Don’t get me wrong. I’m not recommending one form of love over another. I don’t know if prudent or reckless love is the better, monied or penniless love the surer, heterosexual or homosexual love the sexier, married or unmarried love the stronger. I may be tempted towards didacticism, but this isn’t an advice column. I can’t tell you whether or not you’re in love. If you need ask, then you probably aren’t, that’s my only advice… But I can tell you why to love. Because the history of the world, which only stops at the half-house of love to bulldoze it into rubble, is ridiculous without it. The history of the world becomes brutally self-important without love. Our random mutation is essential because it is unnecessary. Love won’t change the history of the world (that nonsense about Cleopatra’s nose is strictly for sentimentalists), but it will do something much more important: teach us to stand up to history, to ignore its chin-out strut. I don’t accept your terms, love says; sorry, you don’t impress, and by the way what a silly uniform you’re wearing. Of course, we don’t fall in love to help out with the world’s ego problem; yet this is one of love’s surer effects.’Love and truth, that's the vital connection, love and truth. [. . .] How you cuddle in the dark governs how you see the history of the world.
Σ'αγαπώ. Πρώτα πρώτα, καλά θα κάναμε να φυλάξουμε αυτή τη φράση σ'ένα ψηλό ράφι, σ'ένα τετράγωνο κουτί, πίσω από ένα τζάμι που πρέπει να σπάσουμε με τον αγκώνα μας, στην τράπεζα. Δεν πρέπει να την αφήνουμε όπου να'ναι στο σπίτι, σαν ένα σωληνάριο βιταμίνη C. Αν την έχουμε πρόχειρη, θα τη χρησιμοποιήσουμε χωρίς δεύτερη σκέψη, δεν θ'αντέξουμε στον πειρασμό. Λέμε βέβαια πως δεν θα το κάνουμε, αλλά θα το κάνουμε. Θα είμαστε μεθυσμένοι ή θα νιώθουμε μοναξιά ή -το πιθανότερο απ'όλα- θα θέλουμε να τρέφουμε ελπίδες, που να πάρει, και τότε η φράση θα χαθεί, θα καταναλωθεί, θα μαγαριστεί.
And what percentage of people take up the option to die off?’ She looked at me, her glance telling me to be calm. ‘Oh, a hundred per cent, of course. Over many thousands of years, calculated by old time, of course. But yes, everyone takes the option, sooner or later.’‘So it’s just like the first time round? You always die in the end?’‘Yes, except don’t forget the quality of life here is much better. People die when they decide they’ve had enough, not before. The second time round it’s altogether more satisfying because it’s willed.’ She paused, then added, ‘As I say, we cater for what people want.’I hadn’t been blaming her. I’m not that sort. I just wanted to find out how the system worked. ‘So … even people, religious people, who come here to worship God throughout eternity … they end up throwing in the towel after a few years, hundred years, thousand years?’‘Certainly. As I said, there are still a few Old Heaveners around, but their numbers are diminishing all the time.
Listen to them again: ‘I love you.’ Subject, verb, object: the unadorned, impregnable sentence. The subject is a short word, implying the self-effacement of the lover. The verb is longer but unambiguous, a demonstrative moment as the tongue flicks anxiously away from the palate to release the vowel. The object, like the subject, has no consonants, and is attained by pushing the lips forward as if for a kiss. ‘I love you.’ How serious, how weighted, how freighted it sounds.
How do you turn catastrophe into art? Nowadays the process is automatic. A nuclear plant explodes? We'll have a play on the London stage within a year. A President is assissinated? You can have the book or the film or the filmed book or booked film. War? Send in the novelists. A series of gruesome murders? Listen for the tramp of the poets. We have to understand it, of course, this catastrophe; to understand it, we have to imagine it, so we need the imaginative arts. But we also need to justify it and forgive it, this catastrophe, however minimally. Why did it happen, this mad act of Nature, this crazed human moment? Well, at least it produced art. Perhaps, in the end, that's what catastrophe is for.