On Jane

You often hear phrases like “I have found my other half,” “I felt incomplete until I met you,” “I have been fulfilled in love,” and so on.

In my case it has been exactly the opposite!

Let me explain:

All my life I felt “complete,” “sufficient unto myself” – as I would often pompously proclaim. I never felt any need to search for another to be “my other half” that would complete either me or my life. My friends and partner were enriching my life – oftentimes they were a central part of it – but I had never felt they were fulfilling me or making my life “complete” in some existential manner. On the contrary, I always felt that these other people actually augmented my feeling of self-sufficiency, my harmony with myself and society, never shattering the fullness in the inner solitude of my being. My sense of well-being, although often influenced in great part by the presence and behavior of other people, was felt to have been built on the unshakeable foundations of self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and self-growth. Since my early teens, my most fulfilling moments had always been those away from the crowds – Cavafy’s “crowding contact with the world” – and also away from even my close friends, relatives, or partner. Even during those rare instances of “falling in love” – that strong infatuation that impels one to be with a specific person – I was aware of the transient nature of the phenomenon, and any temporary sense of lack at not being with The Beloved was not experienced as existential self-insufficiency.

Well, all my life I felt complete … until the day I met Jane! The event was utterly unexpected. Suddenly, the world as I knew it collapsed. My sense of self-sufficiency disintegrated. Being with her made me feel I was “half of me.” What an extreme paradox! Although I was with another person, I became incomplete, a “half-being,” someone who could never again feel or be whole. Wholeness, that normal feeling of being “sufficient unto myself,” the default and natural setting of my existence until that portentous moment, mysteriously vanished. Jane became not my other-half completing me, but an-other half destroying me!

Being confronted with her existence, I have since realized that I am incomplete. Most importantly, this incompleteness is absolute, since it is existential – I am incomplete whether without her or with her! Jane has made me half. Furthermore, this sense of “being half” exists in a way that is beyond my control – I cannot wish the feeling away. Not only am I not complete and at peace with my seemingly natural self-sufficiency anymore, but the whole idea turns out to have been an illusion. For reexamining now, in more depth, my previous moments of solitude, I realize that the person I was conversing with all those years, my “inner self” or “conscience” or Socrates’s “daimon,” was not an imaginary mental construct, it was not my own inner voice or soul or some Universal Spirit, but a real human being that had existed parallel to my life all along. Jane speaks to me with the language of that inner voice I always assumed to be either part of me or coming from another dimension. That inner voice, that inner me, is now objective, has a form, a body, a voice – it is a breathing, pulsating person. A person I now feel I cannot live without in as much as I cannot not live without my innermost self.

But how can it be that, in my case, my other-half halves me? Why does it not complete me? After all, is it not the most widespread view, glorified in novels and movies, that finding one’s other-half leads to a whole? The paradox baffled me for quite a long time.

Well, I had to resort to the science of astronomy to find an analogy to help me understand what was going on. As it happens, there is something that can both describe and explain this great paradox of my life: It seems that Jane and I are a binary star! Binary stars consist of two stars that rotate around one another, forming a system called a “double star” (just as the Earth and its satellite, the Moon, form a relationship – ­only in the case of the stars, both are “equal”). Although they are two separate stars, astronomers treat them as one complex physical entity – the astronomical equivalent of Siamese twins. They both revolve around a common center of gravity, because each is pulling the other with its own gravitational force – that’s the same “force of attraction” so often used to describe human love!

But if Jane and I were born together as a binary star, how did it come about that we did not know of the existence of one another for half our lives? Stars are bright suns, and if they rotate around one another from the moment of their birth, each definitely knows of the existence of the other. Does the analogy fall short so early?

On the contrary. As it turns out, yet again, there is one type of binary star that absolutely solves the mystery: a binary black hole. Since black holes do not emit any light (that’s why they are called “black”), they are invisible to one another. Therefore, each of the two stars that constitute the binary black hole can live in total ignorance of the existence of the other, despite being in permanent rotation around it. Both may consider themselves to be independent stars and be oblivious to the presence of the other.

There is no longer a paradox: When Jane entered my life, I realized I am a binary black hole! I am not the independent, self-sufficient single star I considered myself to be all my life, but rather interdependent, in a compulsory relationship with another star – a star that existed all along, but which was invisible to me. Most shockingly, the realization of this special relationship with this other star was not an event that happened at a certain moment in time. It was always so. Both of us, although invisible to one another for so long, were always a part of each other. I am now half because I was always half! (Just as Jane was.) This also solves the mystery of why I am half whether with or without Jane: there has never been, nor will there ever be a “without Jane.” Just as a binary star, the two of us “were born together and together we shall be forever more,” as Kahlil Gibran says.

It is thanks to this realization and feeling of “eternal togetherness” that my experience of being half is assuaged. Having lost my self-sufficiency, I have rediscovered myself; only now I have somehow been extended to include another person, in many respects better and even more complete than I. In Jane, I see myself as I aspire to be, as I must become in order to both feel and be complete again. It is this otherness-of-me as it is reflected in another so close to me, an otherness that seems to belong to me as an integral part of who I am, yet which resides in another body and life, that creates the ungraspable sense of being half.

In Jane resides the other half that I always thought I possessed – yet I now know I did not.

I was always half, yet mistook this half as a whole.



PS: You may have noticed that I refrained from expressing any “feelings of love” in this piece. Since “love is as love does” (as I laboriously demonstrated in my last letter), the present essay is unrelated to love as I understand it, because it does not involve any mention to loving acts but only refers to a personal existential state, or rather, a personal transformation. Still, the writing of the essay itself may be considered as an act of love (and probably of courage too). Don’t forget, writers most often act by simply writing.

© 2018 Nicos Hadjicostis