Giulia Patacci — From “I Love to You” to “The Mystery of Mary”: About human love and divine love

The opportunity to meet each other cannot be separated either from the knowledge and awareness of the self, or from what relates to one’s sexuate identity, because respect for oneself, and then for the person next to you, cannot exist without assuming one’s femininity or masculinity. In this path of growth, there is no solitary completion, but we are enriched by the existence of the other. If we do not project onto the other lots of our expectations and do not wait from the other what we lack (especially our happiness), many relationships would be happier. But now we use each other, we claim, we ask for much (often without giving), and we are never satisfied. And to be satisfied is not to give up or not to aim at high, but realize that the other is a gift, as it is. There is no yardstick or a scale, but only the joy to greet each other and walk along a stretch of road. The enrichment that comes out is immense, for those who can meet each other in freedom.

The path that I have taken has led me to give to freedom a not usual meaning. Freedom is not an absence of links, rules, and obligations. In fact, I now think that duty is the means to obtain the most complete freedom. An inner and deep duty to love without understanding or comparing the love of the other to mine, because the encounter and its magic disappear when you try to rationalize or channel them. Today, on behalf of the importance of loving ourselves, we often perform many acts of selfishness, as in the name of freedom we might hurt people by not creating strong links with them; it is a deception. Freedom lies in loving – oneself too, but that is not enough. Freedom is to love as if nothing existed except love, in the broadest sense of course. Not love for one only, but for everyone. And the force that would emanate if everyone thought of love as first thing in every moment in their life would revolutionize the world, almost as much as the big bang could make.

I have focused my attention in particular on two books of Luce Irigaray: I love to you and The Mystery of Mary. In I love to you Irigaray wonders about what is hidden behind the phrase ‘I love you’. For her it is not a question of understanding the truth of the feeling, but rather it is about the assumption which may be bound to these two simple words used widely. She believes that behind this statement the desire to reduce the other to the object of one’s own desire is, more or less unconsciously, hidden. For this reason  provocatively she proposes to use a new phrase: I love to you. «To love to you, and, in this “to”, provide space for thought, for thought of you, of me, of us, of what brings us together and distances us, of the distance that enables us to become, of the spacing necessary for coming together, of the transubstantiation of energy, of the oeuvre» (see Irigaray, Luce, I Love to You, London and New York: Routledge, 1996, p. 149). So make sure that “to” represents a bridge that unites, but at the same time leaves the two beings that make up the union separate. Especially because the two people in question are, and must remain, irreducibly two: man and woman. Each with their own characteristics, each with their own sexuality to be discovered and achieved.

In this process silence is essential. A silence that is not absence of words or passivity, but rather attentive listening to the other considered in his or her irreducibility.

Also in The Mystery of Mary (forthcoming by Columbia University Press in the book: A New Culture of Energy) it is spoken of womanhood and relating to each other, but in this small and precious book Luce Irigaray is not just talking about any woman in general, but of the figure of Mary. But what is dealt with in this book, is basically the relationship with the other in the universal sense, and these limits mentioned earlier, between self and other, which allow us to become enriched by the encounter without losing our identity and its uniqueness.

Mary is an example of the human journey that each is led to make, but that perhaps only in her finds its fulfilment through her “yes” to an event that encompasses every mystery, human and beyond.

The story of Mary is known to all. However, Luce Irigaray attempts to investigate its “unsaid” which lies deep in the heart and attitude of this woman, who weighs within herself every doubt, every fear, and that which no one can understand: the loneliness and the incomprehension that are the lot of every human being, and that, in her, take on divine forms.

Luce Irigaray emphasizes the link between visible and invisible, because every relationship is based, or should be based, on a close connection between what can be seen and what, instead, is beyond our sensory perceptions and that we ought to have the patience to discover, through a dialogue, but also, and above all, by listening.

“[…] Another human being […]. Pausing to perceive it on a sensible level – to watch, to listen to his or her voice, to touch it – that is, in part, invisible, inaudible, untouchable for me – I move forward from simply physical perception to spiritual perception of the other, which allows a love between us without submission or appropriation of one another” (see Irigaray, Luce, Il Mistero di Maria, ed. Paoline, 2010).

Irigaray speaks of breath, so present, alive, in women. Breath that should not be opposed to the word, traditionally masculine, and placed in a position of superiority. However, the two, breath and speech, ought to be reunited, as visible and invisible – what can be said and what is retained in silence.

Luce Irigaray brings to light, also in this text, the difficulty for men, and for society as a whole (which took the male models as reference) to enhance the woman, her peculiarities, such as knowing how to accept, to make space inside themselves in order to unite with her breath, so experiencing how to give a new voice to the word. Thus, without erasing the differences, but instead enhancing them, the matter is one of finding horizons of meaning and values, not yet investigated or detained in the name of other dominating spheres, which have relegated many qualities (both male and female) in subordinate places.

We can rediscover the human being in its entirety, in its contact with body, not just in the sense of its visible, but also its invisible part, a reunification first of all of each with himself/herself, and then with others who are different, and with nature. This leads to reinstate everything that centuries of social constructions have downgraded without realizing that the damage was not only for women, but for the entire species, so deprived of essential aspects that are vital for the human being, aspects of which revaluation could restore completeness of the person.