When a new person starts to be a part of our life, especially if we feel strong feelings towards her, one of the first things we do is to show her our pictures from when we were kids. It is perhaps a way to tell that person, look this is me, this is my essence, look how cute I was! Now maybe I’m totally different and I feel ugly but it’s like we want to emphasize: look I’m not what you see now, I’m that!
The theme of childhood is closely connected with that of the origin, of our deepest nature that we somehow feel as if we have lost or that we need to reveal in order to show others who we are or rather to remind ourselves who we are. It is interesting to note how we need to remember who we are precisely when we let someone into our life or something affects it, as if the other, in a broad sense, with his/her or its presence alone puts our identity in question. Indeed, the word “other” comes from the Latin “alter”, the other by its very nature alters our balance, puts it in crisis (in decision).
It is there that to make up for this emptiness that we experience we need to go back to our origins, showing photos of our childhood, of our friends and relatives, our relations. We have no other way to say who we are than, paradoxically, by showing an “other” or “others”, showing our relations. Yes another, because we are no longer what we were, we are someone else and looking back we see another person. In not accepting this “otherness” we risk living in a continuous melancholy, an a-relationality with ourselves.
Childhood is also often connected with the gratuitousness of love, a kind of paradise, precisely because we experience unconditional affection and a love that asks nothing back. By experiencing this gratuitousness that we receive from others we base our way of acting in the future.
It is therefore normal to experience this melancholy for something that is no longer there, but perhaps it is even more normal to remember childhood as a propulsive place for our present and future for which to be grateful. Obviously, like all of life, childhood can be punctuated by more or less great traumas, which is why it is also necessary to protect it with all possible means.
What very often happens is that we never get out of infancy, either because we consider it a paradise to be rediscovered or because of traumas. For some, infancy lasts a lifetime. The word infancy derives from the archaic Latin verb fari, which means to speak, and with the addition of in- takes on the meaning of one who does not speak.
How many times we are still unable to speak, to express our voice, who we are, our being. We are all infants at times. It is perhaps by letting go of that “origin” and all our “origins” that we can be an origin again for ourselves and for others, how many infancies we have lived and live in our lives that we do not want to abandon. However, every origin is such because it is free, it does not ask permission, it is.
Perhaps it is by understanding and accepting the freedom of what precedes us and transcends us that we too can live free and not in a perpetual syndrome of abandonment in search of our lost paradises or our traumas, perhaps it is in this way that we can finally emerge from childhood/infancy and begin to really talk, not about what we have lost but about the freedom that taught us that absence of what made us happy in gratuitousness, or what traumatized us, in a continuous flourishing origin.
There is a beautiful quote of a drawing of Snoopy that can perhaps sum up this mystery of childhood: when you are a child you are taught to speak. When you grow up you have to learn to keep quiet. Strange things of existence.
“Love kills, scars you from the start”. “Love doesn’t leave you alone”. So say some lines from the famous Queen song.
In a world where we live in the myth of independence and universal loneliness, love seems to be just a danger to be escaped or something to be dealt with in order to reach some predetermined goal (a family, children, a job), something to be controlled, something we are afraid of. As we approach Valentine’s Day, we are ready to celebrate our lonelinesses, our independences, with gifts to cover our fear. Has love become just another formality? Has it been reduced to something to be contained within the walls of a house, a couple, a small community? Has it lost its universal nature? Is it a waste of time?
We grew up in a culture in which the myth to be followed is that of economic and emotional independence, of making it on our own, we have transferred the paradigms of economic reasoning to those of society, we have moved from a market economy to a market society in which everything has a price, the price of our independence, or the illusion of it, the price of time that has become money.
There are many psychological, coaching and personal growth programmes that obsessively celebrate “freedom” and independence. Many people are now obsessed with being scared of being affectively dependent on someone. It is an evil to be cured, an evil to be avoided, or if you are already into it, to be escaped. When something goes wrong in a relationship we are ready to call it toxic, we are ready to run away immediately, the risk is … the risk is…to die. But isn’t that what love is? Love hurts from the start. Is not falling in love the opening of a wound? Doesn’t the lover seek the counterpoint of his own fragility by seeking out the wound of the other or by creating it himself?
