A path towards love. How to find bearings [with it]?

Love abides in every moment of its existence, always. It is the only fleeting glance into the eternity that is given to us.

Thornton Niven Wilder

Love is probably the widest, book-sized subject in our culture. It is an extremely subtle, important and often difficult area of our lives. I tried to get a closer look, using works of some thinkers and a short story by Miguel de Unamuno “A Story About Particular Love”, and I also attempted to present the subject of love from different perspectives.

I don’t know what steered me into this the subject; I surprised myself that from among Miguel de Unamuno’s short stories I chose “A Story About Particular Love”. Clearly, some unconscious need to explore this subject attracted my mind and heart and what was left for me to do, was to surrender to a story about particular love.

What does it require of a person to truly love someone? When do we notice that the feeling is actually love? What sense does it make?

Lucinda and Ricardo met every day  in the evening, beside Lucinda’s barred window,  from which a splendid cypress tree could be seen and they could hear sparrows singing. Ricardo came there to meet his fiancée , however, the thought that appeared in his mind most often was not a vision of their future,  but a quote from the gospel. He recognized it as his destiny, yet at this point its form was like a misty glow at nightfall – vague and superficial. So, they usually exchanged rumours.

“What can I do? I don’t have anything else to do, my dear. Only to look at you.” - he responded. They were silent for a moment, feeling the emptiness of their words. Ricardo knew that this acquaintance gets closer and closer to the treacherous and threating sea” and he knew he should end it. He feared he would appear unreliable and ungrateful. “They spent afternoons together, waking by this dead feeling. Prisoners of honour and good reputation”. Later on, in the text we encounter a passage that says: “the whole house deplores beneath the burden of empty memories”. Marianne Moore wrote “love, whatever it is, should be deprived of pretence. To pretend means to put on a mask”. Józef Tischner specifies the function of a mask in those words:  a mask tries to create an illusion that is the opposite to what this given thing really is.

“Ricardo proposed and she accepted. She thought that a lack of fervour was a fire that would kindle, the dimness of this feeling was the first sign of sunrise and that this was the light which augured the sun. However, she quickly noticed that it was only a spark that sunk in the ashes, the afterglow that brought the night”. She kept repeating “What about love? Oh, love will come later, love always comes . When you want it, when you prize it, when you need it.’ But days, weeks and then months were passing by and she didn’t feel love approaching.” So, what is a recipe for love if not waiting?  “Only those who love find love and do not have to search for it” said David Herbert Lawrence. Erich Fromm, on the other hand, thought that love begins to flourish only when we love those who are not useful for us.

“But it was the same for her as for her fiancé: honour and pride in their own constancy were stronger than disappointment. No, she won’t be first to split up, even if she were to die from sorrow – he should be the one to end it”. Lucinda left the responsibility for the decision regarding her life, their relationship and herself to someone else.. This act shows her immaturity and her lack of courage. “It is like this: despite everything I still love him. He has become a habit in my life, he is a part of my existence. I live because he visits me”. “Platonic love is like pretending that the revolver is empty”. I wonder what made William Somerset Maugham chose to compare love with a revolver . And then I understood – it is pretence that kills. Emptiness that arises from it intertwines with despair and alienates me from my own entity just like synchronous movements of a vice. To allude to the words of Herman Hesse: without loving oneself to love a fellowmen is impossible, to hate oneself is exactly the same as to be extremely egoistic, as it breeds the same cruel loneliness and despair. It reminds me of  my mum’s words, she often told me that in order to love someone I have to love myself first.

The lovers, both conscious of their dying love try to manipulate each other and none of them is able to face this feelings. As a consequence of insincerity they got on a train to escape in the name of their love. “Ricardo felt defeated and humiliated. (…) He tried to be carefree but there was no reason for him to feel untroubled. If only we could come back and everything could be as it was before! But no: the train, the image of fate,  inexorably led them towards their destiny. (…) It was as if they were overwhelmed by some great, deadly sorrow. In their eyes one could see a shadow of a final disappointment. (…) This night was the beginning of their new life and it was a burden to them. A burden so big as it is to climb a mountain whose peak is lost in mist. Besides, they felt embarrassed without even knowing why”. They were disappointed that there was no breakthrough, that their love wasn’t stricken by a miracle. While they were taking a walk, they noticed a church and went inside. They sat separately. “Suddenly, Ricardo heard that Lucinda was trying to keep her tears back. He noticed she was crying and his eyes started to fill up with tears as well. He kneeled beside his fiancée and arm to arm they were grieving death of the illusion”. I am under the impression that it was the first moment of true closeness between them and that they finally faced the truth. They found themselves in a new situation. “When they stepped back to the street, everything seemed more cheerful but more sad at the same time. They decided to return, to end their escape. They hid in the compartment in case someone who they knew would go in and recognize them. They were anguished by the feeling of shame and, what is worse – ridiculousness”. Let’s take a closer look on the subject of shame. According to Tischner there are many methods of hiding one’s face and one of the most natural is shame. (…) Any expression is characterised by  some kind of intention: it’s a kind of sign, which by its very existence points out beyond itself. Among the expressions shame takes a special place: its intentionality has two levels (…) that’s the paradox – visibility of certain invisibility – a mystery given directly! For Sarte “being-for-another” reveals itself in the intentional construction of shame, it is a basis for “being-for-yourself”! To put it differently, who I am for another person is who I am for myself – someone else makes me feel ashamed and shame makes me who I am. It is hell from which I cannot escape. I’m condemned to be lonely, but my loneliness is an absence of someone who I long for and someone for who I am. (…) The way to experience someone else is through my shame towards him. There is one primary thing for us: Sartre does not describe the encounter, yet the separation, and even for a moment he does not point into hiding behind a curtain, but to the moment of tearing off a mask. (…) This is how the hell arises – a place where people are close and distant at the same time. Close because they can touch one another and distant because they can never meet.” Ricardo and Lucinda were ashamed of their feelings not only in front of each other, but mostly they felt ashamed facing themselves. Only when they run out of excuses and hope, they could face their helplessness towards love that wouldn’t come. They missed melancholy of the past, the illusion from before their escape. This shows that they didn’t fully accept the condition of their feelings.

