily fail to perceive the best of what they could teach us.

Thus, it would not hurt to try to answer these questions.

 

• If you agree with what I have been saying, it is probably because in one way or another you have experienced it in your life or in the lives of those around you. Could you mention any of those experiences? Have you ever felt that the whole world was transformed, for good or evil, by the presence or absence of someone you loved very much? Does that seem like an excessive reaction to you?

• In any case, and always according to what has happened to you, do you think that love is shown better in moments of jubilation or in times of sadness, in those of joy or in those of melancholy and disenchantment? Expand on it a little and give the reasons for your answer.

• In your opinion, which are stronger and deeper once you have tasted them: the joys caused by love or the sufferings and sorrows caused by the total or partial absence of love? If you had to choose between a great love with its lights and shadows and an existence bereft of any affection, which would you choose? Supposing that you opted for love —which is, no doubt, what I would do— try to answer yourself this question: why?

 

And now it’s my turn, don’t worry.

 

I will present two clear ratifications: one affirmative and the other, logically, negative.

Let’s start with the first, with the joyful proof.

1. “Quando m’innamoro…” [“When I fall in love…”]

When one falls in love, or even when after twenty-five, thirty, or more years of marriage the couple’s passionate love continues growing (since that is the point of marriage after all), it can happen that not only does the beloved seem wonderful and exceptional, but everything that surrounds him or her shines with new light, with splendor, with iridescence… absolutely unknown before falling in love.

And here we could pay recourse to countless poems and tunes that intuitively show the particular shine of all of nature as a consequence of the transformation of the one who experiences the power of love.

In this regard, the well-known Latin American song turns out to be rather paradigmatic:

♫ ♪ Today everything seems lovelier to me, today the nightingale sings more powerfully… I am happy, I don’t know what I feel, I am singing along like the river and the wind… ♪ ♫

And in more refined and bombastic terms, there is the following statement by Lucretius:

Nor without you does anything arise unto the shining shores of light, nor does anything happy and lovable happen.

Or, finally, with the accurate words of Alberoni, the Italian sociologist whom we have quoted several times before:

People in love want to love even if it involves suffering and torment, for a loveless life looms arid, dead and unbearable. Our beloved is not only more beautiful and desirable than anyone else. He or she becomes the gate, the only gate leading to this new world, and more intense life. It is through him, through her, that we find a point of contact with the ultimate source of things, with nature, the cosmos, the absolute. Now our usual language becomes inadequate for expressing this inner reality. Spontaneously we discover the language of omens, poetry, and myth.6

Then, as Gautier indicates:

Being able to love is already a great happiness, even if it is not requited.7

The beloved becomes the gate, the only gate giving us access to an enriched world.

1.1. Reasons?

I will try to note down the reasons for this fact.

Some time ago, while working on a specialized project on the subject of beauty, I reached the conclusion that beauty could be defined as “being brought to plenitude and made presence”: brilliantly clear.

And I showed, according to the most classic thesis in Western history, that such plenitude requires integrity; that an unfinished artistic work can hardly be beautiful; and that, by contrast, what we know as the master touch, that final detail particular to genius, is capable of transforming even a mediocre work that is aesthetically incomplete into a prodigy of beauty.

Now then, the one I love comes to be like the master touch of the cosmos itself: the one who completes the world, draws me close to it, and makes it reverberate with strength and intensity, with gleams and sparkles that we could not have noticed just before falling in love.

The beloved is like the master touch on the cosmos itself, that completes the world, draws me close to it, and makes it reverberate with strength and intensity that I could not even have imagined just moments before falling in love.

1.2. Transfiguration

When love takes us over, everything revives, is transfigured, and transmuted, increasing in quality, showing its radiant brilliance.

Rafael Morales expressed it well in relation to married life:

I was next to you. Quietly / the landscape and the dusk embraced / and the heart of the world was fire / in the warm silence of the field. // A secret, deaf, blind something / filled me with love; rapt, / I was watching you, not understanding / the deep mystery of your lips. // I put my mouth on their pure insistence / trembling almost like light, like a bird, / and I saw the landscape take flight / and my forehead burned against the high sky. // Oh, madness of love! Now everything was / transformed into flight and caress… / Everything was beautiful, happy, open… / and now the air almost became human.8

The following text by Alberoni is also revealing, written in a rather uneven book, like many of his works, but with passages that are truly masterful. When love settles in us, he writes,

…At these times, our entire physical and sensory life ex­pands, becomes more intense; we pick up scents we didn’t smell before, we perceive colors and lights we don’t usually see. And our intellectual life expands too, so that we perceive relationships that were previously obscure to us. A gesture, a glance, a movement by the beloved speaks profoundly, tells us about her, her past, how she was as a child. We understand her sentiments, and we understand our own. We immediately sense what is sincere and what is not in others and in ourselves because we have become sincere.9

Then we experience, says Alberoni, desires

to be in the be­loved’s body, to live there and be experienced by her in a fusion that is physical, but that continues as tenderness for her weaknesses, her ingenuousness, her defects, her imperfections. We even manage to love a wound she might have, which is transfigured by our affection.”10

And elsewhere, anticipating ideas that we will see in a moment:

Falling in love makes us love our loved ones for what they are, so that even defects, failings, or illnesses are bearable. When we fall in love, it is like opening our eyes. We see a wonderful world and our beloved appears to us as marvelous. Every being is perfect, unique, unmistakable. So we are grateful to our loved ones for existing, because their existence enriches not only us but the whole world. Propertius writes: “Tu mihi sola domus, tu, Cynthia, sola parentes, omnia tu nostrae tempora laetitiae.” He does not merely say, “I like you and desire you,” but “You alone are my home, you alone my parents, you are my every moment of happiness.”11

2. The spouse’s defects

Although we will go over this more later on, it would not hurt to include a few reflections about the defects of the beloved, specifically, the spouse’s defects.

