Love is to the seeing heart, home

This is a fun exchange of views incited by a colleague and friend on Linkedin some time ago.

‘Authentic love must be founded on reciprocal recognition of two freedoms; each lover would then experience himself as himself and as the other: neither would abdicate his transcendence, they would not mutilate themselves; together they would both reveal values and ends in the world’. – Simone de Beauvoir, ‘Le Deuxième Sexe’, (‘The Second Sex’), 1949. [‘L’Amante inquiète’, Jean Antoine Watteau, c. 1715-1717]:-

 

My Reply: Though, of course, negotiating that is a challenging and arduous affair, and one that is truly inspiring and unifying, rather than dividing, only between discursive equals. And though it is a HUGE risk to come out and say this on a public forum, I have yet to meet a man that can endure alongside his discursive equal. Men tend (I did say tend!!!) to gravitate to easy, convenient, malleable. And when that occurs they too are malleable. Go figure!!! I’m being facetious…sort of… 😉

Linkedin Member1: you bring up equality here. I think this is important. either you find your discursive equal (difficult 😉 ) – or you must (both) create conditions in which discourse is especially save. I think as long as people are afraid of humiliation, they will not seriously discuss and look for solutions together. I understand that from another area: I am really horrible when it comes to mechanics, for instance. And if someone wants me to deal with a mechanic problem I need to feel very, very safe – otherwise I throw it away.

My reply to LM1: You raise the issue within the context of knowledge acquisition and the psychological role that low self-esteem and the like may play in its transference. However, I raise the issue of freedom as existential equals. That is, with a discursive partner that in essence is of like discursive calibre and rooted in dialogical complexities, nuances, that calibrate the interchange such that one’s sense of affirmation is negotiated in a context of unrest. I should add that this is often determined by behaviouristic models of interaction (sadly) so by definition, is pretty much already a violation of existential freedom. Putting your foot down and establishing boundaries is certainly a way of affirming freedom, but this is more in keeping with new relations which have not acquired any real history yet. In those that may last the process alters, so that those initial boundaries are (hopefully) negotiated and renegotiated occasioned by new contextual situations, and evolving beings working side-by-side.

Linkedin Member2: Well, I always think French philosophers sound great. But what does she mean by “freedom” – let alone two freedoms?

Linkedin Member3 to LM2: Well, there are various kinds of freedom. Leaving aside political freedom, which is obviously not what is meant here, there is psychological freedom, and moral freedom. Although underlying any freedom is the identification of ourselves with a conceived end, good or bad, and which is freely chosen and realized (I know using the word ‘freely’ there makes it look a bit circular, but I leave aside the question of whether there is such a thing as free will or not). And so, having the capacity to follow out our purpose, that is psychological freedom. But then, if we leave out the moral quality of the purpose, how free am I really if, for example, my purpose is to keep myself drunk all the time? Does not harbouring a low ideal put us in a kind of bondage? Moral freedom, on the other hand, implies a higher purpose, some ideal that is actually worth pursuing.

Linkedin Member3 to LM2: And yet, Sartre does say, in ‘Being and Nothingness’: ‘it amounts to the same thing whether one gets drunk alone or is a leader of nations. If one of these activities takes precedence over the other, this will not be because of its real goal but because of the degree of consciousness which it possesses of its ideal goal; and in this case it will be the quietism of the solitary drunkard which will take precedence over the vain agitation of the leader of nations’. So maybe he wouldn’t accept the distinction just outlined.

Linkedin Member2: Would that imply that for authentic love the lovers need to recognize each other’s wills – for instance the will to serve God or the will to change the political system or the will to breed bees? But she does not suggest that you have to share the will (the ideals, the perceptions…) of the other, does it?

My reply to ML3: Hmmmm this way of formulating the issue of freedom for de Beauvoir tends to favour a political reading of freedom. And though she is certainly speaking in and for a socio-political context, the more Sartrean or existential undertow, adds a dimension to the discussion that can more properly address the inter-relatedness in the context of love-relations.

