I will stop my chapter by chapter break down of In Praise of Love and just get into how love is constructed according to Badiou, and more importantly, get into what is this crazy thing called love and how does it last.
There are two fundamental aspects of love that correspond to everyone’s experience of it.
- “Love contains an initial element that separates, dislocates and differentiates. You have Two. Love involves Two.”
- Love involves risk precisely because you going from one to Two.
What is love’s main rival? For most of us, it would be another person, someone else that competes with us for the affection and attention of the individual we love. That’s not quite the case, as Badiou explains:
Selfishness, not a rival, is love’s enemy. One could say: my love’s main enemy, the one I must defeat, is not the other, it is myself, the “myself” that prefers identity to difference, that prefers to impose its world against the world re-constructed through the filter of difference.
It turns out that you are your own worst enemy, your insecurities, your ego, you desire for perfection without appreciating the other as he or she is, your desire to keep barriers and maintain differences rather than seeing past them.
So once you have love, does it last forever? I haven’t seen a study on this, but I’d be willing to bet that everyone, or at the very least the female population, would jump at the chance to freeze love, to preserve that moment where you’ve both declared your love for each other and life seems blissful, and you want it to stay that blissful forever. Alas, it does not last. You have arguments. You get married and maybe lose the excitement you once had. You get caught up in the day to day routine and take the other for granted. And then…you get angry because it feels like you’ve lost the love you have before.
Love invents a different way of lasting in life. That everyone’s existence, when tested by love, confronts a new way of experiencing time.
But love has many shapes and forms. Just as all species have needed to adapt and evolve to survive, love needs to as well. It cannot be and it should not be the same a few months/years/decades later as it first was.
So I’ve left this to the very end, but what is this “love” that Badiou has gone on about and that I’ve detailed in about 3.5 blog posts?
– Love is above all a construction that lasts. We could say that love is a tenacious adventure. The adventurous side is necessary, but equally so is the need for tenacity. To give up at the first hurdle, the first serious disagreement, the first quarrel, is only to distort love. Real love is the one that triumphs lastingly, sometimes painfully, over the hurdles erected by time, space and the world.
– The process of love isn’t always peaceful. It can bring violent argument, genuine anguish and separations we may or may not overcome. We should recognize that it is one of the most painful experiences in the subjective life of an individual.
– Strictly speaking, love isn’t a possibility, but rather the overcoming of something that might appear to be impossible. Something exists that had no reason to, which was never offered to you as a possibility.
I feel vindicated in reading this version of love, and not just because it corresponds so neatly with my own romantic version of love. I think it’s refreshing for someone to describe the depth and passion of the state of love into such an eloquent and humbling manner that doesn’t downgrade love as cheesy or kitschy.
Above all, Badiou’s notion of love celebrates transforming the seemingly not possible into the possible. And that is quite celebratory. For two people to come together and create a bond from nothing and to continue to sustain that bond to make it into something is simply amazing.