We cannot love, son. Love is the most carnal of illusions. Listen: to love is to possess. And what does a lover possess? The body? To possess it we would have to incorporate it, to eat it, to make its substance our own. And this impossibility, were it possible, wouldn’t last, because our own body passes on and transforms, because we don’y even possess our own body (just our sensation of it), and because once the beloved body were possessed it would become ours and stop being other, and so love, with the disappearance of the other, would likewise disappear.
Do we possess the soul? Listen carefully: no, we don’t. Not even our own soul is ours. And how could a soul ever be possessed? Between one and another soul lies the impassable chasm of the fact that they’re two souls.
What do we possess? What do we possess? What makes us love? Beauty? And do we possess it when we love? If we vehemently, totally possess a body, what do we really possess? Not the body, not the soul, and not even beauty. When we grasp an attractive body, it’s not beauty but fatty and cellular flesh that we embrace; our kiss doesn’t touch the mouth’s beauty but the wet flesh of decaying, membranous lips; and even sexual intercourse, though admittedly a close and ardent contact, is not a true penetration, not even of one body into another. What do we possess? What do we really possess?
Our own sensations, at least? Isn’t love at least a means of possessing ourselves through our sensations? Isn’t it at least a way of dreaming vividly, and therefore most gloriously, the dream that we exist? And once the sensation has vanished, doesn’t the memory at least stay with us always, so that we really possess…
Let’s cast off even this delusion. We don’t even possess our own sensations. Don’t speak. Memory is no more than our sensation of the past. And every sensation is an illusion…
Listen to me, keep listening. Listen and don’t look out the window at the river’s far shore, so flat and smooth, nor at the twilight, nor towards the train whistle cutting the empty distance… Listen to me carefully:
We do not possess our sensations, and through them we cannot possess ourselves.
(The tilted urn of twilight pours out on us an oil in which the hours, like rose petals, separately float.)
" — Fernando Pessoa — from The Book of Disquiet