Lipton’s Journal/March 4, 1955/705

From Project Mailer

I do want to say a few things about love which I believe I’m beginning to understand. The key to love is that love like all fixed decisions of the Juggler (always read The Gambler for The Juggler) is a habit. Thus in the dreary daily couplet dialogue of marriage where one mate or the other says, “Do you love me?” and the other answers automatically, emptily and unenthusiastically, “Yes. Of course,” the answer is not a lie.

The key to habit as I’ve said already is that the juggler makes a decision to freeze some part of the responses in order that juggler-energy be saved from constant decisions in that expression. So to be in love is to freeze, to make a habit of a situation—the juggler has decided that it is too exhausting for the nervous system and for himself to be constantly exploring the state of love—one could do little else—and for himself to be constantly exploring the state of love—one could do little else—and so like all habits what is most true of two people who are in love is not whether they are enthusiastic or depressed about the love (habit) at the moment but whether they are preparing or not preparing to alter it. Most of the time they accept the habit like all habits, and so they do not lie when they say “Yes I do love you,” no more than they would lie if they answered “Yes I’m still smoking.” (This typewriter is just driving me nuts—I’m losing a beautiful set of notions.)

What distinguishes love from other habits is that an enormous amount of sup-approval and er-need can collaborate on the concept. The sup demands order and sex-repression or else society cannot be built, the er demands sex for the health of its nervous system—ergo orderly sex is One-Marriage. Of all the working compromises between the drive of the sup to suppress the passivity wombishness of the sex need in the er and the er desire to be orgiastic despite the dictates of the sup, the idea concept of love is accepted by most people. It is a compromise between two basic and polar irreconcilables which is why we adore love so much, seek for it so absorbedly, and experience so much anxiety at the thought of losing it or altering it.

But married love is not natural love, it is concept love. Natural love is the reverse of a habit, it is an ebb and flow, it exists and does not exist as the child feels it or does not feel it. Nothing is so painful to a child as to be reminded that it was good and loving but an hour ago. The child cannot comprehend why it is now asked to pay allegiance to a feeling which has left it. The adult on the other hand is far more concerned that the decision to be in love which like all habit-decisions is over-compensated, that is over-established, be not shaken, for nothing is more exhausting to the capacity to work, to accomplish, to move easily through life than a constant juggler-anxiety about whether to alter the love habit or not.

So seen in this way a lot about love becomes understandable, that is married love. It accounts for the virtuous sensations one knows when one feels in love with one’s mate; it also accounts for the depression one knows when one does not feel in love. The habit is threatened, and when a habit is broken the juggler goes through a mad few weeks or few years, so the depression about not being in love is very powerful—the juggler is drenched in gloom and generating all the depression he can, sup depression and er depression, sup rage and er rage, he wishes to confuse the system, knock it out for depression usually keeps people from taking a new step—they feel everything is too hopeless to act.

Truly what a dilemma it is. No wonder analysts look for happy marriages to end their cases. What can be said of a happy marriage is not that it is “happy” but that it is a powerful and temporarily undefeatable habit which acts benevolently upon the system—a minimum of energy is wasted on the sex vs. order imbroglio, and a maximum is therefore available for work enjoyment etc.

But the trap is that the orgiastic impulse has so worked itself into the consciousness of our time that the “happy” marriage becomes more and more difficult to maintain. Ironically more and more energy must go into maintaining the habit, over-establishing it, as opposed to the minimum of energy comparatively which existed in the nineteenth century. So, the state of marriage itself ceases to be a social habit which has total sup approval. The irony today is that an active powerful man is beginning to think there is something wrong with him if he does not wish to cheat on his wife, and indeed he is right—monogamy is one of the most ridiculous and utterly conflicting one-concepts which society has placed over the er.

And that is one reason why the reactions on The Deer Park are so wildly different. The Deer Park threatens the love-concept habit; hence people react to it not as a book but as a potentially habit smashing experience. Which would also account for why so many homosexuals have liked it. Their juggler love habit casts have much less to lose from accepting the book.