Dante's Inferno showed us the progression from the outer-
to the inner-most of the nine Circles of his literary Hell. This provided us
with finer resolution for use in gauging and describing the relative
severities of our suffering than the uniformity of the previous fire and brimstone model.
Of course, it's all relative. We can never know how my third circle
compares to your fifth, or indeed even how the difference between my
first and second circles compares to the difference between yours.
And I've learned that, in the same way that my ear can discern that two
notes are not the same, while being unable to tell which is the higher,
different agonies can present a similar conundrum.
In the twenty years of my adult life, my three experiences with unrequited love
were certainly the greatest sources of ongoing emotional pain; even while
my rational self could see that the men who provoked such feelings in me
were deserving and appreciative of my ardor to different
degrees, the pain that I endured seemed in each case of a similar nature and extent.
(And eventually included the sentiment expressed so eloquently by
a certain bowl of petunias,
Oh no, not again.) The one love I had for a woman through
most of that time, while not one-sided, lacked great passion, and having
finally put it behind me, I don't really miss it.
I always assumed that if and when I found myself loving a person who
met me partway down the spiritual tether between us, that the pain would
be absent. Childhood ideas of our personal Snow White or Prince Charming
stay with us all, I think.
For the past year, I've been consumed with love for my best friend Edward,
to a degree far surpassing any that came before. In addition to the friendship
and the love, there is a compatibility and a mental bonding that
I've never come close to sharing with another person. And this with a man who
is uncommonly comfortable in both accepting my love, and returning it in word
and deed — while at the same time being swaddled in that condition
known as heterosexuality. While this creates a major failing in the consummation
of my personal fairy tale, this is definitely requited love, of the Agape variety.
And that, unsurprisingly, is where the concepts of the Yin and the Yang from
the East team with Newton's third law to place me in
another Circle of Hell. Being a human of the male variety, it can be correctly
assumed that there is a great and virtually continual desire on my part for
Eros to join our party. This is not new; this element was present in my
feelings for Nolan and his two predecessors as well. But this unreachable
gift in the context of requited love makes the torture even more
exquisite, despite its infliction being concurrent with joy a quantum leap
above even that which I enjoyed before.
A wise man once said to me that even requited love is not totally symmetric.
No two people can love each other in exactly the same way. Obviously true.
But I guess I always thought of love requited and unrequited as substantially
different; I never thought that contemplation of the former would bring dread
a la the petunias. (I do recognize that it is usually received
joyously, and perhaps some day that will be the case with me as well.)
This new experience does bring forth from within me the same observation
I've made in the past: I could do without the pain, but I wouldn't choose to forego
it at the cost of missing out on the wondrous pleasure. But it has shown me that,
in my case anyway, exacerbation of the one is concomitant with magnification
of the other. As John Calvin, Ludwig von Mises, and Robert Heinlein would
all agree … there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.
Of course, some would say that all persons are deserving of love.