As might have been expected, last week’s Simpson column aroused more interest than usual. I may have more to say on the subject next week. The present column returns to less topical matters.


Why is resentment so easy and love so difficult?

Alone, I am the man of resentment. All worldly presence does me injustice, not because it is unaware of its own existence, as Sartre’s Roquentin would like us to believe, but because of its scandalous indifference to mine. Even when my fellow man does not esteem himself over me, he betrays me by admiring another above myself. The least object I encounter in my path, a scrap of newsprint not consecrated to me, an advertisement in another’s image, a street-sign bearing a name not my own; the entire world and everything within it is a complicit witness to my unjust exclusion from the center of significance.

What is there then for me to love? To love what refuses to acknowledge my infinite power to love would be the ultimate abjection, the relinquishment of my claim of centrality.

But now we are two and in love; all things in the world become beneficiaries of our happiness. Not only those who smile on us, but those who fail to smile–we pity them: they have never been in love! By centering my little world on another, I am fulfilled by proximity to its center; I forget the world’s indifference in my beloved’s eyes.

Is not love’s springtime the moment when the libido conspires to perpetuate the species? But our love is not the expression of an impersonal life-force. It is, like all truly human things, a transcendence of appetite mediated by the center of human significance. My beloved and I are not so consumed by desire that we forget the universe; on the contrary, our love opens us to the universe. What resentment saw as obstacles to our being have become extensions of it. Lovers are humble; their love, so much greater than either of them alone, reveals to them the source of their own meaning in the community of meaning that surrounds them.

For the man of resentment, the center of the universe–the place of God–is the only place. No degree of worldly eminence is enough; although, to be fair, there are probably many degrees between God’s eminence and his own that he has not experienced. The man of resentment suffers from his finitude, not because he knows his life is finite, but because he feels his significance is finite. He, at least, knows what is meant by immortality; it is what would purge him of his resentment.

But then to fall in love is to become immortal. The lover discovers that, freed from resentment, he has lost his fear of death; his present is full of eternity. Yet love is not idolatry of an image invulnerable to death, but tenderness for a vulnerability that mirrors his own.

Aimez ce que jamais vous ne verrez deux fois! Love what you will never see twice! Vigny’s line directs us to love not the eternally renewed ephemerality of nature, but our human historicity. By raising my fellow mortal to the source of meaning, I recreate the permanence of langue from the scenic event of parole. The ultimate lesson of Christianity, and indeed, of all religion, is that the human person, the user of language, fully possesses the quality of divinity that human language was created to represent. Fully to possess the quality of God is not to be God as a unique central being, it is to be human. We learn this lesson from our experience of love.