Half joking, half seriously, a friend told me that something quite strange happens with them.

a) During the dating and engagement phase, we come to be convinced that our loved one has no such deficiencies; or rather, we start with this conviction and remain firm and unmovable in it:

— And not because our boyfriend or girlfriend made any kind of effort to hide or suppress them.

— But because the times we spent together, preceded by the desire to be with the one we love, are the best times of the day: we feel especially relaxed and full of jubilation and, moved by authentic affection, precisely to make the other happy, we show our most lovable face.

b) Later on, even on the honeymoon or on the night of the wedding —he told me laughing— those defects jump out at us in all their crudeness, stubbornness, and weight: it could be the unexpected snoring of the one we love, their continual tossing and turning in the bed, the unexpected tendency to move into our ..

c) And since we had not discovered those defects in the months before marriages, how they disconcert us and tend to disfigure the idyllic image we had formed, and as it is so easy for us to avoid those defects —because they are not ours, which really seem invincible to us— we can even come to the conclusion, going to the opposite extreme, that our spouse is acting in that unfortunate way precisely to bother us.

(I am not making this up: I have heard it plenty of times from a husband or wife who thought his or her marriage was not working.)

From “he has no defects” we end up going to “he does it just to annoy me.”

2.1. More defects!

Although at bottom it is a real truism, we often do not notice that our own defects are the only ones we think take effort and struggle to overcome; we see our own defects as insuperable, and we easily excuse them.

By contrast, others’ defects, if they are not the same as our own, seem so simple to suppress: thus, if we are not careful, we end up describing them as childish foibles or, as I mentioned earlier, as an especially hurtful and inappropriate way that the people around us make our lives impossible.

On the other hand, it is worth warning that we should not consider as a defect something about the other person that simply “bothers us” because it clashes with our own way of being. Rather, we are speaking of deficiencies that actually diminish the person or hinder the harmonious development of their humanity.

And it should be added that after living for years in one’s own family, with relatively stable ways of acting, we may unconsciously —for we know no other way— conclude that the ordinary ways of acting in our own home are the normal and good ways of doing things.

This means that in almost all cases, after the wedding there are quite a few behaviors of our spouse —and his or her family— that disconcert us, make us uncomfortable, or even seem unsuitable, incorrect, and even ethically objectionable!

In short, it is about distinguishing well, as I have explained before, between authentic defects, mere limitations, and praiseworthy —although sometimes bothersome— differences in our way of being and acting.

If we do not take those distinctions and all that they imply into account, even tiny ones like sleeping with the window open or closed, reading in bed or not, setting the table and the food in one way or another, having a fixed or a flexible schedule depending on the needs, availability, or mere habit, then these differences can become insurmountable mountains that end up tearing apart a marriage that had every chance of doing well and making its members very happy, in large part due to the loving overcoming of such obstacles.

Which brings me to make yet another comment (I was almost going to say that I am sorry). A few pages before, I stated that we love with all that we are… and with all that we lack! And I was referring very particularly to these types of insufficiencies: our defects.

The truth is that they can become something unbearable, especially for us. But it is also true that with the experience gained over the years and a serene battle against them, we can turn them into an instrument of love:

a) First, because they should make us more understanding of others’ foibles.

b) And also because —with a pinch of good humor, laughing at ourselves— it is not very difficult to use them as a way to make life more lovable for those around us, bringing them in on purpose and scandalously right when one of our children or our spouse feels discouraged by the repetition of their own faults.

When the two members of the marriage are really prepared to do battle —if not, please stop reading here— their own combat serves as a lenitive for the husband or wife’s battle with him or herself… and with each one of the children.

When the two members of the marriage are really prepared to do battle, their own combat serves as a lenitive for the husband or wife’s battle with him or herself… and with each one of the children.

2.2. And still more!

Returning to the defects and the normal itinerary of a normal marriage (in which the two effectively want the other’s happiness), with time, especially when authentic love is nourished and grows, the waters find their channel or, rather, enter in by definitive paths.

a) Husband and wife, moved by a more tempered, higher-carat love, fight effectively to avoid anything that could disturb the family peace and harmony.

— They make radical changes only infrequently, because this is very difficult for people to take.

— But they do improve by looking for ways to make those details (which in large part cannot be circumvented) less burdensome for the other spouse. I am ever more convinced that we will reach the end of our life with almost the same defects that we have had for years, but with a better knowledge of them and many battles behind us.

b) And that effort to please, in view of one’s congenital weakness, causes true tenderness in the other spouse. Then, as Alberoni affirms, we become able to love even a wound of the beloved, transfigured by affection.12

c) And that new vision of the beloved, more realistic and heartfelt, continues transfiguring the universe and the entire set of events in life within and outside of the home, which become close and familiar to us; they, too, are affected by deficiencies and gaps whose main purpose ends up enhancing, by contrast, the goodness and beauty that make up everything that exists: lights that cannot but project their corresponding shadows as well, more as their brilliance keeps increasing.

We are capable of perfecting ourselves in direct proportion to the love we are given: that is, we progress greatly when we are greatly loved, and it is almost impossible for us to improve if no one truly loves us.

2.3. The right attitude

It would be good to remember here up to what extremes the attitude we adopt to our surroundings—people and situations—enters into our perception of them. As Kümelin says, happiness in life is generally conditioned less by external factors than by fundamental states that weight on the spirit.