“Shame plays a role of a curtain. A curtain isn’t a mask: the role of a mask is to delude and the role of shame is to hide. Shame hints that there is something that another person considers to be a personal value, but it is so fragile and perhaps ambiguous that it may die just from looking at it. It is better for a man to hide the value that to put it in jeopardy. Shame is a sign of preference, but at the same time there’s an intention of an emerging value, which is connected to it,  and we treat it with a friendly attitude”. What exactly did the lovers hide away? Inappropriate emotions, doubts, dreams, responsibility?

Ricardo following his destiny (preaching the Gospel) has become a novice. He studied Scripture with great care and his ambition was almost mad. He was a good candidate for a preacher; Lucinda, on the other hand, entered a convent. “There she nurtured her sadness that could not be cured and which would stay her companion until the day she dies”.

It is enough to whisper when it comes to great love but if it is small it requires a manifesto” -Frantisek Herits used to say. To hide an internal scream you have to scream even louder, you have to act with even more belief. But does it put us at ease? Feeling the loneliness that surrounded him Ricardo said “Yes, this is God’s punishment for abandoning Lucinda, for sacrificing her for my own ambition. (…) I’m an egoist who looked for a stage that would best fit his acting abilities. I was thinking only about myself”.

They day had come that brother Ricardo visited a distant town called Tolvidera to preach a sermon. It is a touching moment in which he delivers an honest speech about Love and the painful experience he went through. “To wait for love! Only those wait who have love in them! (…) But egoism, sister and brothers, is sad and degenerated love that we feel for ourselves, it blinds us and makes us unable to see true Love that overwhelms and surrounds us, it makes us unable to ever feel it. We want to steal only a small piece of it and hold out from the rest; and Love craves and demands us as a whole.” Seneca said that to love means to forget about yourself. For Antoine de Saint-Exupery true love begins when you don’t want anything in return. “To love means to give happiness to the one we love and not to ourselves.” – those are the words of Alexander Dumas’ son. Similar thought was expressed by Romani Rolland “When we love, we don’t think about keeping something for ourselves”. And John Paul II preached “there is an ability to express love in a man’s body and it is love in which a man becomes a gift”.

“Both of them, brother Ricardo and sister Lucinda felt more prisoners of their destiny now than they did when they were separated only by a barred window of a house, located near Unruliness convent. When they met and connected by a cry their hearts, that now were freed from those ashy robes, united and they saw love in all its greatness emerging before them. Love that since the time of their sad escape has fed their loneliness”. It is wise to quote words of Riner Maria Rilke, who in my opinion in the best way renders this story about love. “Love depends on two lonely souls that protect, touch and greet themselves”. How long was their road to discover a true feeling! I’m astonished by the force of natural law! Words of Francois de la Rochefoucauld perfectly summarize it: there is no mask that could hide love for long where love exists, and to fake it where it doesn’t”.

Unamuno’s short story ends with words “and since that day…”. I feel tempted to finish this sentence – “and since that day Ricardo and Lucinda faced each other, because “in this way we can specify the essence of the encounter: to encounter means to find yourself in the face of another (…) human misfortune is also a misfortune of lies, necessity to hide and conceal, and the face is where we find truth. (…) A face revels itself as a gift of an agathological horizon – the horizon in which good and evil operate dramatically, which heralds either a tragedy or a victory of man. In this dramatic relation, unlike in the kingdom of notions, good and evil are not perceptibly separated, but they entwine at the same time, in the same space and in the same person. Entwined in this way they are an example of a relevant perspective of human history. What is silence for a sound, light for a colour is good and evil for a face. Therefore, the face can be revealed. However, the comparison of the face with silence and light may be misleading. We must add: this silence and light take a shape of a cross. It is impossible to avoid the symbolism of the cross”. Their escape was long and full of suffering, shame and exile; it may be described as a cross. But thanks to that cross they reached the Truth. Ricardo was able to face his egoism and blindness and to confess it to the others. Only when he rejected himself, when he stepped beyond his own being he was able to find what he was looking for. He discovered THE ENCOUNTER.

Tłumaczenie: K. Sumara
Koło Naukowe Anglistów NeoLit


  1. de Unamuno Miguel Dobry męczennik i trzy inne opowieści, Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1985, s.185-229.
  2. Illig Jacek Księga Aforyzmów, Videograf, 2002, s. 181-220.
  3. Tischner Józef Filozofia dramatu: Twarzą w twarz, 2006.


REDAKTOR DZIAŁU 'CZUJĘ'   Kontakt: katesnow888@gmail.com     Studia: Psychologia, V rok, specjalizacja: psychologia kliniczna dorosłego człowieka oraz psychologia pracy i organizacji.    Doświadczenie zawodowe (praktyki, staże, współpraca): Praktyki w Wojewódzkim Specjalistycznym Zespole Neuropsychiatrycznym im. Św. Jadwigi w Opolu Praktyki w Szkole Podstawowej nr 51 im Fryderyka Chopina  w Katowicach Dodatkowe doświadczenie (działalność w organizacjach, praktyki, wolontariat): Akademia Przyszłości Dzieci z Teatralnej Zainteresowania: Psychoterapia, muzyka filmowa, teatr, audiobooki podróżnicze, malarstwo, podróże, zumba . Dodatkowe informacje o autorze:  Sudentka psychologii. (...)

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