Saturday, January 28, 2012

Knowing Secret Things

Just the other night I went looking for something: a love poem. That is, I went searching for some kind of philosophical musing on love, something both painful and exhilarating--something that would name what it is that we experience, something that would present itself as an alternative to some of our impulses, ever the anti-thesis to happiness. Perhaps, for once, I had need of cliches. Don't we all, at some point, if only to account for their pervasiveness?

I thought of Yehuda Amichai; I thought of Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet. Love, for both Amichai and Rilke, is fraught, always already. It is heavy and laden, threaded through with a doubt--a knowing insight--that stabilizes and clarifies more than the purity of a love that one seeks and never finds. I suppose I should have considered Elizabeth Barrett Browning--how do I love thee?--or a voice equal to such hyperbolic exaltations of something we name love.

But I know better.

I stayed with Rilke, though I felt nudged to wander. And, as on many nights, I found what I didn't know I was looking for: I want to be with those who know secret things, or else alone. And I found my love poem.

I want to be with those who know secret things, or else alone.

Those who know secret things: the things we all close our eyes to. I once read an essay about the difference between how little girls and little boys form friendships with their peers. Girls, running around on the playground, stopping to whisper into another girl's ear: a secret. And little boys: yelling, running, pushing, panting. Bonding, both. What is it about secrets that bind women, in their younger years, together?

We abhor secrets and secrecy as we grow older. We relinquish mystery for the mundane. Perhaps we cease, consequently, to love. And yet secrets are not simply the opposite of the mundane, mystery romanticized until it become the object of an immature obsession.

But what are these secret things? No. What is the secret? I can't help but think that it hurts, that it longs, that it agonizes and even hates.

I once knew someone who loved G-d so much that he hated him for his failure and silences. He would go to the synagogue on Shabbat to stand in the back and glower and hate and agonize. But I would take this. I would take a hatred so intense that it threatened to reveal its own secrets.

Sometimes being with someone who knows secret things means not being with him, with her. I read Jabes, Levinas, Rilke--I think of wounds and red threads and of being your hostage. And it becomes my secret. It becomes my love. To be with those who know secret things . . . means to be alone.

I am with you, always. I love you, always. The freedom to long, the space to desire: the knowledge of secret things, of things secret.