Sunday, May 30, 2010

A bit of death, a lot of love

The question "are you afraid of death?" inevitably arises in conversation. I guess people ask about death in the pursue of comforting emotions. We all are familiar with the concept, but we never get to ask one that actually experienced it. I am not aiming for a sad post, I just read the most beautiful and sad poem I have ever laid my eyes on, and I wanted to share it with you. It's by Wystan Hugh Auden and it made me happy, after it made me incredibly sad:

"Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good."

Why would something like this make me happy?
Because it's more about love than death, and I think most poems and thoughts of death I triggered by thoughts of love. We might talk about death because we love life, or we lost a loved one, or we are afraid of not feeling love anymore etc..

I always seem to come back to love. I am so fascinated by the topic, that many times I forget to move from in front of a book shelf dedicated to poetry or philosophy. The last time it happened, I stumbled across Sartre's "The Being and the Nothingness". I don't think I agree with somebody on the topic of love as I agree with what J.P. says:

"(...)the triple destructibility of love: in the first place it is, in essence, a deception and a reference to infinity, since to love is to wish to be loved, hence to wish that the Other wish that I love him. A preontological comprehension of this deception is given in the very impulse of love - hence the lover's perpetual dissatisfaction. It does not come, as is so often said, from the unworthiness of being loved but from an implicit comprehension of the fact that amorous intuition is, as a fundamental-intuition, an ideal out of reach. The more I am loved, the more I lose my being, the more I am thrown back on my own responsibilities, on my own power to be. In the second place the Other's awakening is always possible; at any moment he can make me appear as an object - hence the lover's perpetual insecurity. In the third place love is an absolute which is perpetually made relative by others. One would have to be alone in the world with the beloved in order for love to preserve its character as an absolute axis of reference - hence the lover's perpetual shame (or pride - which here amounts to the same thing)."

O this windy Sunday noon, while birds sing seemingly unaware of currents, I ponder my own relation to love in general. It is as controversial in my head as the subject of religion, but not quite as adored. Recently I come to terms with the fact that I am more in love with love, that I could ever possibly be with another individual. And while that might seem sad, it stems from the fact that we, as Satre so elegantly puts it forth, love ourselves above it all. Thus loving love is loving my idea of love, which is inextricably linked to who and what I am.

Therefore, death is not so sad when it comes to any other death than our own. We tend to project each death on ourselves, thus the grieving. Although I might think I understand and possibly be in-control, it will certainly not prevent me from experiencing the deep tragedy of a loss. And if we talk about our own death, well, we are always with the being we love the most, ourselves, thus even in death, we can never be alone. The question is: "Do we really need the Other to feel more comfortable with the inevitable death, or are we equally impacted by it, regardless of who would be left behind?"