If we think about it, isn’t the whole phase of falling in love, which is also seen in a negative light today as a waste of time in order to achieve the longed-for bodily bond, dominated by a prevailing sexuality that covers up the deepest bond, elected as the only language of lovers (sexuality emancipates is the motto from 1968 to today), a wounding, an opening of a wound in order to love? The lover struggles with expectations, silences, fears and doubts, waiting for a word from the other confirming that he or she is as wounded as she or he is, a wound in which he or she recognises his own. It is there, in this encounter of wounds and fragility, that love is born. Many speak of love as a choice, but every choice is the fruit of an already open wound, falling in love is already love.
The first date is a terrible risk from which the whole story can take one turn or another, the images, the smells, the dreams and desires that the two transmit to each other are the fruit of their respective wounds that become common, universal, transfigured into something they were not before. Falling in love is already becoming dependent of a common wound, it is beginning to live it deeply to the point where you choose, you understand that, perhaps, that was not a wound but love itself.
Often in our society we tend to see even the stage of falling in love as negative, an obligatory step or almost a waste of time. Realism would have it that falling in love and love are two different things, but in reality they are both love, only the former has not yet revealed itself to those who are already immersed in it. Falling in love is a confession of dependence, it is giving love time to reveal itself, it is the wound of living in the other’s time and not our own, entering into an eternal time and not our own.
Emancipation is not sexual, it is not economic, it is not about power as this society obsessively emphasises, but it is paradoxically in dependence, in the bonds that are established on a spiritual level, in relationships. We are dependent on our own wounds and those of others. So many love affairs today fall precisely on this point, in an unredeemed dependence, in wounds that are not accepted. How many times have we heard the phrase: I need my space.
But what are these spaces if not the unwillingness to admit to oneself that one is dependent? Not feeling forgiven for being dependent? There is nothing wrong with being dependent, that is what love is all about! The famous independence, or freedom, is precisely in feeling forgiven in our dependence, our freedom is in forgiving our not being free. Peace in a relationship is admitting that it is not ours and does not depend on us. Union is accepting that united we may not actually want to be.
The truth is that we have made falling in love and love a fear, or a fear of being afraid, of showing ourselves to be weak, something to be covered with material acts, but these descend from the bond and not vice versa. Only when the bond prevails will they be full of meaning, a meaning that one does not have to seek but that reveals itself to the two wounds, a meaning that transcends and transcends the couple, the walls of the house, a family, a small community, a universal meaning that transforms them.
A meaning that begins with a glance or with the fear of a glance, a meaning that begins with opening one’s heart or closing it, with an exchange of jokes or with being disliked, with freedom, courage, fears and anxieties, with dreaming and wishing for a future that does not yet exist or being afraid of its existence. Love is perhaps dreaming/desiring or being scared of a future that does not yet exist but that we know is already there, it is our wound, it is our dependence on love and on the other, present, past and future. Let us therefore recover romanticism, perhaps the most real of loves, the confession of our indigence, of our lack, of our voids, of our resistance, of a time given without fear because if time is already eternal like our wounds, then, it is never lost and our preconceptions about the other are only revelations of ourselves.
I like to think of love with an unconfirmed poetic etymology that sees the origin of the word love in the Latin a-mors, that which goes beyond death, that which is deathless, perhaps because love is “death” itself (or what we interpret as death but which in reality is full life), it is, as we said, our very dependence on it. We are beggars of love, that is, of God. So let us live out this dependence to the full! Let us live out this Valentine’s Day feast as our dependence day, that of the confession of dependence on love, or the fear of dependence on love, which is God himself. Let us live it as the feast of welcoming the other’s time/wound and therefore also our own, of a time that is an eternal present. Let us look at our lover with a romantic gaze that tastes of eternal, in which, loneliness becomes part of the other and the fire in our heart burns. If the Canticle of Canticles says that ‘as strong as death is love’…. then we are allowed to say … ay amor!