But now shrinks the place where you stand: Where now, stripped by shade, will you go? — Paul Celan

Love and Time


Platero, the disabled cat, who lived with me for less than a month before he died.

More time is not more eternity. — Juan Ramón Jiménez

What if someone or something exists only for a very short interval of time? Would you be able to love something so evanescent? Derek Walcott, in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech essay, The Antilles: Fragments of Epic Memory, says that while many travellers purport to love the Caribbean in truth they don’t. For if they truly loved the place, he argues, they’d move and stay there.

To truly love someone, someplace, or something, requires time devoted to it. In the era after the death of god, love is the only sacred emotion left to us. And the sacred cannot be abstract. It requires one to get to know the object of one’s love intimately. On Easter Island, there are certain coves that are sacred to the natives of the island. You love the particularity of this or that object — it is the opposite of abstraction.

If love requires time to develop, it is also true that time is a test of love. For if you love someone or a place, you will continue to love them even after they are long gone. (Love Constant Beyond Death as Quevedo observed.) After your beloved has died, or your home has crumbled to dust, you will continue to love them.

In this world shrouded in the fog of forgetfulness, love is the truest form of memory. It remembers the essence of the person or thing that has been lost. As I have said elsewhere, love is the second eternity.

Inspired by Milan Kundera one can say, love saves the memory of our beloved from kitsch. (‘Kitsch is the stopover between being and oblivion,’ writes Kundera in his novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being.)

But the other time, physical time, the first eternity, leaves behind those you loved (and still love) and lost. They become part of the physical entropy of the universe.

It leaves them behind even when governments erect statues and proclaim holidays in their memory. For the fanfare of celebration of the beloved is but the loudest form of forgetting of all. It is the loss of the individual under the tombstone of the symbol.

Love is a different kind of time. It is the personal time that contradicts the loud utterances of the fake love that Time proclaims. Love is time with a small ‘t’.

Love is the secret and personal time in which perdures the true nature of things.

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