Travelling towards an unusually silent Milan – due to a pandemic spell – on the train I meet a Rabbi who immediately strikes up a conversation. I am sitting next to him, so we start talking and for each request for my opinion, I respond by asking for his.
He immediately inquires about my civil status – am I married? – and I try to slip away from the subject while he presses on smilingly, noting how important it is to ‘fatten up’ his wife with compliments and attention. Although I am pleased, at first, I soon realize that I’m still in front of a dogmatic and exclusionary vision of love, almost a hallmark of all systems of thought that have become institutionalised.
And so, with a slight bitterness, I go back to thinking and realize that I have not found what I am looking for in or outside me this time either: a key to understand love.
This is no small issue, on which I have been vaguely meditating for weeks while the idea of writing about it is carving out more and more space among my thoughts – whoever is reading cannot avoid noticing my preference for some words over others.
I realize in this way that I don’t know many stories, beyond literature, that manifest a devastating will of love; instead, I know many terrible ones about the devastation of love, and the latter tend with impunity towards future generations. Let this be said with full awareness of what the miracle of life is and how immeasurable its value is, which, however, I cannot outweigh the very quality of living.
You give me your love and in exchange, I will give you mine.
To paraphrase Louis-Ferdinand Céline: perhaps what is being sought is the greatest passion possible before dying.
In these words, I find the most significant aspect of love and from which this reflection has come to life: passion is the passivity from which one is caught in the middle, reactivated, energized by something – in this case, by the feeling of love – and one finds oneself happy with the pleasant suffering one is experiencing. The duality of the term passion fits like a glove.
When the active and incandescent passion is no longer there or has extinguished, a new figure appears on love’s game board: constancy, a quality typical of those who know how to stay calm. It is said that calmness is a divine virtue; but then, is this love an alchemic sleeping pill, a benzodiazepine that tames, exsanguinates, and makes one indolent?
Is accepting a placid love story to kill love, that serenity which I hear many talking about, or is it to define its success? And it is inevitable that placing the question in utilitarian terms brings back the thought about love as a sort of safe transaction: you give me your love and in exchange, I will give you mine.
The love that I have experienced, and of which I love to read, leads me back to active passion. A passion that manages to undermine the egocentric priority, to give absolute value to someone over anyone else, to make the smallest details of the beloved something fundamental for one’s own well-being – the compactness of their skin, the shape of their ears, their foot hairs. That same passion that makes every gesture of the beloved a mythological moment, in a dimension in which nothing is special for the outside world but everything is special for us: everything is ideal, everything is unforgettable.
This love reminds us of the one between the sand and the sea: the sand collects everything the sea brings ashore, and being in love the sand makes it an heirloom, a sanctuary, an altar; it adapts its forms without changing its nature and mixes its boundaries without losing its presence. The sand does not stop being sand even if it is mixed with seawater.
This love dwells in memories because there it does not have to come to terms with the accidents of life: child care, home, money. Love in the cabinet of an economist – I cannot deny an unintentional feeling of disgust.
Ending with small enlightenment: choosing between a love that has no hope of continuity and a suicidal one, is to attempt to make ourselves as completely human as possible; it is in order to not care about one’s banking account, their profession or their social reverberation. By doing so, if we are interested in someone, it won’t be out of personal gain and we won’t come to the conclusion that it is best to copulate because a mortgage is easily paid off with two salaries.
Maybe in this way… By becoming sand that really changes without changing we can aspire to the greatest passion possible.