Elisabeth Lukas, the main disciple and continuer of Victor Frankl, comments on it at greater length:

Almost all the damage that people can cause to their destiny depends on the attitude they adopt toward it. Interior attitude is enormously important. With a positive attitude, one can draw benefits out of even the most threatening situation, while a negative attitude can make even a stay in Paradise unbearable. There is a joke that wisely depicts this reality. In a bus crowded with passengers, a girl tells her boyfriend, “This crowd is frightful!” and he answers, “Well, last night in the disco, you called it ‘ambience.’” Interior attitude has power over wellbeing and unhappiness, hopes and expectations.13

Although it has already been sketched out and I will study it further on at greater length, I want to emphasize again that in any family, a tone of joy and good humor that leads its members to see the good that is always hidden even in the most adverse circumstances is one of the fundamental keys for problems to be put in perspective and dissolve even before they appear, and it ensures a peaceful, fun, and very enjoyable coexistence.

That ability to see the good can have different roots, but it becomes practically infallible when those roots are very deep or, with the same effect, very high.

This text from St. Augustine shows it:

… because the earth is good by the height of its mountains, the moderate elevation of its hills, and the evenness of its fields; and good is the farm that is pleasant and fertile; and good is the house that is arranged throughout in symmetrical proportions and is spacious and bright; and good are the animals, animate bodies; and good is the mild and salubrious air; and good is the food that is pleasant and conducive to health; […] good is the just man; and good are riches because they readily assist us; and good is the heaven with its own sun, moon, and stars; and good are the angels by their holy obedience; and good is the lecture that graciously instructs and suitably admonishes the listener; and good is the poem with its measured rhythm and the seriousness of its thoughts.14

[And St. Augustine will forgive me if I add one more to the list of those things that are good: what we see in ourselves that is not good, precisely because we see and accept it.]

This other passage from a contemporary saint is situated on a higher level:

Get used to raising up your heart to God, in acts of thanksgiving, many times a day. — Because he gives you this thing and that. — Because you have been despised. — Because you haven’t got what you need or because you do have it.

Because he made his Mother, who is also your Mother, so beautiful. — Because he created the Sun and the Moon and this animal and that plant. — Because he made that man eloquent and you he made slow of speech…

Give him thanks for everything, because everything is good.15

With a positive attitude, we can draw benefits even from the most threatening situation while a negative attitude can make even a stay in Paradise unbearable.

3. Our own improvement

But there is more. With love, everything around us become polished, purified, and grow—including the one we love. The improvement is total. Thus, we also become more complete, change in a key way, improving in quality.

In a book written to adolescents, Doctor Carnot says:

One day, without knowing why, you feel joyful, you feel better. Everything around you seems nicer. You feel like laughing and singing, walking in giant steps through the streets. You feel better disposed for work. At the same time, we find in ourselves an unknown strength that pushes us to desire to do something great. We need to come out of ourselves, open ourselves. We become more friendly, generous, enthusiastic, benevolent toward everyone. Love is born!16

Perhaps these words may have an excessively sentimental or apparently hyperbolic tone. But what they say is not a mere metaphor. We will see that one of the deepest truths of anthropology in all time, one that the best of our contemporaries have insisted on, is that love perfects us, makes us grow to an unsuspected degree.

Further yet, as I repeat day in and day out, only intelligent love is capable of making man progress, not from sectorial points of view —profession, aptitudes, physical capacities, image, etc.— but precisely as a person.

What I just pointed out has had different manifestations throughout history. As a sample, we could read the following reflection by Marías on courtly love:

Men are going to desire and admire certain conditions in women: gentleness, compassion, if possible the intelletto d’amore; but women will also demand: courtesy, skills, effort, courage, sacrifice, and the ability to say beautiful things. [How well this last quality was reflected in Cyrano de Bergerac!] It is the twofold engine of mutual perfection that is unfolded, enriched, and transformed in the Renaissance and then diversifies into national styles.17

(Thus, when a woman turns out to be too “easy,” giving herself almost without asking anything in return, she prevents —or at least does not cause— the growth that comes from trying to win her heart. And the same can be said of him in relationship with her.)

The following words from Rafael Morales summarize the merry confirmation of the love that confirms the beloved in his or her being. He assures us that everyone, man and the world, touched by the winged nerve of love, unfolds his own configuring energy until gradually reaching his final plenitude.

The poet tells us:

But you are not free, not at all / man with no one, man who does not love; / you are alone on the earth; you are nothing, / oh, prisoner of divine yearning. // Fill your lips and forehead with love / and merge your soul in another soul, / and all the cosmos will turn with you, / full of bliss, like a great wing.18

Alberoni also affirms it:

Love does not only create poetic metaphors in our minds, or sharpen our aesthetic taste and perceptive capacity. Lovers can also see things they will never see again, colors they will never be able to distinguish in the future. And those sensations are indelible. Even when a love story ends badly, there will be no repressing this transfiguration of the world.19

Only intelligent love is capable of making man progress, not from sectorial points of view, but as a person.

 

VI. Negative confirmation

 

 Take heart! We’re about to cross the halfway point!

 

Careful!

Remember, there are many ways to read or study a text and that we often do not notice what is right in front of our eyes simply because we are not treating it with enough interest.

And the same happens with any written text. If we do not actively pay attention to what it says, we will find it bland and boring.

So I ask you once more to think over what comes next.

