Love, that most exquisite, dangerous, and mysterious modification of our being-with, both entices and repels us. It fascinates us, compels us, and pulls us in, but at the same time its power of appeal we so desperately try to resist. Love is that which brings us to the brink of unreality — to the outermost boundaries of our being-in-the-world…calling on us to sacrifice everything – our very Being if necessary– for the sake of the Other.
Love, the most authentic and yet most terrifying existentielle modification of Dasein’s being-with, appeals to us on account of Dasein’s very existential structure (being-with-others); yet, paradoxically, it yield a tremendous and horrifying power over our being that it we feel compelled to turn away from it and ignore it. We may feel its call, the call that eviscerates us; with its demanding the most complete and total submission; a surrendering, so to speak, of the solitariness of the Self to the affirmation of the Other’s power over us.
Love is, paradoxically, both creative and destructive; an affirmation and denial; a saying “yes to the Other” and “no” to ourselves.
To feel the power of love’s call, the call of the Other, one must first “see” the other in her other-ness. Her Dasein, through her ability-to-be-herself, is what is at stake in love’s appeal. It is the appeal of the other-as-a-self, in her concretized and individuated selfhood, that appeals/calls on me. What does it ask of me?
This is the basis upon which all authentic love comes into existence (becomes possible as a possibility for this Dasein-itself). The Being-of-Love is the horizon upon which my Dasein is called by, and ultimately towards, the Dasein of the other as the center of her self-hood; of her freedom in her ability-to-be. Love requires the concrete; for “one” does not love. The call of love can neither be felt nor heard by the one-self; but only by the my-self. The call of authentic love cuts through the clutter of the idle-chatter; of the confusion and disorientation of the inauthentic being-in of our average and everyday fallenness. It calls to me, in the my-own-ness of my Dasein, and asks of me to choose. One way or another, it is “I,” as a responsible (response-able) individual Dasein, that is called.
At this point authentic love must be isolated and distinguished from the disjointed muddle that nowadays passes for “love.” To be clear, it makes little sense to speak of an “inauthentic love,” for love exists only concretely, when the Dasein-of-the-other calls to my Dasein, and in response I choose resolutely to respond to the call with a “yes,” which at the same time is a “no.” But, before we get to that, it must absolutely be stressed that inauthentic love is a complete degeneration of love, and thus cannot meaningfully be considered “love” at all. For authentic love transcends the mired frenzy of modern technology, and is incomprehensible to the calculative thinking of disinterred subjects in their manipulation of objects. It defies all calculated and utilitarian thinking – and from this perspective, from that of the de-centered and uprooted “subject,” is useless. Nor can love be expressed as universal, which is only a distortion of other, more derivative and to an extent disengaged forms of affectedness for the Other. For example, one who says, “I love nature,” or “I love my neighbors,” speaks not of love, but rather, appreciation, preference, or enchantment. Without concretization, without all the inherent risks of infinite passion for the finitude of this or that Dasein, one is not truly “called upon” at all, and thus cannot authentically be referred to as love in itself. For “to love” an abstraction demands nothing of Dasein; it is, in its essence, a neutered and emasculated love – one without risk, without commitment, and without surrender. It demands nothing and so, it requires that we give nothing. One need only think about the way in which, someone who professes to love nature or a “cause” of some sort, is able to superficially engage in such a commitment by passively donating to the Sierra Club or sacrificing one weekend out of the year to collect signatures for this or that cause.
Authentic love, however, demands. It demands that we be response-able to its call. It demands because it is always a call “to me,” an invitation which presents itself both as a gift and command. It invites me to release my-self from the frenzy of modern technology; to release my-self from the will-to-power of our narrow epochal understanding of Being. It requires that I transcend the mere everydayness of my facticity, and see in the Other that she, too, in her Otherness, is at the same time more than her own factical existence. She is, in her Otherness, possibility-for-me, and at the same time, her ownmost possibility-to-be.
If one feels the call of love, one is then given over to choice. Because it is the “I” who receives this call, it is “I” who must choose. I may respond in any number of ways; but ultimately, love, dis-closes something about my Dasein, too: that I, as a being for whom its Being is at issue, must choose. In this capacity, I can remain un-touched by the call of the Other (ignore), I can reject it, or I can affirm it. Of course, between these possibility lies a plethora of distinct variations. But ultimately, one cannot escape the very necessity of choice itself. Authentic love then calls on me not only to respond, but awakens within me my response-ability; my own-most ability to be that transcends my facticity because I am always already an unfinished future; always ahead of myself in transcending the average everydayness of the present moment. I am called to no-longer view myself as a mere “ego” or “conscious subject” detached from the world of objects. In short, it provides this Dasein with the possibility, if taken up in all earnestness, to relinquish itself from the trappings of modern technology; to release itself from its (mis)conception of itself as a self-sufficient entity capable of securing its Being in the (mistaken) solid grounding of metaphysical pretenses. In short, love calls on us to step outside of our-self, dispossess the self, in order to find its authentic self.
