Love and Loss

The Olympic Sculpture Park has a sculpture of Love and Loss, the words intersecting at the letter “o”.  Part of the sculpture is a utilitarian bench, part is a painted tree, and part is missing.  The “e” is currently being restored, and the table where it  sits  has been vacant for at least a few months at this point.  The piece doesn’t look like it’s missing anything- it’s only when you start to try to piece out the words that the logic falls short.  The word cannot finish, it is caught mid-love, and we are left with loss.  But one day, maybe soon, the e will be put back onto the table and those who never knew it’s absence will notice nothing.

Is it too overbearing of a metaphor to have love caught mid-word, entangled with the complete loss? Writing about love feels sentimental to me, and yet it is something that is pervasive and ever-present and begs to be written about.  So I couch love in other terms, I examine small aspects and insert my own symbol-language to hide behind.

I was asked by a good friend what I write about, and at first I glanced off the question, If I could summerize what I write about, why would I have to write it? That’s the easy answer, and he deserved more, so I tried again. I think, for the most part, I write about the inability to connect. Would this answer surprise the people who know me outside of my text?  For all of my chatter and friendly gestures, I am not sure I exist outside myself.

Even when in love, I am unable to become You. I remain Me, separate from You.  Helene Cixous struggles with this in The Book of Promethea.  She writes: “I cannot let you fill me.  It is a matter of impossibles between us.”  Anne Carson struggles with this in Decreation as well, examining love between mother and daughter and examining love of god.  In her essay Decreation: How Women like Sappho, Marguerite Porete and Simone Weil Tell God she follows how love is the strength that destroys (yet creates) these women.  To be subsumed by love is to be destroyed.  “Marguerite Porete was burned at the stake in 1310 for writing a book about the absolute daring of love.”  I admire what she risked, how impossible it was for her to do anything else.

I’d like to still have the idealism to think that love is enough, and that if we have to burn at the end, we burn– but I am not Marguerite.

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2 thoughts on “Love and Loss

  1. Hi Alexis,

    Great post. Your discussion of love-as-destruction put me in mind of The Second Sex, which I have been chiseling through for months, and quoting to pretty much everybody I know. Still, you may want to check out de Beavoir’s chapters on “Women in Love” and “Female Mystics” if you are interested in this notion of the torching, subsuming love. I was myself, but it is worth reading this desire for self-immolation in love in the context of gender and the way that female love is often idealized as an egoless “gift” whereas male love tends to align more with acquisition and indulgence. As she points out, there was a time when the only substantive “risk” available to a woman was whom she might love, and how she might perform this love. Now, we are able to risk in other arenas, as well. I think she would say, and I would say, too, that love is *not* enough. And that to remain You and Me is, in fact, the key to real love between independent partners.

    I know there are romantics of both genders, and that both genders could desire this kind of merge with another person, but it is interesting to consider how most of the vaunted lovers of history and myth are women. Anyway, that’s my two cents. 🙂 Hope to run into you sometime soon.

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