 

• I know that the previous pages have perhaps shown love’s more pleasant side. Not the utopian and false side, but the one each of us can achieve if we really convince ourselves that we can and everyone else around us can do it. Now I would like to remind you of the sorrows and disappointments that come with loving: not because affection is lacking —which might also happen— but precisely because we love and are loved, and that puts a greater emphasis on the positive, but also on the negative: ours and our beloved’s.

• So before reading further, I recommend that you think about the healthy dependence that comes with love—a dependence by which those who love best expose themselves more than anyone, and willingly, to suffer with the wrongs of their beloved (the wrongs done to the lover). It is not difficult for you to find people of such greatness in your life, but if you should need it and if you are a believer, I remind you that this is precisely what God won when, moved by his infinite Love, he decided to create us: a bunch of problems —until death— that he already knew about beforehand!

 

And, as they say (and I agree), loving is precisely about saying “You shall not die!”

 

1. Loving means saying: “You shall not die”

We just examined some of the joyful verifications that the main task of love is to give a decisive yes to the beloved, confirming her in her being, countersigning God’s creative action, re-creating her.

There are also piercing, painful, and sometimes destructive manifestations. And the clearest is the disappearance, the death of the beloved, or a relatively similar problem that we are not going to cover right now: unrequited love.

When a person we truly appreciate dies —husband, wife, child, boyfriend or girlfriend, time-tested friend— not only do we feel a real emptiness after losing them, but the entire universe, which love had made resplendent, suddenly becomes at least for some moments, absolutely meaningless, tedious, dull, and lacking color, depth, and contrast.

Nothing around us, nothing we do that we used to enjoy has any meaning any more. Nothing. It seems as if everything has vanished together with the person whom, as St. Augustine recalls, “we had loved as if they would never have to die.”

In this extreme, common experience could not be more revealing. Although the expression is a bit irreverent, cruel, and even blasphemous, it would be difficult to find a father or a mother of five children who would react to the unexpected death of one of their children with “I still have 80{566d3ccd58abcf31c88f6cd4052f0235c0e8719550da03eec1c431fb913d6404}.” On the contrary, having a thousand would not be enough at that moment to make up for the heartrending loss of the one that had left them.

When the beloved dies, we not only feel the emptiness of their loss, but we feel that the entire universe becomes meaningless, tedious, dull, lacking color, depth, and contrast.

2. New testimonies

For their part, history and literature offer us many testimonies along the same line, both similar and very different.

I mean that the different attempts to explain love —no matter how they differ from each other, and no matter how they depart from the version I sketched out here— agree in this specific aspect: in all of them, the loss of the beloved causes a sense of meaninglessness in oneself, one’s activities, everything, and everyone around.

Among the classics, these four famous verses of Garcilaso de la Vega express it well:

Cast to the ground is the foundation / that sustained my wearisome life / Oh, how much good ended in just one day! / Oh, how many hopes borne away by the wind!20

Another poet, contemporary this time, experienced something similar. As José Luis Cano narrates,

… in Soria, Machado became his wife’s nurse, concerning himself only for her health. After an apparent improvement, Leonor took a turn for the worse, but before dying, she still had a moment of joy upon receiving the first copy of Campos de Castilla from Antonio’s hands. A few days later, on August 1, Leonor died in the arms of the poet. His wife’s death sank Machado into such a deep sorrow that the success of Campos de Castilla —whose publication was received enthusiastically by the critics of Madrid, led by Ortega and Azorín— could not soothe.

And it carries on, still without a solution:

At one time he thought of committing suicide, but as he confesses in a letter to Juan Ramón, “When I lost my wife, I thought of putting a bullet through my head. My book’s success saved me, not for vanity’s sake —God knows well!— but because I thought that if there was some useful power in me, I had no right to annihilate it.”

And in another letter, this one to his admirer Unamuno, he says, “My wife’s death left my spirit ripped to shreds. My wife was an angelical creature, cruelly reaped by death. I adored her; but even more than love, I was devoted to her. I would have preferred a thousand times to die rather than watch her die. I would have given a thousand lives for hers. I don’t think there is anything extraordinary in this feeling of mine. There is something immortal in us that would like to die with what dies. Perhaps that is why God came into the world. Thinking of this consoles me somewhat. Sometimes I have hope. A negative faith is also absurd. Nevertheless, the blow was terrible and I don’t think I have an answer. While I fought by her side against what could not be remedied, what sustained me was my awareness that I was suffering much more than her, since at the end she never thought of dying and her illness was not painful. In short, today she lives in me more than ever and sometimes I firmly believe that I have to recover her. Patience and humility.”21

The loss of the beloved causes a sense of meaninglessness in oneself and in one’s activities and in everything and everyone around.

3. A “fracture” in being

Even at the risk of going off track for a moment and becoming a bit less comprehensible (so no reader should worry if these reflections go over their head right now), I would like to make a few comments on these words from Machado, linking them to what I mentioned before and to what we will be seeing next.

a) And this reflection is that those who love truly get in touch with the deepest nucleus of their reality: the personal act of being. They do so in a tremendously effective way, although not always expressly.

b) In the final analysis, what we love is the being of the beloved person from and with our own being. And the being of both persons, while not properly eternal —for only God is eternal— are always immortal.

c) That is why we can affirm that interpersonal love —the only true love— is either born eternally or we have positively killed it or it had never really been born: for a being-for-forever cannot be confirmed in a provisional way, ad tempus.

— And perhaps that very intimate dimension of sempiternity, together with the real identification between the lovers, explains the way the disappearance of the beloved suggests and even leads to the dissolution of our being, to suicide.

