Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Only Loss Is Real

I recently noticed the status of a person on Facebook--not one of my "friends"--that I found troublesome for some reason I couldn't articulate. I've been thinking about it all day, as a matter of fact. The status read: "only love is real." It garnered a bit of attention, all sorts of people clicking the "like" button in response to it, and many posting comments that were really quite silly and not worth dignifying with repetition here.

I said out loud to myself, "Who says things like that? Only love is real?" I found it offensive and childish on so many levels. I mean, what the hell does it mean? That "love" is more real than suffering or sorrow? Or, worse, that it is the only so-called emotion that warrants any serious consideration?

But I was also in the midst of re-visiting Anne Michaels' The Winter Vault, which I've written about before. In one scene of the novel, Michaels paints a picture of 1950s Warsaw, when people were desperate with optimism, running around making the most extravagant of claims about all the wonderful things that were going to happen in Warsaw--all the lovers that would find each other, the scientific discoveries that would be made, all the dead that would be raised.

And the narrator responds:

And while people ran about proclaiming such things, I could only think that everything exists because of loss. From the bricks of our buildings, from cement to human cells, everything exists because of chemical transformation, and every chemical transformation is accompanied by loss. And when I look up at the night sky I think: The astronomers have given every star a number.

And then, tearing a piece of paper and crumpling it into a ball:

This is what the world is. A ball where everything is smashed together. I do not know if we belong to the place where we are born, or to the place where we are buried.

And so to the girl who writes, "only love is real," I would say: Look where you are standing. Look at how your feet crush against layer upon layer of loss and memory. Your "love" is nothing without the reality of loss.

I won't tell you that love is not real: one or two rare occasions in my life beg me, perhaps from their graves, to suggest otherwise. But spare me your false consolation, your extravagant claim on love and reality. Show me something more real than what can only be the epidermis of human existence. Show me the real.