After the divorce became public knowledge, the letters began to arrive.
One was just a sentence: “I think it was his loss.” Nothing is ever lost, though.
Pluto was exiled from our solar system but along the way earned a fourth moon.
On the Suffering of the World
Schopenhauer wrote that we feel pain but never painlessness,
that beauty and youth don’t exist for the dumb human soul
until they have been replaced by what feels more real:
the bone ache, the heart a clamped fist. He also wrote
that man is a wolf for man.
“We waste time on things unimportant because these things are clues
to ourselves. Being a writer is in some part noticing these things
and exploiting them in a beautiful and tragic way. We are obsessed with
the unclean mirror, our unclean mirror,” a friend writes to me. I reply
that I loved my mirror more than I loved the man who wiped it clean.
Hesse, Steppenwolf & Siddartha
The protagonist walks through a door above which is written:
HOW ONE KILLS FOR LOVE.
He looks into the mirror and sees the wolf.
Harlow, 1959: The Nature of Love
In the fifties, a psychologist named Harry Harlow invented emotional attachment
by watching baby rhesus monkeys make the choice between false mothers
made of either terrycloth or wire. Always the soft one chosen, deserted briefly
and only for food. A mad rush back to it when exposed to loud noise and pain.
“Baby sharks are called pups. Young cockroaches are nymphs. Fawn, calf,
whelp, fingerling, foal. There is no special term for a baby monkey.
We call them infants, or youngsters, or whatever we call our own.
What are you writing?”
Hesse, Peter Camenzind
A bildungsroman. He wrote that love does not exist to make us happy
but rather to test what we can endure. Pain is but a thwarting of the will,
Schopenhauer continued, but how would you hurt if you didn’t know
what you had lost?
Harlow, 1971: The Pit of Despair
After Harlow’s wife died, he returned to the lab and his monkeys, and built
isolation chambers that could hold a small animal for close observation
in total darkness for months to a year. When the results were brought out
and discovered to be incapable of mating, Harlow invented what he called
the rape rack. He wanted to see how the isolates would react toward their
own offspring. One of them chewed off her child’s fingers. Most simply
held their young at bay.
As knowledge grows, the capacity for pain rises accordingly, therefore
the human with his wristwatch and calendar, photo albums and love letters,
will grieve harder in his lifetime than the monkey who has lost a child.
Nothing is ever lost, I think, even as the days drag on and the letters pour in.
“Oh Mr Hesse I beg to differ and agree at the same time: I believe in joy
though maybe not every day and I believe in bliss but possibly the kind
that must be worked for and I believe in love as that which makes every
thing brighter if only every now and then the shadows get deep and it is
hard to look at the light when one has been in the dark for so long.”
Someone told me, “Chin up,” even as others advised me to keep my head
down. I fix my gaze instead toward Pluto, the largest outcast in history,
and its invisible hold on its visible moon, bright as a mirror but far away
in the dark.