— Such an impulse shows, on the one hand, the tremendous and apparent disappointment of a love that is meant to be forever, and which seems to disappear with death.

— And also, even Machado’s hyperbole of the death of God is explained by a kind of solidarity between lovers, who participate in the most scandalous event for their love: the loss of the beloved.

It is not strange that Simone de Beauvoir experienced something similar in the past century. Her conception of love is situated almost in the opposite extreme of what we are setting forth in this book. When Sartre’s lover mistakenly believes that he has died from a hunger strike, she can only exclaim, “There were no men anymore; there never had been, and I did not know why he survived absurdly.”

And in a context still further from our own, and now within the narrative of fiction —which, in a certain way ends up being even more representative of the universality of the feeling— François Sagan, with terms a bit ferocious and almost aggressive, puts in the mouth of one of his characters, referring first to the passage of time and death:

Because I think of nothing else. But when you’re with me at night, when we’re warm and together then I don’t give a damn. That’s the only time when I don’t give a damn. I don’t give a damn about dying; my one fear is that you should die. What’s far more important than anything else, than any other thought is to feel your breath over me. Like an animal, I keep watch. As soon as you awaken, I bury myself in you, in your conscience; I cast myself on you. I live off of you.22

Interpersonal love is either born eternally or it was never really born or we have positively killed it.

3.1. Isn’t this terribly pagan?

Perhaps in what it specifically upholds, but not in what underlies those assertions.

For in reality, the radical energy that makes each one of us be comes directly from God, who created us and lovingly keeps us in existence (our presence in the world and the much-hyped self-esteem are made legitimate from the very root when we are aware that we have come into life as the result of an infinite Love that continues sustaining us with equal intensity in every moment of our existence).

But He himself wants that primordial force to be communicated to us through the being of the beloved person as a reflection and participation in his infinite Being.

Once more here, absolute dependence on God does not eliminate but rather supports the real and unequivocal consistency of created beings, analogous to how grace does not suppress but heals, completes, and perfects nature.

And this makes St. Augustine’s reflections, reproduced below, even more significant. They are revealing, on the one hand, by how Augustine makes no reference to his mother, son, or lover, but to a boy who was his best friend for approximately six months back during his adolescence. On the other hand, because they were not only written many years after the boy’s death, but after the saint’s conversion: and the boundless love for God that he now has does not make his feelings from back then seem impure to his eyes.

With the rather rhetorical tone that characterizes him, St. Augustine recalls:

My heart was utterly darkened by this sorrow and everywhere I looked I saw death. My native place was a torture room to me and my father’s house a strange unhappiness. And all the things I had done with him —now that he was gone— became a frightful torment. My eyes sought him everywhere, but they did not see him; and I hated all places because he was not in them, because they could not say to me, «Look, he is coming,» as they did when he was alive and absent. […] Nothing but tears were sweet to me and they took my friend’s place in my heart’s desire. […] And I marveled that other mortals went on living since he whom I had loved as if he would never die was now dead. And I marveled all the more that I, who had been a second self to him, could go on living when he was dead. Someone spoke rightly of his friend as being «his soul’s other half» —for I felt that my soul and his soul were but one soul in two bodies. Consequently, my life was now a horror to me because I did not want to live as a half self. But it may have been that I was afraid to die, lest he should then die wholly whom I had so greatly loved.23

With more current terminology and structure, another splendid testimony comes from C.S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia and the inspiration behind the Narnia movies —in A Grief Observed, written a few weeks after his wife died.

It’s not true that I’m always thinking of H. Work and conversation make that impossible. But the times when I’m not are perhaps my worst. For then, though I have forgotten the reason, there is spread over everything a vague sense of wrongness, of something amiss. Like in those dreams where nothing terrible occurs —nothing that would sound even remarkable if you told it at breakfast-time— but the atmosphere, the taste, of the whole thing is deadly. So with this. I see the rowan berries reddening and don’t know for a moment why they, of all things, should be depressing. I hear a clock strike and some quality it always had before has gone out of the sound. What’s wrong with the world to make it so flat, shabby, worn-out looking? Then I remember.24

The radical energy that makes us be comes directly from God, but He himself wants that primordial power to be communicated to us as well through the person we love.

3.2. Dying

It is a hard, precise blow that reaches the deepest nucleus of the person who loves, at least for some instants, even when the person suffering has a solid faith and is completely abandoned to God: I repeat that his grace does not suppress nature.

Nevertheless, that faith and love for God, along with trust in the unending joy of the beloved, greatly helps the person overcome the initial sense of desolation.

What is more, I think that the damage caused by the absence of loved ones can only be radically eliminated after the first and inevitable blow, when one is enriched by a very noble love for the other as other, and in an even more clear-cut way, for God, who encompasses all loves within himself in a sublimated way.

As Gustave Thibon writes:

Beyond the person of the spouse who cannot be loved, there is the person of God who is love, and what is cut short in time can always grow in eternity.25

There is a bit of ambiguity in these statements, since the person who dies can continue to be the object of our affection although they live in another world. But in itself, the situation does turn out to be tremendously complex.

Death constitutes a real loss, even for those who believe in the immortality of the soul and in a destiny of infinite Love in Heaven. As believers affirm, Jesus in his humanity felt terror before death since, as St. Thomas Aquinas justifies and explains, the loss of bodily life is “naturally horrible to human nature: naturaliter horribilis humanae naturae. And only in the measure that one loves God greatly and truly, and also the beloved person who has been taken away, will the offense against being, of which death consists, be more easily mitigated.