My reply to LM2: No. Sartre argues that “hell is other people” and that all inter-human relations are inherently and inescapably frustrating. So we may just have a skewed, wrong-headed, set of expectations from inter-human and inter-romantic relations.

Linkedin Member4: Yes, beautiful…and the ideal to strive for, always! Because without this freedom to be one’s real self in a loving partnership, one or the other will make compromises they are unhappy with which will ultimately create resentment, which will lead to anger.

My reply LM4: See I don’t think that this is a universal paradigm that all inter-human and/or inter-romantic relations can strive for or realize. For it is essential (ugh) that in the dialogical or discursive encounter with the other that a “common language” be spoken. Of course, you can have loving and happy relations with the other of deficient (or distinct) discursive propensity, but it will not be of equal intensity, depth and connect-ability/relatedness. 🙂

Alas the ephemeral nature of such things has goal-directed lives win the dayNot me, not todaynot any day!

 Love is to the seeing heart, home.

 

 

 

 

 

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RIP Olymbia Marangou

The prognosis was grim. I remember the precise moment when the truth of what was earlier known rudely pushed itself unto me. I was being dropped off at the hospital (a new tumour), irritability turned antagonistic as I fought to rejoin that blissful world of denial. Later tears met with accusations. Who greets tears with such animosity? Who harbours such disdain for “parading grief”? Strange how triggers work. That day we had our own grievances to address, and these shipwrecked any chance for ontic embrace. But that’s the point, isn’t it? Anguish, loss, death, comes to us all (the penultimate banality), but my grief is my own, viscerally experienced as if unique to me, resentful of dense propriety that arrogantly calls me to compose myself! But those moments, subtle as they were at the time, are like memories in a time capsule that ornately embellish the creative process of meaning-construct. For it is after all as I artfully engage life that the constituents of meaning find voice. Trepidation meets and enamours ruinous tranquility through life’s turnings.

Today Olymbia passed away. Three years into her grade 4 Glioblastoma brain cancer (GBM), outliving her prognosis by 2 years. It was Christmas 2014 when I noticed (we all did) Olymbia had changed – she seemed off, not herself. All of us gathered – a party of 40 – at Ket’s home in celebratory mode, Greek-style! Marc reconstructed the bird with his usual artistry. We girls busied ourselves with cooking, and serving, with chiding laughter accompanying us as we moved through the rooms. A row of generations set the table, finding Olymbia at the further end, tucked away in a corner, quiet. Quiet!? Well that was just not Olymbia! She was always centre-stage, dishing out orders, making sure that we girls, especially us, were on top of things! But not today, not ever again.

My hair follicles knew best of my mother’s discontent. Hair tightly pulled back into a ponytail bore the markings of slightly slanting eyes. A stop on the way to school at Olymbia’s – we all walked to school together – and that menacing ponytail was to become a swinging bush hanging long across my back. Thankful was I! It remained our secret, never shared with my mother. And as secrets do, endorsed a loving connection. Our families were one family. Our moms best friends, us kids roughly the same age, grew up as cousins, siblings really. Olymbia was the driving force behind this great, expansive family. She welcomed everyone, even if she did not always appear welcoming! 🙂 She was a mother to me.