But the “call” of love does not constitute the totality of the Being-of-love itself; for, in order for love to come into being, it must be met with a reciprocal response. It is the responsiveness of this Dasein for whom the call calls that completes love’s circuitry. In saying “yes” to the call of the Other, I relinquish all of the trappings of the metaphysics of technology, of the insatiable compulsion to dominate and impose; manipulate and control. Dasein, in releasing itself from the disenchanted egotism of the modern age, Dasein affirms the other in-itself, as a Dasein with a Self that has its own possibilities, its own fate. In saying “yes,” Dasein chooses to bound itself to the Other by way of letting-be; this is love’s creative freedom. For, in responding positively to the call of the Other, I am surrendering the impulse to dominate her, and instead, submit to her as a free and individualized Dasein who is equally concerned with her own Being-in-the-world. The “yes” of the call to love is a Surrender; a surrendering to the risk, for the potentiality that my responding to the call will itself be rejected, accepted, or ignored. A surrender to the possibility that the Other may not indeed reciprocate-in-kind. When Dasein says “yes” to the Other, it is, in a sense, at the same time a saying “no” to the comfortable certainties and securities of inauthentic mode of being-in-the-world.
In responding positively to the call, Dasein destines itself in the Other, but, at the same time, destines itself in itself. It does so paradoxically; not through violent self-assertion, domination, or imposing; but through releasement – a self-denial, so to speak, that steps outside the pettiness of our average everyday concernfulness, and remains open and, to a very significant extent, defenseless. Dasein gives itself over; in so doing, it proactively asserts itself by communicating: “I am at your disposal, do with me as you wish!” Dasein releases itself from the pretenses of technological control, the illusion of security and comfort upon which everyday existence becomes so banal and boring, and putting itself at the control of the other; allowing itself (willingnly) to fall into any depths for the Other – sinking far below the depths of the average-everyday so that it can let-the-other-Be; and thus, She becomes the one and only true reality that exists for this Dasein.
Authentic love is impossible without surrender; a surrendering to all that inauthentic Dasein of the one-self flees in the face of anxiety. There is a clear parallel to be drawn between Dasein’s own death and the surrendering that takes place in love. In authentically taking over its Being in recognition of its Being-towards-death, Dasein must respond resolutely and in anticipation of its own-most possibility of impossibility (death). In surrendering to the call of the Other in love, Dasein surrenders the sure-groundedness of all inauthentic being-in-the-world; like death, love dis-closes Dasein as the possibility of a nullity – recognizing its own Nothingness and groundlessness. In responding to the call of the Other, Dasein makes it-self nothing: a will-to-become-nothing and sink into nothing-ness…upon releasement, Dasein no longer understands itself as relating itself to the absolute ground; but rather, holds itself open to the groundless ground. In essence, the all-encompassing and systematic securities of onto-theology give way to the infinite insecurities of being-un-grounded. In effect, the Self willingly delivers itself over to the Other to do as she will – with full recognition (and affirmation) of the vulnerability and difficulty confronting its being. This surrendering of the Self opens up the possibility of the moment of vision; where one is capable of transcending the egoistic self-centeredness of everyday being-in-the-world and actively turns to becoming a We-self. In affirming the Other in the Other-ness of her Dasein, the Self fulfills itself in making its decision – in dis-closing a world heretofore hidden by conventionality and conformity of the “One-self.” As such, a new reality and a new understanding of its existence begins to unfold. The Self, undergoing this transformation, appropriates this moment and allowing it to unfold in an altogether transformed interpretation of its factical existence, and above all, its projected being-in-the-world and thus realizing its Being-in-the-world-together.
At this point the reader may suspect that I have confused love with a form of masochism. But indeed, the possibility of masochism itself is only a manifestation of love taken to its outermost limits. What the two phenomena have in common, and why masochism itself can be understood so clearly as a derivative of authentic love, is that they both envelope Dasein in a complete and enveloping vulnerability. But whereas the masochist actively pursues pain, humiliation, and subjugation for the purposes of realizing his own interest, and in essence, is subject to the same reification of other derivations of love. The masochist, in seeking a metaphorical annihilation of the Self, and wishing to become an object of his partner, in reality, is constrained within the Cartesian tradition – essentially relating to the Other as a means for his own desires. Moreover, whereas the masochist in a sado-masochistic relationship indeed involves many of the destructive characteristics of authentic love, it lacks the truly creative possibility of transcending the I-self and becoming a We-self. For its part, authentic love has no ulterior purpose, no “reason” for being. It is poetic, and absurd; incomprehensible and un-subjectable to the principle of reason. Dasein willingly subjects itself to humiliation, rejection, subjugation, betrayal with no other motivation than the letting-be of the Dasein of the Other herself in her-self, whatever the consequences may be. I pray that my love is met with a reciprocal affirmation; but I must dwell in the insecurity and sheer uncertainty that becomes manifest that, in delivering myself over, I am at her whim; in letting the beloved be-herself, Dasein hands itself over to the infinite risk of infinite passion, and, in a sense, resigns itself to whatever ontic-possibilites may take shape, no matter how painful, how humiliating, how disorienting and how insufferable they may be. Only by way of holding one’s self open into the groundless ground is love, authentic love, possible at all.