Thursday, August 17, 2006


John Berger:

Falling in love at five or six, although rare, is the same as falling in love at fifty. One may interpret one's feelings differently, the outcome may be different, but the state of feeling and of being is the same.

A pre-condition is necessary for a five-year-old boy to fall in love. He must have lost his parents or, at least, lost any close contact with them, and no foster-parents should have taken their place. Similarly, he must have no close friends or brothers or sisters. Then he is eligible.

Being in love is an elaborate state of anticipation for the continual exchanging of certain kinds of gifts. The gifts can range from a glance to the offering of the entire self. But the gifts must be gifts: they cannot be claimed. One has no rights as a lover - except the right to anticipate what the other wishes to give. Most children are surrounded by their rights (their right to indulgence, to consolation, etc.): and so they do not and cannot fall in love. But if a child - as a result of circumstances - comes to realise that such rights as he does enjoy are not fundamental, if he has recognised, however inarticulately, that happiness is not something that can be assured and promised but is something that each has to try to find for himself, if he is aware of being essentially alone, then he may find himself anticipating pure, gratuitous and continual gifts offered by another and the state of that anticipation is the state of being in love. You may ask: but what does he have to offer in exchange? The boy, like a man, offers himself - not altogether impossibly. What is impossible, or at least very improbable, is that his beloved will ever recognise either his offer or his anticipation for what they are.

From John Berger, G. 1972.


Blogger darling vicarage said...

I think he may be right about this.

Being in love is about that continual state of alert for some sign, or gift from that person, for which you feel like you would be prepared to sell yourself. But I think the worst thing about being in love is the fact that despite one's best efforts to show the beloved that you're trying to offer yourself, that message never quite reaches the person in the way you intended, if it ever really reaches them at all.

i think a lot of people go through relationships telling each other they love one another, without ever really realising what that might mean.

But that John Berger quote makes me feel a bit blue - as in sad, not x-rated.

9:50 PM  
Blogger paddington said...

I agree.

Neither love nor sex are communicable. I've written about this before, but the worst question one lover can ever ask another is: "how much do you love me?" or "why do you love me so much?" Love exists in a realm for which we haven't created a language. So it is inevitable that the message of love will never reach its target, because you can never quite say what you want to say.

But what if your intended target did receive your message loud and clear? Would this not somehow dilute your desire for him? After all, isn't desire merely the gap between the demand for romantic love on the one hand, and its immediate satisfaction on the other?

The fact that you can even formulate a message in the first must mean that you have compromised the more passionate, violent aspects of love which cannot be communicated. That presents another gap, which is actually the same as the first one. It is the gap, or lack, created by the fact that you cannot articulate your most primordial desires.

This seems to explain why there is an unsatisfactory aspect to sex - because there is always something left over, something which is not satisfied by the sexual act. And also, why sometimes the most immediately satisfying sex is often the most unsatisfying after the event.

9:14 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home