Not versed in Stoic literature, Seneca, Rufus, Epictetus were no strangers to her. “Κόρη, that’s it”. Her meaning, however elliptical, is not far off from the words of Seneca: “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.” “True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing.” I can also hear these words echoing in my ear as she’d have occasion to frequent them: “᾽Αντε να γαμ… ο μαλάκας απο δω χάμω!” There’s something about the flamboyant Greek manner prone to such phraseologies that turn profanity endearing. In essence her meaning is reflected in Epictetus’ words repeatedly endorsed throughout the ages: “Other people’s views and troubles can be contagious. Don’t sabotage yourself by unwittingly adopting negative, unproductive attitudes through your associations with others.” And later in life, she’d realized, especially after becoming ill, what she perceived to be the narrowness of her youthful endeavours. I think this is nicely expressed by Rufus: “wealth is able to buy the pleasures of eating, drinking and other sensual pursuits – yet can never afford a cheerful spirit or freedom from sorrow.” She seemed eager that I see the foulness of such ways, that I’d invest in what truly matters: family. And so it is left to us, all the kids (Pits, Ket, Andro, Nico, me, Marc, Blaine, Meagan, Kristina, Nick, Mitchell, Mason, Thomas, Kalianna, Anthony, Kris and Kim)) no matter the distance that separates us, to keep the candle burning that shall always unite us as one family.

In our month together we’d sometimes burn the night oil. She’d become reflective, mellow, and her thoughts turned to her children. Of Andro, since I can remember remained constant was her wish that he find a “good woman” to care for him…like a Greek woman knows to! 😉 “Ketty…that one…she’s the sensitive one.”  But she also endearingly spoke of her as “a little chatter-box” (πολυλογού), a quality that our lovely Kristina has inherited…perhaps upgraded! 😉 “Liza…well she is like me…if we don’t fight one day I think she doesn’t me love me.” She hardly spoke of her grandkids beyond the usual logistics. But what was there to say that her eyes did not. She adored those kids: they were her life! As the weekend rolled round she worried that my partner would feel neglected (Greek women are not to neglect their men! 😉 ) Άντε κόρη, που είναι ο καλαμαράς, ο μαλάκας; Πήγαινε τώρα να του φτιάξεις κανένα φαΐ! And we’d laugh, and laugh! But that’s how she was: caring, and brutally honest, but darkness would turn light, for sentimentalities were not to have the last say. Did I mention Marc and Blaine!? She’d say: “Those girls don’t deserve such men!” And again, we’d laugh and laugh. But she meant it too. Her son-in-laws were the absolute best men. But as I’m sure they’d agree, that’s a gesture of reciprocity that began with her. My bro! Well she had much to say about him too. “Kαλό παιδί ο Νίκος μας!” She wanted confirmation that he was loved and appreciated!

She is one of those people that affected many lives. So many people will have to seriously adjust to her passing. Resilient that woman was! But Stoic-like she appreciated and loved life, but was adamant not to bend to the tragedies that life had in store for her…though…she did suffer….as anyone who wants to live and has so much to lιve for does.

She would want us to be strong and live by example. For as Margaret Atwood said: “In the end, we’ll all become stories.”

I love you, Olymbia mou! Καλή αντάμωση!

Faithfully Yours

Simone de Beauvoir, said as a young woman, “I would willingly consent to sacrifice everything for the one I loved, but I would never want to exist through him—the sentimental blackmail which pushes women to see in the one they love someone designated to carry the burden which they are too weak to bear…. The truest love is expressed by Goethe: ‘I love you, is it any of your concern?'” Ach, for an exquisite mind to be hijacked by a needy heart! Hence, “Beauvoir was very much of her own mind when she entered into her “pact” with Sartre, and those critics who would view her as a doormat are very much mistaken.”  Sartre, her “grand intoxication”, did not muscle his way in, he didn’t even worm his way in – both would be demeaning to Sartre, as well as to Simone. Outward appearance muzzles truth, leaving the dynamic of the inter-personal comportment camouflaged, except, I suspect, from those closest to them, who likely would have witnessed an uncanny symbiosis of spirits. “They each discovered in the other the intellectual equal they had so sorely been missing”, a point often confiscated by that perennial patriarch that would have Simone’s so-called intellect take the backseat to her uncompromising love for Sartre. Intellectually in sync, engaged in gripping discursive mode to-gether, cultivating their voice in what might be described as a “spiritual conversion” (Foucault), they lay awakened to their comportment to their truth, the truth, naked, exposed, lucid, and always, viscerally exhilarated, ecstatic. There is no backseat here. There is discomforting comfort: home. Is it any wonder that the words “faithfully yours” applied to Simone and Sartre?

