The Culture of Love?

Why did heartbreak hurt me so?

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about love and relationships. I am not sure I should say “lately,” because in a way, I’ve always thought about these issues a lot, even as a child. Yet, I have never been the kind of person who hops from relationship to relationship or contrives to make people fall for me.

When I was a teen, I always found myself “feeling in love” though, and of course, I never loved people I could actually be with. I have “loved” one of my professors, and the best-looking boy in high school and a few men who were older than me. I remember asking my mother why I could not have a boyfriend or a girlfriend as the other kids at school did. Her answer was quite simple, but I think she was right and only formulated a truth I already knew but did not want to see. She said: “That’s because you’re not in love with anyone. What you love is the idea of love.”

It was easier then to be in love with love than to actually try and be in a real relationship. There would be no rejection and no pain. I could create all these beautiful stories inside my head, and no one could ever take them away from me because I was in control. But then, one day, I really did fall in love, with a girl. And it hurt. I fell in love again, with another girl. And it hurt more. And then again – and on the moment I felt my heart crack open and shatter that time, I thought I would die. This is not just a frozen, cliché image. My heart was pounding; I had shivers down my spine; I could not eat, could not sleep, could hardly breathe…

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At that point, my only thought was “Don’t be fooled dear, there is no such thing as LOVE.” So I started reflecting on the idea of love once again. What was it that had made me so dreadfully hurt? What could possibly have caused such intense suffering? I am happy when I am alone. I don’t feel the need to have a lover or to experience these fluttery feelings you get when you first meet someone. I do not crave it. So what was it? Was it my pride that had been wounded? Was it the idea that our culture imposes on us that if you do not have a fulfilled love life you have accomplished virtually nothing, even if you are successful at work and have good friends because our society seems to tell us we must have it all? EVERY SINGLE LITTLE THING? Or was it so painful because even though I did not need my lover, I actually had made a conscious choice to be with her? I just wanted to be with her and share with her?

The pride issue I think I have resolved. Of course, I am not a perfect angel of selflessness and disinterestedness, so yes, my pride must have been hurt a little bit. I guess that is just natural. What really hurt me though was being told that I was perfect and still losing the one person I loved so dearly. How could I be “perfect” and still not enough? How could perfect be discarded so easily and so quickly? It took me back to my own childhood fears, when my mother told me, even as I got straight As, that I could do better. That when I was naturally kind and loving, I was told that my love was not there or was not real. That my kindness and generosity were a social manipulation. That I was only good because I wanted  people to love me because I did not love myself at all. That all this so-called perfection was either fake or still not enough. I felt worthless and started questioning who I was and whether striving to be the best person you could possibly be (because I don’t think I’m perfect. No one is. And I don’t want to be perfect) was actually worth it.

When the rush of emotion had washed away a little, I came to the conclusion that I should not let my pain harden me into becoming a more selfish and nastier person though. Then, I would actually hate myself as I would not be respecting any of my personal beliefs.

So I wondered about the other questions. Yes, society wants us to have it all; and our culture sells us a image of love that is all passion and thrill without pausing to consider what love is. Love seems to have become just another product we want to consume. Of course, that is not how everyone sees it – I personally don’t and many of my friends do not either – but it tends to be presented in that way very often. Just think about all the love quotes on the internet!

And finally, there was the difference between needing and wanting. No, I did not need my lover to be happy. When I met her, I even knew being with her would probably mean problems and drama and hurt because I could feel she was troubled. And I was right. Still, I chose to stay because I loved her and I wanted to be with her, and I was ready to accept her for who she was, with the good and the bad because relationships are not just about the thrill, they’re about building something. One of my friends told me that you do not find the love of your life, you create it. And I think she’s right, so perhaps the grief of heartbreak was only enhanced by the feeling that the safe place I was trying to build for us together with her was being torn apart. It felt like watching my favorite poem or the painting I liked the most burning away. And it reminded me of all the hurt in the world that we cannot control – all the destruction… So I thought to myself: “the world is already so full of weeping, why would anyone want to add to it? Why generate devastation when you can build beauty?”