Rather than go on with explanations and commentaries, I will limit myself to transcribing these new words from C.S. Lewis:

And poor C. quotes to me ‘Do not mourn like those that have no hope.’ It astonishes me, the way we are invited to apply to ourselves words so obviously addressed to our betters. What St. Paul says can comfort only those who love God better than the dead, and the dead better than themselves. If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to ‘glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ A comfort ‘to the God-aimed’ eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.26

(I would not want to tarnish the beautiful truth pointed out in those lines with an impertinent comment. But I do want to point out that a deep conception of God as the undivided wholeness of all perfection would relativize Lewis’ statements, albeit without taking away their value: in God, in an ineffable way, we will obtain all the joy and all the joys that in our concrete existence —mine, yours— “we should have” achieved.

The other life, the eternal one, is not independent of our passage through this world, but leads to a total fulfillment of what we have achieved here, always in an imperfect way: almost nothing, if we compare it to the Plenitude of the Life to come.)

The damage caused by the loss of loved ones can only be eliminated when one is enriched by a very noble love for the other as other, and in an even more clear-cut way, by a great love for God.

3.3. Complementary testimonies

Hence, I think it is necessary to add on a few testimonies showing where the power of love seems to overcome —and in fact does overcome!— even possible or real death.

This is the case of Viktor Frankl, when in the concentration camp he clings to life-giving love for his wife, whose fate he does not know —he does not know if she is alive or dead— and through her, he recovers life himself. For didactic reasons, I dare to offer in the first place the fact and in the following paragraphs Frankl’s reflections, which are so sound and suggestive. He writes, first of all:

But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun, which was beginning to rise.27

And his discoveries (and our lessons) begin. Above all, the sublime greatness of love.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth —that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire.28

Immediately, the relationship between love and happiness, understood as perfection and bliss.

Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.29

Finally, love’s victory over death and any other evil.

In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way —an honorable way— in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, ‘The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.’30

But it does not all end here. The experience is competed with this other text from Frankl:

My mind still clung to the image of my wife. A thought crossed my mind: I didn’t even know if she were still alive. I knew only one thing —which I have learned well by now: Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.

I did not know whether my wife was alive, and I had no means of finding out (during all my prison life there was no outgoing or incoming mail); but at that moment it ceased to matter. There was no need for me to know; nothing could touch the strength of my love, my thoughts, and the image of my beloved. Had I known then that my wife was dead, I think that I would still have given myself, undisturbed by that knowledge, to the contemplation of her image, and that my mental conversation with her would have been just as vivid and just as satisfying. ‘Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death.’31

 

Don’t worry.

Acquiring knowledge is a gradual process. We do not usually fully understand something when we read it the first time. What we halfway understood prepares us to study what comes next, and then we can clarify what we already learned. Often it is just a matter of going over it again. But the end result will bring joyful satisfaction.

I invite you to see for yourself.

 

 Help for personal reflection

 

• The preceding pages have covered love quite extensively, along with hatred, one of love’s opposites (the other, perhaps even more devastating, would be indifference). I invite you to reflect again on the differences between both attitudes.

• Afterwards, I would like you to dedicate a few minutes to thinking about this concrete extreme: radical hatred wants, and if it can, obtains the death of the hated being; but what effects does this attitude have on the person who hates?

• I wrote before that “A truly worthwhile love not only confirms or corroborates the beloved in his being, but does so with such frankness and radicality that even if an unhealthy psychological dependence ensues from it, the one we love ends up being essential to us for everything.” Essential? Does it go along with the oft-seen idea that personal growth is, in the end, an increase in our condition as free, autonomous beings? How do both things go together? It is worth thinking about this for a few minutes and giving an answer to this question. Perhaps it may help you to find the weak point in some ways of arguing that are very trendy these days (including mine).

• “When one falls in love […] it can happen that not only does the beloved seem wonderful and exceptional, but everything that surrounds him or her shines with new light, with splendor, with iridescence… absolutely unknown before falling in love” Aside from being a bit pretentious, which it is, does this statement seem exaggerated to you? If so, in what sense? Or, if you consider it to be right, could you justify it?

• “What we love is the being of the beloved person from and with our own being.” Anyone who is not a specialist in philosophical anthropology, and even in metaphysics, can consider what he just read to be an empty sentence, without meaning, or at least trivial or redundant. I hope it does not sound that way to you; I hope that for you it says something, enough… a lot?!

In the unlikely event that it does, could you clarify the meaning, scope, and implications of this statement?

• If it helps, I personally consider being to be the most radical act that exists in any reality: “the act of all acts and the perfection of all perfections,” we metaphysicians say. And, although the expression is a bit difficult, it is not impossible to understand that, at least, it points to something of enormous relevance: that loving the being of the beloved from one’s own being implies, on our part, putting ourselves totally into play, in intensity and in extension, with all that we are, as well as fully welcoming the one we love, with his or her virtues and defects (act of all acts and perfection of all perfections…).

 

 More help for personal reflection

 

• You can find a bit of all that —and much more— in this new quote from Spaemann. I propose it to you as a challenge… that you do not have to accept:

The centre of being (Selbstsein) that evokes our transcendence, the other person, stands to us in a relation of reciprocity. I am a part of her world, as she is a part of mine. I exist for her as she exists for me. It is a reality for me that I exist for her and that she knows she exists for me. On this reciprocal relation is founded the metaphysical realism that is decisive for persons. It is a necessary condition for intentionality, too, though not to be reduced to intentionality.

A centre of being can display itself only through certain publicly visible qualities. Every means of display is susceptible in principle of stimulation; for qualities are phenomena, and phenomena may be simulated. Personality arises when we refuse to treat the other like a simulation or a dream, as a mere ‘something,’ existing for me without my existing equally for it.