Familiar with their sexual experimentalism, fidelity here speaks to their camaraderie as sparring partners. No idealization is to be detected, not for any universal or normative use anyway. Simone has been dragged into commentary on what sometimes appears as a witch hunt to subvert anything anti-feminist, so much so that sometimes it tends to emasculate her, our, form in the process. Simone did not give up marriage and children for Sartre, that was an early-on realization. She did not put up with his affairs, neither were conventional, and their sexual escapades were no exception. She did not sacrifice her own work to editorialize his, even though I do recall a testimonial suggesting that she’d laboured over his work a great deal and he’d not read a single work of hers. (I could have this wrong, though). She did not love him more, he did not sacrifice less. To see it in this light is to see it as just another story held hostage to patriarchal statutes. Him versus her, acceptance versus rejection, more versus less, strength versus submissiveness, and more. These polarizations just won’t do because Simone was not a conventional mind, and her womanhood was not conventionally won. Indeed, it is a mark of her virility and incremental intrepidness that she grew into her womanhood in deference to The Other. Uncontested love is only a lowly inauthentic expression of agency when freedom is taken in absolute and often negative postulations of either being free (from) or not being free (from). Yet, Simone in her The Ambiguity of Ethics, narrates different types of unfreedoms, which move far beyond such banal either/or qualifiers of agency. I won’t elucidate them all here, but it is worth pointing out that she understood freedom in terms of taking ownership for one’s existence in the world. Basically her point, in agreement with Sartre, is that there is no essential nature of man, no universal features that define the nature of being human. We are all oriented in the world as the unique architects of our own lives, and the quality of our lives lies in the manner in which we engage with others in the pursuit of our freedom. The most authentic form is authored by the “passionate man” who though adventurous is not selfishly pursuant of life’s longings (my expression, likely not one she would endorse) “willfully ignorant” of how every undertaking unfolds in a human world affecting others. Don Juan would be such a man, for he (Where does he figure in Kierkegaard’s Seducer? 🙂 ) hunted for sport only to mobilize his ego-centric desire for conquest, caring not for the hurt inflicted upon his victims. Contrarily, the “passionate man” does not set her sights on the manifestation of said goals. It is, rather, in acknowledging the universe as a complex of means and obstructions along the path to the attainment of such ends, that she is to simultaneously keep her existential distance. ‘Love, happiness – freedom comes in recognizing there will always be a distance between us and these things yet aspiring to them anyway.’ “To be free is not to have the power to do anything you like; it is to be able to surpass the given towards an open future; the existence of others as a freedom defines my situation and is even the condition of my own freedom. I am oppressed if I am thrown into prison, but not if I am kept from throwing my neighbor into prison.” Now though all of this is more socio-political than the original point of overture, I suspect Simone might concede that they are intertwined nonetheless.

Was Simone the lesser of the two? Only if she denied her existential comportment alongside Sartre in the negotiation of her pursuits, and failed to see for fear of acknowledging her precariousness in the world and take ownership of it. Her anti-conventionalism, political activism, sexual flamboyance, and scholarship speak in her favour. Did she perhaps get lost in the idolization of external constructs, could this have been her idolatry of Sartre or love? If you’ve read the Second Sex the nausea might overcome you before you utter your first objection. Still, we don’t all live as we purport to, and no one lives their lives quite as poised as our dictates. And yet, the vulnerability, the personalized comportment of Simone’s literary works may suggest that she lives as she earlier wrote: “I accept the great adventure of being me.” Perhaps then, only she and Sartre can really know of the intricacies that drove their spirited intermingling as deeply connected, sparring adversaries, and who, if ever, was the more….or lesser of the two.