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But perhaps I am too much of an idealist and an optimist… And I know that the heart wants what it wants. It can’t be helped, but still, I’d like to hold on to these ideals.

Sorry about this terribly long post… I hope you enjoy it! Thanks to anyone reading  💙

Have a wonderful day,

Love,

Sacha

Make it art!

Transcending pain and suffering through form-making…

First, there was dull anxiety. A peculiar, arrhythmic beating of the heart and feverish tingles running down my back.

Then, it became oppression – lungs that seemed to breathe in no air and a knotted stomach that would accept no food.

It morphed into angered hope and delusions – heart pounding and parching tongue, shivers and fevers, a confusion of overwhelming, unexplainable sensations and numbness, both somatic and mental.

The colours and the poetry have deserted me; I cannot hold my pencil to make form; my brush will not apply the paint; my eyes refuse to read. I am filthy.

Comes the time of silence. My pulse is low… I can no longer hear the heart that beat so strangely before. I can only feel the tears flowing endlessly down my cheeks. It seems the weeping won’t ever end.

But still, I must work. I must read. As I force my eyes to focus on the words through the salty mist they are clouded with, they begin to reach me. I am reading Poetry and the Fate of the Senses, a wonderful piece of work written by poet and scholar Susan Stewart.

The first chapter, on which I was concentrating on, deals with the human fear of darkness and the rise of poetry as a way to counter the formlessness of darkness through form-making, that is, through metaphor, which is a fuel of poetry writing. In the process of describing the birth of poetry since Ancient times, Susan Stewart tackles the subjects of laughter and weeping, of grieving, of loss… of pain.

So I start thinking about the relationship between pain and poetry, and about the transformative power of art, which can make even the filthiest object a thing of beauty and transcend the greatest suffering. Stewart quotes Adorno:

“The substance of a poem is not merely an expression of individual impulses and experiences. Those become a matter of art only when they come to participate in something universal by virtue of the specificity they acquire in being given aesthetic form”.

Adorno, “On Lyric Poetry and Society,” in Notes to Literature.

With poetry and form-making, then, individual experience becomes universal as much as it remains intimate. It crosses the thresholds of individual existence creating intersubjectivity: I write with my “I”, but as you read my “I” aloud, “I” becomes you. It stops belonging to me – it is universal. The discussion continues and explicates the links between the lyric and love and suffering. What is the role of poetry in all this suffering? What can poetry teach me, after all? And art?

Susan Stewart then teaches me what I feel I already knew deep inside – she does not quite teach me then, but she verbalizes intuitions I could not give linguistic form:

“The enunciation of pain at the origin of the lyric must appear before the emergence of a self-conscious sense of one’s own subjectivity. […] Pain has no memory; its expression depends on the intersubjective invention of association and metaphor. The situation of the person resides in the genesis of the memory of action and experience in intersubjective terms – that is, the articulation and mastery of the originating pain […]. Yet, the mastery of pain through measures and figures is not merely repressive, it is as well a matter of coming to knowledge and expression.”

Susan Stewart, Poetry and the Fate of the Senses, p. 46

It dawns on me… From what I cannot comprehend, I can learn and through mastery of experience, gain knowledge and understanding. I can thus ease the pain, and produce explanations similar to the process of myth-making.

There is pain and suffering. In my life, in others’. Sometimes as I think of all the injustice and strife there is in the world, tears well in my eyes. Sometimes, it is my own, intimate heartache that troubles me, selfishly. But I can transcend these feelings if I make them into art. I will not claim, like Ezra Pound proudly did, that I want “to make it new”. But I will perhaps too ambitiously, yet quite humbly, exclaim: “Make it art!” 

And doing so, you may help yourself, and if you do reach someone else’s soul, may help them too and infuse this personal experience with altruism as you share it with the world.