Baudelaire: Disunity


Thomas Couture, Charles Baudelaire and Apollonie Sabatier


“So difficult it is to understand each other, my dear angel, and so incommunicable is thought, even between two people who love each other!”


-Charles Baudelaire


McCullers: Beautiful As The Poison Lilies Of The Swamp


Separation by Edvard Munch




First of all, love is a joint experience between two persons — but the fact that it is a joint experience does not mean that it is a similar experience to the two people involved. There are the lover and the beloved, but these two come from different countries. Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which had lain quiet within the lover for a long time hitherto. And somehow every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. So there is only one thing for the lover to do. He must house his love within himself as best he can; he must create for himself a whole new inward world — a world intense and strange, complete in himself. Let it be added here that this lover about whom we speak need not necessarily be a young man saving for a wedding ring — this lover can be man, woman, child, or indeed any human creature on this earth.

Now, the beloved can also be of any description. The most outlandish people can be the stimulus for love. A man may be a doddering great-grandfather and still love only a strange girl he saw in the streets of Cheehaw one afternoon two decades past. The preacher may love a fallen woman. The beloved may be treacherous, greasy-headed, and given to evil habits. Yes, and the lover may see this as clearly as anyone else — but that does not affect the evolution of his love one whit. A most mediocre person can be the object of a love which is wild, extravagant, and beautiful as the poison lilies of the swamp. A good man may be the stimulus for a love both violent and debased, or a jabbering madman may bring about in the soul of someone a tender and simple idyll. Therefore, the value and quality of any love is determined solely by the lover himself.

It is for this reason that most of us would rather love than be loved. Almost everyone wants to be the lover. And the curt truth is that, in a deep secret way, the state of being beloved is intolerable to many. The beloved fears and hates the lover, and with the best of reasons. For the lover is forever trying to strip bare his beloved. The lover craves any possible relation with the beloved, even if this experience can cause him only pain.”


― Carson McCullers, The Ballad of the Sad Café and Other Stories

Hegel: Love Is A Most Monstrous Contradiction


Adam Martinakis, The Remains Of A Memory




“Love is a most monstrous contradiction. It defies understanding. To love is to give what one does not have and to receive that over which one has no power. To love is to freely negate the stubbornness that is the self and to live in loyalty to an affirmation that can dissolve like morning mist with the first experience of betrayal.”


-Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Rank: Two Parasites Feeding




In Beyond Psychology (1941) Rank emphasizes the self-esteem regulating function of the love relationship, in which the individual seeks to constantly feel self-worth through being loved by an idealized other: “Modern love is… not sexual but a psychological problem experienced in moral terms of good and bad (which) makes human relationship into a symbiosis of two parasites feeding on each other’s ‘goodness’”.


-George Atwood and Robert Stolorow, Faces In A Cloud





Light Art by Tracey Emin