The Experience of Love

I keep a journal regularly, almost obsessively, trying to write in it daily. Even when I can’t bring myself to work on other projects, this blog, my art, or the novel I’m trying to write, I’m able to at least put down a few halting and half-baked thoughts there. A few months ago, during a spell where I couldn’t even bring myself to write in the journal, let alone anything else, I wrote the following single line entry: “There is a time for reflecting on experiences and a time for having them; now is the time for having them.”

Eternal Return CXCIV: My Anaïs

I organize my life around having experiences, new ones, ones that shake up the average everydayness of the mundane existence of having to secure the means of survival, making rent, making food, getting to and from work, and eking out enough of a living to be able to afford things that make existence bearable while still having the time and energy to enjoy pleasures and have those novel experiences that make life worth living. At the same time, I have an intense desire to record those experiences, fictionalize them, embellish them, highlighting what makes them exciting, interesting, informative, valuable, worth having. Sometimes though, the attempt to record experiences, think through them, interpret, and paint them gets in the way of having them. It is as though the examined life, the one that philosophers valorize, gets in the way of actually living a life. Or conversely, actually living and putting oneself in a position to have those novel and interesting experiences doesn’t leave time or energy for putting them down on paper and thinking through them. Hence my journal entry that now is the time for having experiences, not reflecting on them.

I’m at a point now where I want to begin reflecting on experiences again even as I set myself have as many new and life changing and pleasurable ones as possible. I want to reflect on the experiences that led me months ago to write that now was not the time to reflect on them and that kept me from writing in this blog.

I fell in love, and I’ve been loved. I love and am loved.

I want to resist the philosopher’s impulse to define love, to analyze the concept. First, you, my reader, know exactly what I mean when I say that I fell in love. Second, there are as many loves as there are people who are capable of love; there isn’t just one definable concept “love.” I believe that I’ve been loved before this and have been in love before this. But this love that has put my writing on hold is a novel one unlike any before, one I’ve had to dwell in for a few months before I could even bring myself to live reflectively again or create again.

What makes this love different from my past loves in a way that has transformed my life is that I’m loved for who I am instead of being loved for who I could be. Loved for the immediacy of my present and the story of my past instead of for the incidental identities that I could take on or put off. The starkness of the contrast between this way of being loved and of past ways I’ve been loved has been eye opening, and just like any new and momentous experience, it has changed me and given me new knowledge.

To write earnestly and unironically about love is not in fashion. Or when it is fashionable, it is tritely naive. To declare my intentions in advance, over the next couple of posts I want to write, not about what love is, but about what this love is like and what it’s not like, and to walk the line that is earnestness about love without naivete, guided by my attitude that good and valuable things have a crack in them. Imperfection is what makes things beautiful and makes things worthwhile to the point where we can’t even say what perfection is and what imperfection is, except to say that seemingly perfect things, things that seem to be without fault and without cracks are the naive, are the ugly, are the tacky veneer that keeps us from being straightforwardly honest about love and other good and worthwhile experiences that make life worth living.

One thought on “The Experience of Love

  1. Justin, this was gorgeous and warming to read. I relate to your words. My experiences this year have similarly transformed my experience of love, both giving and receiving, away from the cynical and towards the simple, pure, hopeful, and expansive. Being earnest about love has never been a trait of mine, until recently. This love, like yours, is rooted in accepting and embracing imperfections and returning to what is central: understanding self and others, questioning perceptions, cultivating joy, and giving compassion and patience without end. I’m unrecognizable to myself in some ways and am better off for it. Thanks for writing. I look forward to reading more.


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