Which is more real — the experience of love or the memory of love?

It’s a trick question. Nothing is real, especially not feelings. At least, as long as I do not believe feelings exist, they don’t. I came up with this idea in my senior year of high school, when I wanted to will myself to be less sleepy by convincing myself that sleep deprivation was not real. When I had originally applied to Penn intending to major in the Biological Basis of Behavior, it was the subject of an independent study that I wanted to do. I wanted to convince myself that nothing was real except the internal.

So, in the context of love, how should we differentiate between the internal and external experiences of love? Is there a difference at all? What should be the guiding principle in dictating what is considered a real experience in the experience of love? What is ever real, and should we even be privileging the idea of realness to be better than a state of non-realness? Why should we even think about which temporal observation of love is considered to be more real than the other? After all, they are both observations to the same experience, if not in temporal continuity.

There is this song I found on my Discovery Weekly playlist:

I’m better off without you, I’ve been tellin’ me
Everything we thought we had was never what it seemed
Better off without you, you’ve been tellin’ me
Don’t know why we always end up lost

Faime, “Lost”

What it seemed. 

I don’t know why I keep on listening to this song. I never thought I was better off losing people. If anything, it just leaves more disillusioned than I was before, and I don’t like the feeling of being disillusioned. But I still listen to the song. Perhaps, there is some part of me that believes if I listen to this song enough, then I will, one day, convince myself that there is a purpose to losing people. Otherwise, I am just losing people for the sake of losing people. And while for most of my life I had believed that the loss of connections had been inevitable, I still cannot conceive of an existence where the familiarity of existence can be reconciled with the inevitable end of that which grounds existence in familiarity.

Of course, I am living in the present, which is, in perspective, located in the future of my past. But the past is a time in which I had experienced love, and the present is a state in which I do not experience love. Because I am not experiencing love, I often reflect on the times when I had experienced love to relive the feeling of being alive through a memory. Because, at the moment, it often feels as if I am not living a real life. I have a life that happens to me, ordained to happen in such a way that cannot be escaped. I am just living that life that is and will be. The was is already gone, filtered through the distinction of experience that will ultimately inform my future experiences.

I am often reminded that I am not wanted in this world. There the is the world that I want, and then there is the absent of want that I feel from the world. Although I frequently do not feel attached to my own life anymore, sometimes, there would be something in the world that catches my attention. In in those moments of attention, I realize once again that I do have some sort of attachment to this world. But then, as per usual, the object of my attention turns away from me, leaving me slightly hurt and more disillusioned than I had been at the start. Every time I have find something that grounds me once again to this world, it slips past me once again. This is the way of the world.

It seems that so long has my existence been sustained by a sense of longing. It is mostly for something that can never be the object of my possession. The act of possessing, after all, negates the sense of longing. We can only long for the things in which we do not have. That is the idea that sustains us. And, frequently, this longing takes the form of the past. It is the nature of time passing that time cannot be reclaimed. Once a moment in time passes, it becomes the subject of longing, never ever to exist as in a moment of possession ever again. It is for this reason that time is simultaneously fleeting and arduous. We can possess time. But just for a second. But once we seize the moment (or perhaps the moment seizes us?), it becomes washed away back into the past. And we struggle to claim that which cannot be reclaimed.

Once time passes, it can only exist as a memory. The memory, being the subject of idealization, exists in a form that cannot be mistaken except as a possession of the self. The memory exists in relation to the self. But, because memories can only as long as we continue to will the memory to existence, memories can also be altered. Experiences can be misguiding. This is frequently how I conceptualize the idea of being in love. It seems that the more I attempt to articulate my feelings of being in love, the more I realize that I am erring in the space of the unreliable narrator. The act of telling and reflecting is an act of inaccuracy. But, on the contrary, the act experiencing and remembering is not an act of accuracy either.

It seems that the moment an experience happens is the moment that it is no longer able exist, at least, in an accurate manner. The experience, for the duration of an experience, has the capability of existing on its own, independent of our abilities to cause it to existence. It is in those moments that it is the experience that is seizing us. To lose the will to act — how long has it been since I have been able to lose myself to an experience? It must have been a different period in my life, when times were different. Now, it no longer seems like I have the capabilities to lose myself to a moment that is greater than me. I have reached a sensitivity to my sense of self that is no longer reconcilable with happiness. I have been chosen by Milton’s Lady Melancholy, and I cannot reject my calling.

If the experience can exist in its own temporal dimension outside the construct of seconds and hours, how is it that experiences contain some sort of power over us? What is it about the experience that transcends the ontological outlines of its metaphysical good? Time and space. Time and experience. Does that mean that experience can only exist in the purest form in the past? What is there to say about prolonged experiences? After all, there is a difference between the short experience and the long experience. A short experience could be an act spanning a couple of minutes. Like sex. A long experience could be an act spanning a couple of months. Like a relationship. But, between the two, where does the validity of experience come in?

The act of reflecting requires the absence of being. Or, more accurately, it requires the disassociation from the act of perceiving into an act of thinking. The thought navigates our mental faculties towards a dimension that is no longer existent to others in the same way the extension could be perceived regardless of the placement of thought. And so, by nature, the thought cannot exist simultaneously with the perception. This is why changes in the physical world will inevitably interrupt mental processes and changes in the mental world will inevitably interrupt the perception of the physical world. This is why we space out in the subway and miss our stop whenever we are having ourselves a think or why we immediately stop thinking whenever a cockroach crawls on our feet.

I frequently think about love similarly to how I think about experience. It is a moment that passes, and for the rest of your life, you are just attempting to replicate this experience that can no longer be reclaimed. That is the will of the world. It is the suffering that has been dictated within the definition of experience. Because, once experience happens, there is not an opportunity to re-experience. There is only more experience, but experience that is the subject of longing can never be replicated. That is the nature of experience. And, for those experience that can not be replicated, the only option is to continue to experience experiences that are similar to the initial experience or accept the suffering caused by an understanding of the impossibility to replicate experiences.

There can only be so many experiences in the world. There can be only so many times a piece of tape can be used before it becomes a used piece of tape. Seeing as though I have already become a used piece of tape, the only lifestyle I could accept for myself is to elevate the state of being a used piece of tape into something that is beautiful. But, seeing as though I am not beautiful, I find it very difficult to convince myself that I am beautiful. Much less others. This is the way of the world. I have not been chosen to be beautiful. I have not been chosen to be happy. I am just existing in the world, like I have come to realize all of those years ago. I am just existing. I am here to experience but never experience until after the experience.

How else would I be able to contextualize my life relative to the existence of time? The infinite time that is also not infinite. It is time in the sense that it is time, but it is also not time in the sense that it is immune from time. It is time that exists outside the scope of an understanding of time constructed from the understanding of time that is inherent within the understanding of time. It is an understanding of the complexities of time that are simultaneously rational yet illogical. But the illogicality of the problem of time is one of rationality because the irrationality is the subject of rationality. This is the way of the world, one of irrationality in the face of time. This the irrationality of the rational. Time and experience.