Tonight, St. Valentine's Day 2000, while walking through Booth Park in Nutley (I was dissuaded from entering Yanticaw Park later by one of the town's Finest), I was struck by a revelation. I had known the Form of love and was doomed to unhappiness by the knowledge.
Plato's Theory of Forms postulates that there are in essence two levels of reality, the one we perceive around us with our senses and the richer world of the Forms of things we experience here. The truth of a published article is a shadow of sorts of the Form of truth, which is the essence, the template or pattern. A beautiful woman hints at the Form of beauty. A fire contains the Form of heat but is not heat itself.
Most of us go through life seeing, and appreciating, the shadows without glimpsing the Forms. True philosophers are concerned with the Forms, not with understanding the truth of a story but with understanding truth itself. And I think I have seen, and felt, and tasted, and comprehended, the Form of love.
Perhaps I'm deluding myself. The lower-level reflection of love as it is was certainly present during an interval of time or two. There was a physical intimacy, which has been mistaken for the Form since time immemorial. But the Form of love exists on a higher plane than the physical. The fact is that I loved her before I kissed her, and if I never kiss her again, I will continue to love her regardless. At that moment in the park, I knew that I had known the Form of love in our relationship, when we shared happy times and sad, when we shared that first kiss, even when we shared nothing but a comfortable silence on the telephone.
How do I explain the inexplicable? The Form of love is a light brighter and a warmth hotter than the sun's. It is an intangible connection of souls which one can nevertheless feel, cutting across both levels of reality. One's joy and one's sorrow are inextricably entwined with the other's. And for this reason there is a necessity for a certain amount of interaction on the lower level of reality. If I cannot see her, smell her, feel her, communicate with her, the Form becomes harder to grasp.
The source of my pain is that I have broken from my shackles, I have escaped the Cave and seen love itself, and yet the experience is fleeting. I cannot live in the realm of the Forms, but am only afforded the briefest exposure to love, before being pulled back into the Cave. And unlike Plato's philosopher-ruler Guardians, I cannot benefit my fellow cave-dwellers by my experience. Were I exposed to the Form of truth instead...
I sometimes question whether 'tis better to have loved and lost. Or, in this case, to have been faced with the awesome beauty of love itself and then to have been blinded again. And maybe it hurts even more because I fear that she's seen it, too. Had I never experienced the Form, I could no doubt take comfort in the shadows. But I must grapple with the simultaneous joy of having grasped it and despair of knowing that, for me, for now, it is ephemeral, and nothing can ever be the same again.