This refusal is implied by love and recognition, which are incompatible with doubt as to the other’s reality. That means they are incompatible not only with solipsism, but also with treating realism as no more than a hypothesis. We can observe in Nietzsche how the loss of relation to reality goes along with the dissolution of the person and the loss of personal unity. If I am not someone who can be ‘meant’ as who I am, I am not ‘someone’ at all, but only ‘something’; I possess no necessary principle of inner unity. Not being someone else’s ‘Thou,’ I cannot be my own ‘I,’ but only a succession of unowned states—‘a longing to be no man’s sleep under so many eyelids’ (Rilke).32

• You would also do well to reflect on these words from Philippe, related to the ultimate foundation of the much-hyped self-esteem:

Self-esteem must be based on the certitude that, whatever happens, I am loved and I can love. And only God can guarantee that.

The core of one’s personality, the ground of that intimate security everyone needs, resides upon the dual certainty of being loved and being able to love. Both are necessary. Knowing that one is loved unconditionally is not enough by itself; one needs also to know that one can love and make a disinterested gift of self—that one can be fruitful and give life. Only God can guarantee this double certainty: only he loves us with an entirely unconditional love and only he assures us that, despite our limits, his grace can create in our hearts a true aptitude for loving, for being able to receive and being eager to give.33

 

Tomás Melendo
tmelendo@uma.es
www.edufamilia.com
Traducción: Trish Bailey Arceo

1 Bécquer, Gustavo Adolfo: Rimas/Leyendas/Cartas desde mi celda, cit., Rima XI, pp. 28.

2 In this respect, since I cannot stop to develop it further, it would be worth reflecting on Nédoncelle’s judgments: «Est-ce à dire que la volonté de promotion soit une volonté de création? Peut-être. En principe, l’amant aspire à engendrer intégralement l’être de l’aimé. Toutefois, en fait, une conscience humaine ne peut avoir une telle prétention. Nous essayons d’affermir l’existence du toi ou de contribuer à son déploiement. Mais nous sommes toujours trop courts par quelque endroit». Nédoncelle, Maurice : Vers une philosophie de l’amour et de la personne, cit., p. 18.

3 Jiménez, Juan Ramón: Platero and I / Platero y yo. A Dual-Language Book. Edited and translated by Stanley Appelbaum. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 2004, p. 21.

4 I here transcribe the text that summarizes it: «He aquí la novela del hijo único. Cecilio Rubes, negociante en materiales higiénicos, representante del burgués por excelencia, ha procurado siempre apartar los obstáculos que se oponen a una vida de placer. Sin embargo un día su esposa le anuncia que espera un hijo. Cecilio va asimilando la novedad paulatinamente y cuando Cecilín —Sisí— nace, hace de él un apéndice de su egoísmo. Sisí podrá disfrutar de la vida porque para eso ha nacido en una familia próspera y, según su padre, la educación debe reservarse para los pobres. Cecilio Rubes no necesita, por tanto, educar a su hijo. Desde el primer momento le da lo que pide y muchas veces se anticipa a sus deseos colmándole de caprichos. Sisí crece en la demasía y a partir de los doce años su amigo Ventura Amo le inicia en la vida del sexo, de la que Sisí, como Cecilio, llegará a ser un insaciable degustador. Cuando Sisí cumple los dieciocho años estalla la guerra civil y aunque su padre procura por todos los medios librarle del peligro, Sisí muere en un destino sin apenas riesgo, y Cecilio Rubes, incapaz de soportar su ausencia, se quita la vida.» Delibes, Miguel: Los niños. Barcelona: Planeta, 1994, p. 103.

5 Ortega y Gasset, José: Estudios sobre el amor. Madrid: Revista de Occidente de Alianza Editorial, 2a. ed., 1981, p. 20. On Love: Aspects of a Single Theme. Translated by Toby Talbot. New York: The New American Library, 1957, p. 18.

6 Alberoni, Francesco: Ti amo, cit., pp. 70-71.

7 «Quel malheur pour moi de vous avoir connu ! et pourtant, si la chose était à refaire, je voudrais encore vous avoir connu […]. Vous avez été un éclair de ma nuit, et vous avez ouvert dans ma vie des perspectives toutes nouvelles. — Je vous dois de connaître l’amour, l’amour malheureux, il est vrai, mais il y a à aimer sans être aimé une charme mélancolique et profond, et il est beau de se ressouvenir de ceux qui nous oublient. — C’est déjà un bonheur que de pouvoir aimer même quand on est seul à aimer, et beaucoup meurent sans l’avoir eu, et souvent les plus à plaindre ne sont pas ceux que aiment». Gautier, Théophile : Mademoiselle de Maupin. Paris: Gallimard, 1973, chapter VI, p. 195.

