Friday, July 12, 2013

"Love is Guilt" an essay

This is a later section to an ongoing essay I am writing about guilt. Not only guilt, my essay on love also has gained endless additions. This section explores the relationship between guilt and love, and then stacks it against pride, as before, to see how love compares in the new dynamic.


"Love is Guilt"

Guilt (section 22)


                Guilt is an ownership, a bond. Love becomes the basis of guilt, because reciprocation is the justice of love. If a man loves a woman and she not return it, his love can become hate -- she hurt him, hurt his heart. Certainly, if she were unkind in her dismissal she would be declaimed heartless. To hurt an exposed heart is cruel, though the indecency of that exposure is imposed upon us.

                In this, guilt is what it feels like to be loved for those who suffer for our happiness: those who love you own you, and guilt is the sense of owing something. Love is intimacy is pleasure, but love as sought intimacy is desire, a pleasurable pain. We own a thing by loving it. Praying for your enemy is to achieve a sense of moral superiority over him, as if you and God together pitied him and offered a sense of patronizing mercy, “forgive them for they know not what they do.” Since one owns what he loves – to own is to use, and what better use for anything than to find pleasure in it? – love is a presumption, an imposed intimacy, a rape for the person who wishes no such intimacy And since we are basically individuals, the right to privacy is absolute, the most important right after life. We need feel no guilt that we refuse love. But if we take pleasure in it, even involuntarily, we have taken part in it, and are implicated, just as if we laughed at a racist joke.

                For of course there is an affirmation in being love, even by people you dismiss, and the guilt in it is just the shadow of the pleasure of being loved. Inveterate flirts brag about the men they have to chase away with a stick. “Heartbreaker” is such a double-edged compliment. Being loved feeds vanity, or a sense of secondary pride. But to take pleasure in the frustration of another is cruelty, is power. Hence being loved is perilous, one may soon be blamed.

                Meanwhile, the loving relationship once established is felt as an exchange of kindness and guilt. The newlyweds don’t talk of guilt as guilt because it is fluid and quickly reciprocates into making the other feel happy. Since it doesn’t get that accent, we forget it is part of all love. Every act of kindness implies reciprocation. One owes at least gratitude – sometimes no small payment! – for the be an ingrate to one so kind to you is reprehensible. A parent who gave you life, raised you, fed you, tended you in sickness, and so forth, sees this an an ownership, perhaps with a right to advise or influence your adult life.

                Since gift is guilt, we gain ownership through the logic of gifts and kindness. The idea of a gift with no strings attached offends justice. What is gift but a string? Were there any “free gift” something like Karma, or an omniscient God, would have to be assumed to reward such behavior. The sense of moral superiority in one’s own eyes would perhaps be payment enough – that man bought himself a memory. But the highest gift a man can give is to be openly happy. Others will take his example and “pay him” by being likewise happy. Greatness beheld empowers. The praise all give to great men may come from the guilt of being a benefactor, but the joy of praising greatness, the need to praise greatness, delights the soul. The greatest benefactors of man do not sacrifice, or feel it is so, but give from the joy of being themselves, from creative expression.

                Guilt and love are consonant, then, guilt is the feeling of love received -- until it can be reciprocated. Lacking that, who can endure kindness? Thus, one form of valid reciprocation is hostility – don’t do me no favor, keep your love to yourself!

                Guilt then is potential love, the onus of love. We may feel guilty at seeing another suffer, however, in the sheer pleasure that it is not us, as if it should be. We want to pay for our happiness as if it were given to us by the sufferer. The heart is also cruel, there is pleasure in seeing suffering, but we don’t experience that immediately, it has been converted into guilt. The beautiful, happy, innocent ones in life are easy prey to the envious who want to make them feel guilty for their happiness, as if happiness were a privilege, not a natural state of being. Healthy, beautiful, happy, innocent, the are probably na├»ve, and subject to such demoralizing moral language. The healthy are thus made slaves of the sick, who have the wits to use language to insinuate as if their health were the cause of sickness, or as if some person or God blessed them, gave them health, to whom they owe a debt: “Woe to those who laugh.” In this, praising God, thanking God, attributing one’s happiness to God is a way to poke the evil eye and say “God made me happy, how dare you fault God?”

                Pride, called crown of the virtues by Aristotle, called the cardinal sin by Christians, comes as a threat to guilt-systems, to the ownership of souls. Pride, self-love, self-satisfaction, self-respect, self-sufficiency, independence, autonomy, strike many as being anti-religious, as blasphemous, as the greatest threat to religion. The constellation of terms is the power and the pleasure of being oneself, the opposite of guilt. Pride is deserved self-respect, delighting in one’s own powers. The proud man owes no debts. Pride as the opposite of guilt can be its conversion. Through the alchemy of self-reflection and self-understanding, one can convert his guilt not by denial, which leaves the guilt intact and active, but in changing its substance, from being owned by the lover into self-ownership, a duty to oneself.

                Pride is the self-overcoming of guilt, not its distribution through a system, the contracting ourselves amidst a world of lovers. We solve guilt by thickening relations, distributing guilt through favors or kindness, or in becoming more autonomous in pride. In that sense, guilt is money, a promissory note, we give it to make contracts, to establish relationships. Pride as autonomy is individual, or alternatively, group pride is the pride of being in a group independent of other groups, self-important, powerful. The sense that one’s gift is important because he is a man of high standing, has aura, charisma, pride, self-regard, an unshakable self-image that negotiates and overcomes the world’s image of him, shows the dynamic between love and pride, between love and power, in other words, the fear and its self-overcoming through courage and the triumph of distances.

                Love is guilt. And so pride as self-love is self-guilt, or a sense of responsibility, indebtedness to ourselves, which means, in other words, the dignity and self-reverence that we must take care of ourselves. For this one may sacrifice parts of himself for his greater self, give up weak pleasure for austere pleasure, improve, grow, triumph. Pride would be ashamed to let itself go.

                And yet pride is not self-love so much as self-respect, an esteem of one’s power, whereas vanity typically is concerned with one’s loveliness and beauty. How does the proud man love? With self-respect unwilling to debase himself to feel loved, for he loves himself more than he loves being loved by others. And yet love in its guilt wants an intimacy, a vulnerability, a sharing of secrets for the pact of mutual blackmail, from the sense of trust that such a position gives. In this, at least, pride and love must negotiate, one cannot be all love or all pride. Marriage is humiliation. Knowing how to handle this humiliation while negotiating your self-respect is wisdom, and the sages teach it.

                Knowing to at times humble yourself and humiliate yourself is shrewd. Beyond love and power, or guilt and pride, is the necessity and freedom that set them all into place, that play at the game of life. The ecosystem of the heart, the preying of emotion upon emotion, and desire upon desire, the conversion of weak into strong, makes the system grow, the heart grow harder at parts and more tender at others. The heart is a circle, and allist abides all kinds.



\ ~@M@~ /


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