 

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The tragic beauty of being intertwined!

 

Simone de Beauvoir’s Early Diaries

Happy Birthday, my son!

My boy with the golden heart! The one constant throughout these 18 years has been your incredible good nature. And though Kant might not value utmost one naturally inclined to goodness, I suspect he’d never met the likes of you to be confounded daily by the mysterious beauty of such a disposition. I continue to be amazed by your unflinching sense of justice and good will. Through the years the stark divide separating right from wrong has given way to the more grey, but never overwhelmed or overturned, for you all remains as delightfully colourful. I admire and envy this in you, Thoma mou! May all your days find your disposition unchecked.

A wonderful young man of intelligence, strength, and yes, all the markings of a spirited 18-year old seeking adventure, checking your limits (and sometimes ours!!!  😉 ), still looking, searching for that which will stir you into an awakening of sorts. For though more adept to this world than our Kalianna and myself, you too are as viscerally and intellectually intense; the banal, the everyday, the plain and regular, will not suffice. You shall settle not for the ordinary. Don’t! Don’t settle my son! You deserve the extraordinary.

December 18th, 1999 you were born and changed my life forever! From This Moment became our song. Happy birthday Thoma mou! (κσσμμ) Και στα 150!

From this moment, as long as I live
I will love you, I promise you this
There is nothing, I wouldn’t give
From this moment on

My Little Girl…

Kalianna is a “silent force” (σιωπηλή δύναμη) to reckon with. She is no nonsense, quite deliberate in making her disposition known. Young still – she can get it wrong – she stands as a mirror, kind and sincere to the caring, and brutal to the rude and pretentious! Look out world! Complicated, my little girl…transfixed in her vision of how things ought to be, temporarily “out of order” when the world stubbornly refuses her. Protector, advocate, nonconformist, ruthlessly loyal, and yet surprisingly thoughtful.

We are more than mother-and-daughter, we are girl-friends. We share clothes, watch our girlie shows together, sing, dance, share …..share a lot …. She is more like me than I’d like, for I know she will toil and despair. And enduring your child’s suffering is nothing any parent does gracefully. I know I don’t. Not always self-assured, and stumbling as she finds her way, it is my hope that she will see all that I see in her. (tears)

Today 15, happy birthday my beautiful child! The world, my world, is richer by far with you in it!

 

Fotis Marangou: Saying Good Bye

Even amongst the more cooly deliberative, death has been a force to reckon with. Ultimately, though, it seems questions always moralize our vexed concern with life, and not death. Somehow we all accept with no great ado that we all shall die. It is with how to live that aporia turns angst-faced. I cannot speak to Foti’s appropriation except within that horizon of meaning contained within my memories spanning over near 50 years.

Our families lived only a faint walk away from each other in Pierrefonds. We on Gascon, the Marangous on Chaumont street. I was only 3 at the time, so I feel I was pretty much born into the family. The families were inseparable; our mothers best friends, we kids like siblings…weekend BBQ’s, sleep overs, hide-and-seek, music, singing, and everything Greek! Foti, always the designated barbecuer, would sneak privileged morsels to us, with words of cheer and a sparkle in his eyes. Always bright and engaging, I can hardly recall a time I’d seen him angry, or outta sorts, or raise his voice even. I’m sure he did, but it is to his disposition I speak: kind and generous. And what words can possibly describe how, when at 16 I refused to return to Athens, he and Olymbia took me in?! Just like that! Foti routinely brought the kids chocolate bars home from work; he never discriminated, always got me and my bro one…oh, did I mention we were all living there. Foti, Olymbia, Andro (“And”), Lisa (“Pits”), Cathy (“Ket”), Nico (“Neek”), and aunty Koula. But it was never just us. Friends, and partners would rally over, especially at supper-time, notably on the weekends. Needless to say it was pretty busy! It must have also been financially taxing. That’s something I only fully appreciate as a middle-aged woman with children myself.

