LOVE ACTUALLY: Lovers are Ridiculous

Lovers are ridiculous. Against reality, lovers continue to believe that they can be loved the way they love. Could they possibly not know one of the most scandalous of love’s secrets? Love cannot be reciprocated and the reason lies in the difference between the lover and the beloved.

Does this surprise you?  Aristotle loved the lover because he thought the lover was far greater than the beloved. Loving is action. And it’s better to act that to be acted upon. If love is blind, loving is not. The lover always knows, for its the lover that does all the desiring. Loving is a risk, which the lover alone takes. Not so with the beloved, who cannot help being loved. Whether the beloved rejects or accepts the lover, it’s all in reaction to the lover’s actions. How do you tell someone not to love you? I guess you have the option of becoming less lovable. Still, the outcome does not depend on you.  Most shockingly, the beloved is logically incapable of loving. The logic of love boils down to this: the lover loves the beloved, not vice versa.

The deluded lover is blind to all this and demands, “I give you my love, so give me your love.” First of all, there is no perfect exchange in love. All exchanges are approximations. Something is always added and lost in transmission. So that even if the beloved could give my love back to me, it would not be the same love. It might be something different, worse, better, but never the same.

But if relationships are about playing the part of lover and beloved, who says anyone has to be stuck in the same role? After all, a good relationship is all about switching things up a bit.

LOVE ACTUALLY is a series. It’s what happens when love and relationship issues meet pop-philosophy.

Photo Credit : Imageshack


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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

3 Responses to “LOVE ACTUALLY: Lovers are Ridiculous” Subscribe

  1. Ali Altaf Mian 2011/08/08 at 21:26 #

    Reminds me of Sade’s “No Ordinary Love”: “I gave you all that I have inside, and you took my love…I keep crying for you.” The title of this song has deep resonances with me because it speaks to how the ordinary act of loving claims for itself an extraordinary, sublime, bigger-than-life valence. It’s like saying, if you gonna love me, don’t bring no ordinary bullshit my way. But if we accept Wittgenstein that ordinariness is the condition of life, i.e. that there isn’t an ordinary reality an an extraordinary one (that is, sublime/metaphysical reality), then what happens to the claim of “No Ordinary Love”? I think it is here that Sade’s choice of words becomes quite philosophical. “No Ordinary Love” expresses the contradiction that accompanies any attempt to divorce the extraordinariness, the sublime, the “wanting more than the real” character of love from love as a practice/action in ordinary life and language. Well that was what I think Sade may be bringing to the table.

    However, I find it hard to accept the usefulness of the Aristotelian articulation of relational terms such as love, precisely because what undergirds all of his philosophy is a theory of causation in which the cause is always superior (in this case, the lover) and the effect is always inferior (in this case, the beloved). Moreover, the cause is always singular, eternal, and self-sufficient, whereas the effect is always divisible, temporal, and dependent for Aristotle. I think what you are trying to do with him complicates that, but I would like to know more about how we escape from the limiting implications of his theory of causation when we invoke him to comment on such a queer affect as love.

  2. admin 2011/08/10 at 03:39 #


    Thanks for such and insightful response. What you say about Sade’s No Ordinary Love is interesting. I am also struck by the fact that to say that there is no ordinary love does not mean that there is only extraordinary love. Like you suggest, it points to the fact that the exceptional is constitutive of the ordinary. Tucked within the ordinariness of love, its everydayness, is the ridiculous or whatever you might call it which sustains it and serves as its condition of possibility. I don’t know why but this also reminds me of the conventional gripe against magic-realism, the complaint that it assumes that magic and realism are different. that does not realize that the magical can reside within the everyday without taking the form of the fantastic.

    You are right that prejudice in favor of action haunts Aristotle’s understanding of categories such as love, friendship, etc. In fact, for Aristotle the beloved is loved in the same way a lifeless object is loved. His description of the beloved places the beloved on the realm of a lifeless thing. Action and life is the zone of the lover. This is where Aristotle’s account of love or friendship becomes disturbing. My encounter with Aristotle’s sense of love (romantic, erotic, etc) has been through some scattered remarks he makes in the Nicomachean Ethics. I got the sense that love is not one of his favorite topics. He refers to it in passing. And even when he talks about friendship it is always in its political nature never in its purely intimate form. So, you are right that Aristotle is a strange place to begin talking about love. I had that in mind as I wrote this post, a kind of secret joke that Aristotle who I was evoking as some kind of authority would actually be the most awful and frightful relationship therapist there ever was. Still I found him useful in thinking about some of the assumptions we make about relationships, assumptions that create problems because they are based on other hidden and darker assumptions that we are not willing to confront.


  1. LOVE ACTUALLY: Splitting the Heart Break | Brittle Paper - 2011/10/18

    […] questions.  Love is a fundamentally unequal type of relationship. As we said the last time on this series, the lover and the beloved love differently. Each one gives and takes differently. Each one dreams […]

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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