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30 June, 2006

A Sad Ballad

I often collect quotes from books that I've read, and rediscovered this one from Carson McCullers' The Ballad of the Sad Cafe:

"Often the beloved is only a stimulus for all the stored-up love which has lain quiet within the lover for a long time hitherto. And somehow every lover knows this. He feels in his soul that his love is a solitary thing. He comes to know a new, strange loneliness and it is this knowledge which makes him suffer. So there is only one thing for the lover to do. He must house his love within himself as best he can; he must create for himself a whole new inward world--a world intense and strange, complete in himself."

It is for this reason that most of us would rather love than be loved. Almost everyone wants to be the lover. And the curt truth is that, in a deep secret way, the state of being beloved is intolerable to many. The beloved fears and hates the lover, and with the best of reasons. For the lover is forever trying to strip bare his beloved. The lover craves any possible relation with the beloved, even if this experience can cause him only pain."
Carson was already suffering from chronic ill health when she wrote this at age 24, two years after finishing her most famous work, the equally melancholy The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter.

I read this for the first time in my early 20s, and remember agreeing with Carson's concept of love as a solitary pain that everyone (un)fortunate enough to fall in love must suffer through.

Today I chuck that perception to my youthful naivete and Catholic upbringing. There is something oddly seductive, even heroic, about suffering for love; yet as one matures, once can easily see that it's an eschewed view at best.

Love is not some personal Calvary that has to be endured, much less endured alone; that's unrequited love, not the real thing. It takes some growing up to realize that the real thing shouldn't be difficult or excruciating, and those who believe that it is have probably never experienced it firsthand.

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posted at 7:25 PM by City Muse


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