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What Does It Mean to Love Somebody?

“What does it mean to love somebody? It is always to seize that person in a mass, extract him or her from a group, however small, in which he or she participates, whether it be through the family only or through something else; then to find that person’s own packs, the multiplicities he or she enclosed within himself or herself which may be of an entirely different nature. To join them to mine, to make them penetrate mine, and for me to penetrate the other person’s. Heavenly nuptials, multiplicities of multiplicities. Every love is an exercise in depersonalisation on a body without organs yet to be formed, and it is at the highest point of this depersonalisation that someone can be named, receives his or her family name or first name, acquires the most intense discernibility in the instantaneous apprehension of the multiplicities belonging to him or her, and to which he or she belongs.”

— Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari // A Thousand Plateaus


I’ve been constantly brooding about the issue of love especially within the realm of political affects. My several previous posts dealt with the possibility of love as nothing more but a phantasmatic proliferation of individuated desire that was constantly re-doubling back to its existential or narcissistic tendencies of the subject. I can’t help but look back and think that that’s an incredibly stupid and reductive conception of love. At that time I even believed I knew well enough to offer Operator some love advice; caveat: next time I give anyone advice, punch me in the throat.

What is an assemblage? To use a beautiful example that’s not mine, when I’m walking down the street at five a.m, I am the cold winter air, I am the still wind brushing down on my cheeks, I am the five o’clock near-absence of the sun, I belong to the yellow hues of the lamp-posts melding with the salty ground, I am that familiar, narrow, empty street. I am never always a full identity, I do not constantly present everything in terms of how I want to be represented, not every action is a loud declaration of my vacuous made up existence, I am never constantly a body of consistency that refuses any change, even if that change is a change that sustains the similar.

There was once an old man who was an asshole to everyone in his life, everyone around him despised him until one day, the day that he got news – he had cancer: few months left to live. He went home, dazed, uncertain. Everyone no longer despised him, they were actually nice, warm to him, that is, until a month later when the old man found out he no longer had cancer. He became a douchebag and everyone hated him again. What’s important here is that at that very point of death, he was depersonalized, that any form of identity could no longer have any hold on him. It is not that he represented himself as a man of cancer to milk all the sympathy he can get, it was not merely a switching of another identity. He became depersonalized, and at that point, he became beyond good and evil. That’s what a singularity is, a line where one is beyond the subject, that the subject is not inscripted as an identity, nor a personalization. Each new “attribute” of this singularity changes the entire whole – one then is continually a becoming, a becoming not of being another person or of adopting another identity, but just of a becoming. If it’s now seven in the morning and the sun has risen, people starting to wake up, streets starting to get filled, I am no longer the same person I was. Each new line conjugates with others to perform, create something new. The subject must then be depersonalized, a singularity, one that is a subject without being a subject.

What does it mean to love somebody? To love someone is to enjoin our multiplicities. I think that through this lens, love is a flicker, a spark that arises through the momentary caressing, no, friction-induced-in-the-positive-sense, the correspondence of two worlds that are separated from one another but meet momentarily, causing this spark in which our worlds unfold upon each other within that very instance. This unfolding of world is not a merging, but rather a glimpse into the particular unfolded world of the other at the very moment both your worlds cross. Think about the last time you spontaneously thought, or said, “I love you” to another person, which you meant in the most genuine of senses. It must have been through an event, an event where both you and the other person have created a moment, a new world. By creation of a new world, I do not mean that specific experiences that you and the other have made up a new world where you both now stay, no no no, instead, creation is a change, that is, your world has changed through a creation of a new way of perceiving something, or of being affected by a thing. If you went on a dinner date with someone and in the midst of conversation they accidentally let out a fart, and in order not to embarrass him/her, you let out a fart too at that same moment, okay that’s very disgusting, but at that time you both laugh and make jokes about it. In this sense, there is a creation occurring, a creation of a moment that if it is all the more original, all the more does it belong to the both of you, where both of your worlds have simultaneously changed in subsuming this experience and both of you change entirely about what you think of farts. This is the stupidest example in the world to illustrate such a magnificent concept, but the alcohol store next to my apartment is having a fire sale and let’s just say they’re calling out for the fireman (me).

Anyway, what this means is that multiplicities – the continually shifting whole of the subject, in our case, that shifts from each new creation, each new attribute that is not a shift in identity, not a shift in simply being someone else. Love is precisely the creation of original concepts that both parties are simultaneously depersonalized, or to think of it in another way, love is continually the spark, the moment, the event when something is created between you and the other person and you feel a rush and your knees buckle as you spontaneously proclaim that you love this person. Both of you acquire a new capacity of being affected in a specific way, which is how references work – that both of you have already been affected in a particular way that you can both recognize this unique gesture amongst yourselves. This has been a long awaited, for me, reply to Guy, which is why I’m using amongst.

Where is the capacity for change? This whole website since our inception is teeming with questions like that – how do we change, what do we do? Everything seems to be an enclosed totality that precedes our every action – as if our actions were always already mediated prior beforehand in order to sustain any system that we were attempting to counter. According to D&G, I think this capacity is steeped in love. Of course, it isn’t so simple, people well versed in D&G I would super appreciate your responses, but the very capacity of creation, of creativity that outruns, exceeds mere binary responses that continually seem to be boggled down within any praxis – love as a way of approaching, of seeing something entirely differently, of creating new affects, perceptions that allow us to approach questions in an entirely unexpected way.

