Literature, Quotes

Notes on Marcel Proust and First Love

“Thus our heart changes, in life, and it is the worst pain; but we know it only through reading, through our imagination: in reality it changes, as certain natural phenomena occur, slowly enough so that, if we are able to observe successively each of its different states, in return we are spared the actual sensation of change.”

–Marcel Proust, A Remembrance of Things Past

Love has been such a damaging aspect of my psyche for the last two years that I’d like to think I’ve hardened, adapted my perspective in a way that allows me to appreciate all of the things that have happened and the (mostly negative) resulting consequences. I’ve been stubborn, as stubborn as the quote would suggest most of us are, refusing to acknowledge this gradual shift in perspective to the point that it almost doesn’t matter anymore. It’s still taking place unfortunately. It’s a process that began as soon as I opened my heart, something that took me years to do in the first place. Maybe I waited too long; so while others have learned to harden and soften their hearts as necessary, I am only now beginning understand the difference in approaches. My heart was open to all the possibilities at one point, when I was naive and unfit for love. Reading and imagination were placeholders for this pain I could not have known. Afterwards, our hearts become something else entirely. They become independent of our feelings, more discerning and resistant to the experience. I do not believe we are anything but the initial shock of this exchange. So that we are constantly going back and forth, always returning to it as a point of reference. That’s why reading is such an appropriate metaphor. It provides two arbitrary points of reference that rely on our experience, a temporary consciousness. Imagination is the same way. In return, we are spared either love (the initial context that begins the sequence) or pain (the surviving remnants). The tragedy is not that this distinction escapes us, but rather that we are conditioned to accept it. What are two pages if they happen to be stuck together?

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