8 Morales, Rafael: “El corazón y la tierra”; en Obra poética. Madrid: Selecciones Austral, Espasa-Calpe, 1982, p. 68.

9 In the last Italian edition, the autor introduced some changes, which are also in this text. The new original is thus as follows: «In questi periodi tutta la nostra vita fisica e sensoriale si dilata, diventa più intensa; noi sentiamo odori che non sentivamo, percepiamo colori, luci che non vediamo abitualmente. Ma si dilata anche la nostra vita intellettuale perché percepiamo relazioni che prima ci erano opache. Un gesto, uno sguardo, un movimento della persona amata ci parla in profondità, ci dice di lei, del suo passato, di come era bambino o bambina; comprendiamo i suoi sentimenti, comprendiamo i nostri. Negli altri e in noi stessi intuiamo subito ciò che è sincero e ciò che non lo è perché siamo diventati sinceri. Eppure sappiamo creare un universo di fantasie in cui non ci stanchiamo mai di ritrovare il nostro amato. E la sessualità dirompente, il desiderio di ricevere piacere e di dare piacere investe tutto ciò che è dell’amato, di cui noi amiamo tutto, perfino l’interno del suo corpo, il suo fegato, i suoi polmoni». Alberoni, Francesco: Innamoramento e amore. Milano: R. C. S. Libri S.p.A., 3ª ed., 2009 (1ª edizione, 1979), p. 16. Falling in Love. Translated from the Italian by Lawrence Venuti. New York: Random House, 1983, p. 12. He aquí, certeramente expresada, la relación entre amor y conocimiento, que más tarde desarrollarse.

10 Here, as well, it is worth transcribing the original: «Il rapporto sessuale allora diventa un desiderio di essere nel corpo dell’altro, un vivere ed un essere vissuto da lui in una fusione che è corporea e spirituale ad un tempo. E che si prolunga come tenerezza per le debolezze dell’amato, le sue ingenuità, i suoi difetti, le sue imperfezioni. Per cui riusciamo ad amare anche una sua ferita, trasfigurata dalla dolcezza». Alberoni, Francesco: Innamoramento e amore, cit., p. 16. Falling in Love. Translated from the Italian by Lawrence Venuti. New York: Random House, 1983, p. 12

11 Alberoni, Francesco: Ti amo, cit., p. 20.

12 Maybe some readers could consider these statements naïve or utopian. I do not want to appeal to my own experience nor to that of so many good friends who live it much better than me in order to back up these statements.

I would simply ask you to reflect about the fact that we adopt such an attitude in a natural and unforced way with our little (and sometimes not so little) children. And remember, as a saintly priest from the last century said, often we have to see our spouse as the smallest and most needy of our children.

Any human being, no matter how adult and mature he or she may seem or in fact be, is simultaenously so fragile that just a look full of understanding and affection can revive his happiness and growth as a person.

13 Lukas, Elisabeth: Heilkunst und Lebenskunst in der Logotherapie. Band 1. Wertfülle und Lebensfreude: Logotherapie bei Depressionen und Sinnkrisen. Wien: Profil Verlag, 3., erweiterte Auflage, 2006, S. 62-63.

14 Augustine of Hippo: De Trinitate, VIII, 3, 4-5. English translation: Augustine: On the Trinity, Books 8-15. Ed. Gareth B. Matthews. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 7.

15 Escrivá de Balaguer, Josemaría: Camino: The Way. Spanish text & English translation. Josemaría Escrivá. Leominster: Gracewing Publishing, 2002, no. 268.

16 Doctor Carnot: El libro del joven. Barcelona: Herder, 17a. ed., 1989, pp. 181-182.

17 Marías, Julián: La educación sentimental, cit. p. 82.

18 Morales, Rafael: “Soledad”; en Obra poética, cit., p. 70.

19 Alberoni, Francesco: Ti amo, cit., p. 210.

20 Garcilaso de la Vega: Obras completas. Barcelona: Planeta, 1992, Soneto XXVI, p. 16.

21 Cano, José Luis: Introducción a Machado, Antonio: Campos de Castilla. Madrid: Cátedra, 11a. ed., 1998, pp. 15-16.

22 This is worth contextualizing a bit: Un jour, il n’y aura plus rien. Le noir. L’absence. La mort.

— Pourquoi me dis-tu ça?

Elle tremblait de froid et d’une horreur instinctive devant sa voix rêveuse.

“Parce que je ne pense qu’à ça. Mais quand tu es près de moi, la nuit, que nous avons chaud ensemble, alors je m’en fiche. C’est le seul moment. Je me fiche de mourir; je n’ai qu’une peur, c’est que toi, tu meures. Bien plus important que n’importe quoi, que n’importe quelle idée, ton souffle sur moi. Comme un animal, je veille. Dès que tu te réveilles, je m’enfouis dans toi, dans ta conscience. Je me jette sur toi. Je vis de toi. Ah! quand je pense que tu as pris l’avion sans moi, qu’il aurait pu tomber, tu es folle! Tu n’avais pas le droit. Tu imagines : la vie sans toi?”». Sagan, Françoise : Les merveilleux nuages. Paris : Le Livre de Poche, 1961, p. 102-103.

23 St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, IV, 4-6 (9-11).

24 Lewis, Clive Staples: A Grief Observed. London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1961, p. 31.

25 Thibon, Gustave: La crise moderne de l’amour. Paris; Bruxelles: Éditions Universitaires, 1953, p. 120.

26 Lewis, Clive Staples: A Grief Observed, cit., pp. 23-24.

27 Frankl, Viktor E.: Man’s Search for Meaning. New York – London – Toronto – Sydney: Pocket Books, 1959, 1962, 1984, 1985, p. 56-57.

28 Frankl, Viktor E.: Man’s Search…, cit., p. 57.

29 Frankl, Viktor E.: Man’s Search…, cit., p. 57.

30 Frankl, Viktor E.: Man’s Search…, cit., p. 57.

31 Frankl, Viktor E.: Man’s Search…, cit., p. 58.

32 Spaemann, Robert: Persons: The Difference between ‘Someone’ and ‘Something.’ New York: Oxford University Press, 2006, p. 78.

33 Philippe, Jacques, Called to Life. New York: Scepter Publishers, 2008, pp. 72-73.


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