Postscript:

One problem with this issue of love usually comes from thinking of love in the mature way, and another is of dead love. This instance of love presented seems very much to be one that is within the initial stages of one’s relationship where these unfoldings, and foldings occur the easiest. After the initial moments of whirlwind love, things are said to die down, and if love is sustained, mature love would have to do the trick, everyone says. I think this concept of love that I have presented is, as I have repeatedly mentioned, recognized in terms of events, that moments of events must arise spontaneously even if an event is planned. It’s that spark, the flight, glimpse into the unfolding of another’s world, and the creating (folding) of your own through the new original affects created. Mature love still has its own forms of creation, one that is qualitatively different from a younger kind, but the affect of love that one gets when one knows one is with the other is already love itself. Dead love, a relationship without any new forms of creation, that each partner has their own territorializations, one’s specific routine that does not include the other in their entirety, by cutting them out altogether and absolutely – this is why love is a momentary glance, an instantaneous event of love and not one of absolute grasping of the other, there is no love in the latter. Love is a depersonalization, a reterritorialization with the other that allows for the creativity to be abound. If you’ve ever loved your pet, think about it in those terms, where each moment of interaction is an event of singularity, not of a need of personalizations, you do not represent your identity to pets, but a genuine singularity is abound in order to love.

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8 Responses

  1. Remember Lacan’s Objet a – partial objects? Objet a – partial objects are specifically non-subjectivizable. It is the very excess that remains beyond the totality of an individual, in this case, it is a singularity – that which exceeds the subject, but for Lacan there is always a lack involved in the objet a, but not for D&G’s singularity.

    Depersonalisation is a singularity – what I mean by this is that one loses all forms of “personality”, losing all instances of solid identity in which you have created for yourself or was imposed upon you. My example was of the man who had cancer, at the point where he had cancer, that event appropriated him as a singularity, that is to say, he was no longer a personalized subject, he no longer had the identity of douchebag, of saturday-bike-gang-fellow, he couldn’t help but be depersonalized and even everyone around him knew and he became a singularity, he was ‘beyond good and evil’. ‘Beyond good and evil’, one no longer is confined to the moral trappings that always plague the subject, one becomes a “subject without subjectivization”. Think about it like this, a narc or a borderline has full on subjectivization, even if for the latter it keeps changing, but its still the need to cling unto a full representative identity. A singularity is the opposite of that. The point, clearly, is not that we need to be on the brink of death, but rather to find oneself a singularity in other ways. One major way I think is through love.

    The stroke on the head is actually a production, it is a creative act, one that is unique to that couple, in that there is an unfolding, a creativity that allows each one to see the other world unfold, and fold back again into their own world – by this i mean that that experience allows me to see the other person’s momentary world, and in taking it in, we both have this affect, this moment of creativity that changes the way the world is right now. Your old couple example is good so let’s keep at it to clarify. If the old lady was annoyed at the old man for touching her neck, then there is no unfolding, no creation, one resists creating an experience. The old touch of the neck is the same as the farting between the young couple, just that it’s qualitatively different – which was my explanation of the mature love, but mature here is misleading because the farting is also qualitatively different from two cultured people creating love, everything is qualitatively different in their own ways, and with being own, their ways of creating love is more limited than kids, but it continually exists.

    To be in love, is to love another person’s world. This has been implicit and at the same time explicit in the passage – that the other person’s world is not one, again, of identity. To commit oneself to the same world does in all probability leads to annoyance that you already know what the person is going to say, and you think he or she is stupid, instead the touch on the old woman’s neck despite being a recurring act is one that has to be continually re-created, that is, each touch is a repetition, but each repitition is always different in the act of creation, that’s why one repeats.

    In this sense, it goes against all common sense of mature love as a way of loving that sustains itself, because mature love is just like any other kind of love, but different in that the way love is made is qualitatively different, but no less “better”.

    if there’s anything that anyone finds that i’m being terribly unclear about, do let me know and i’ll definitely re-iterate because i think the way this form of love is conceived is one that you can see it in your daily lives. it’s not anything over and against the world, its right there.

  2. The most apparent problem in the comparison would be that the dying old man’s identity is suddenly absolute, taking priority over everyday experiences.

    This shouldn’t be the case for love, otherwise the couple’s problem-solving skills lose their edge and reality is increasingly swept under the rug for the sake of the narrative.

    Of course, the paradox then become that love has to “stay” somehow, otherwise there aren’t much reasons to continue. Or are there? Thankless, non-romantic priorities and pragmatic goals, can then succeed, because they aren’t (not always, at least) as seductive and beguiling as “butterflies in the stomach”-love.

    Maybe the place of love then become to be instrumentalized as a powerful -but not exclusive, or even the first, perhaps- justification for the whole process. Then love can be anything you want, as long as it doesn’t stop you and your partner from keeping things running.

    Or is that kind of selflessness -in a more literal sense- too demanding? The main difficulty here is that most posters and commenters seem to be quite young, myself included. The lack of experience threatens the value of any judgement expressed on the website.

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