Notes on the Imminent Dissolution of Our Friendship || Part II
I am afraid to tell my beloved
That I love her;
Loses something when it’s poured out
– Nizar Qabbani
There was this story I remember reading about, I believe by Kierkegaard, in one of the philosophy courses I took in college. I don’t know if I remember it correctly anymore, but I believe my (probably incorrect) memory has made me who I am today so I have never bothered to look it up again. In it, he tells the reader why he decided not to inform the woman he was completely besotted with his feelings for her. He describes how if you love something you should not pursue it, because the initial love you feel is at its apex, and once you get to know the loved object, and see its imperfections it will slowly erode in its magnificent meaningfulness. I don’t interpret him being in an unhealthy state of infatuation, rather he explains how love, unrequited and unknown, is at its purest state. There is no ego. Perhaps, it is at a moment like that in our life where we can understandIbn al-Arabi’s explanation that all creaturely love is derived from divine love:
The Prophet said, “God is beautiful and he loves beauty.”… Hence God is described as one who loves beauty, and he loves the cosmos, because there is nothing more beautiful than the cosmos. At the same time God is beautiful, while beauty is intrinsically lovable. So the whole cosmos loves God. The beauty of God’s handiwork permeates his creation, while the cosmos is the place where he becomes manifest. Therefore the love of the different parts of the cosmos for each other derives from God’s love for himself.
Love, unblemished from other people’s knowledge, undiluted by sins of jealousy or resentment, is perhaps one of the greatest sparks in our lives because it is the closest we can get to our ruh, the purified soul, created by God, that has no veils between us and our Creator. There is something magical maybe divine about being in a state of love, however temporary or long, that makes it so powerful, extraordinary, and never explicable except through poetry. Whether that state be created by the sight of a beautiful landscape, a fascination with philosophy and sciences, or an individual, there are states we pass through in our lives that are Beautiful because of love. And there is knowledge that this state cannot be shared, since it is an experience that you alone will be able to cultivate into something significant in one’s life. Perhaps it is in this state we become the most creative, the most innocent, the most honest; perhaps it is in this state that we are closest to being able to seek the divine whether we realize it or not.
Perhaps this knowledge of its purity explains why love is so terrifying. As an adult, very few things we touch can remain in a state of purity. Holding love, especially unrequited and unknown, in our hearts is like trying to move while balancing a cup filled with water to the brim, where losing even one drop means we have lost it all. Our egos – the jealousy, resentment, hatred – can come in so quickly and unexpectedly to demolish the pathway to our delicate heart, holding us ransom until we transfer our pure state of love to whatever our ego tricks us into thinking is love.
A friend reminded me recently that love is not an exchange. Love does not require romance. Love does not require reciprocation. She reminded me of this as she recognized the inner turmoil I am going through to keep love while fighting off my ego. When it comes to love for an individual, I believe we become enamored by the divine attributes we see in the other, making us want to transform ourselves to hone the same attributes within us and to encourage further spiritual growth in the other. When it becomes even the slightest bit out of place from this pure state, we lose that access to Beauty we held on to so dearly, and our recognition of that loss makes us desperately try to grasp onto anything that we erroneously convince ourselves is love. Further we spiral down into an abyss that only causes our object of affection to distance themselves further and further away from us.
No calamity is there in the world equal to separation: if the souls of men should flow out of their bodies by reason of it-and much more the tears out of their eyes-it were but little to wonder at. A certain philosopher, on hearing a man remark that separation was the brother of death, said, “Nay, but death is the brother of separation”… For my own part death itself would be easier for me to face, than parting from my beloved; and breaking off only brings me sadness and, if it continue, may well provoke me to frenzy.
The combination of separation, unrequited love, and ego is devastating, prolonged can only lead to madness. (Sometimes, I wonder if I am becoming a bit like Majnoon, except with my ego taking over to regularly destroy me with a repeating mental apocalypse so as to keep me away from understanding love as it should be understood.) It is moments like these that the ego needs to be controlled with fierce motivation in order to prevent further separation from other entities in our lives that are loved by us. This is where they say that love takes effort. Love for me is not ferocious in its expression. It is stable and gentle and very delicate. Rather the ferocity comes in attempting to fend off the ego from destroying it.
I remember listening to a lecture by a shaykh where he momentarily took a tangent to describe a case of a young Muslim girl centuries ago that was literally dying from heartbreak, as a demonstration for how most of us do not understand what love is in today’s society. Emotions and inner states of being may have been more sacred and meaningful centuries before, before it became so easy to let our ego take the wheel.When asked by Krista Tippet if humans are less capable of love and commitment in today’s age John O’Donohue, who also believes beauty is a ‘human calling and a defining aspect of God’, replied, “I don’t think we’re less capable at all. I think we’re more unpracticed at it and therefore more desperate for it.” He then proceeded to talk about the necessity of intimate relationships and inner reflections in order to recognize and see true Beauty.
Again, this is where love takes effort. Love requires us time and time again to surrender our ego. To give up all wants. Perhaps this is why never telling someone is better than having them know. Love requires us to do the most difficult thing in order to retain every drop of water in our cup. And we may never expect anything in return. Is that not Beauty?
Or I’m super creepy.