Foti never flinched; everyone was always welcome! But he was, as my father reminded me the other day, always hard at work burning the midnight oil each and every night. Downstairs he’d sit before his elongated, white desk, nuts at hand, maybe a scotch (I might have this wrong….), and lots and lots of paperwork. His job? For us kids it was iconic cause everyday, or what seemed like every day to us kids, he’d park a different car in the driveway. And they weren’t the regular cars visible throughout the neighbourhoods. Nope these were Jags! Gorgeous, elegant, shiny Jaguars! He was proud. Foti had really made something of his life, and he was justified in his boastfulness. I think it’s easy to forget how tough things were for immigrants in the 60s who came over with essentially nothing. It is hard because they made it, life, easy for us.

During the year I spent in the Marangou home Foti must have realized, in a way that really no one else seemed to (just Pits), that I was lost and scared. I was often home on the weekends as the house slowly emptied each rushing to some planned outing. Foti was there, downstairs at his white desk. I too sat there and Foti would put some old Greek movie on with Aliki Vougiouklaki, Tzeni Karezi, Melina Mercouri, Lambros Konstantaras, Dimitri Papamichael, Rena Vlahopoulou, and others! We’d converse in Greek, laugh and joke about these Greek dramas, and share a bit of current gossip about the actors’ sorted affairs! But he made me feel at home. Home! A place of untold treasure. For what is it to be home than to feel accepted, safe, unconditionally loved and cared for!! So to me Foti was like a father; he was my 2nd dad. And who is ever lucky enough to have two great dads!

 

Good bye Foti mou! I love you so damn much!

Καλή αντάμωση!

 

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Foti and baby Kristina

 

 

 

Eunoia

Take away from an old time client about life & love. So much talk about learning to accept what you cannot change; or to live according to the rational laws of the universe; or still to design a life of quietude – seek not then anything that may potentially cause ataraxia. However one wishes to construct the backdrop to these narratives, the point that persists is that things, circumstance, people are all incidentals. That ultimately it is a matter for the mind to fashion a life of happiness, and so nothing falls apart unless the seams of mental perception are to give way. So we go to the narrative, spilt hairs over the conscripted concepts, renegotiate these so as to realign, and restructure the manner in which the factical sometimes sneaks in to disrupt and destroy one’s peace of mind.

Though there is great favour to be found with such strategies, my client, despite his longing to free himself from the anguish of love lost, felt slighted, perturbed; robbed, I think was the term he used.  I think he felt gypped, emotionally, existentially, I mean. He spoke to me of poetry, of song, of art and asked me where the haunting, annihilating, consuming yearning for life had gone? And it came to me that meraki, a Greek word, meaning “to do something with soul, creativity or love”, speaks to his orientation in life. (FYI I have employed this term in numerous blog posts) I don’t know that the existential undertow (in my mind) can easily rehabilitate one to mental stability, but I do know that something gets lost in translation when everything is thought to neatly, cooly, with composure and calm, fit and make sense. Perhaps my client wasn’t looking to move on, but only to love heartily in absentia. And no, maybe it doesn’t make sense, but then what heroic gestures calling from oceanic depths of spirit ever really do? So onwards and upwards my dear “friend”. Eunoia: a beautiful way of thinking.

My dad!

As we age it becomes an ever more palpable realization that few, very few people, in this world will touch our life, and be an enduring bond of love, support and abiding faith. My mind literally floods with memories of my father. He’d be the one to put me to bed each night as a little girl. He’d created his own storyline with Little Boy Boop, Bad Finger, and Elephant Joe! His stories were always animate involving Little Boy Boop often running across my belly with great force, and Elephant Joe pounding his way to rescue him from some terrible trouble he’d managed to bring on himself! Younger still dad would tirelessly (and he worked long hours) feed me math problems he’d encourage me to solve (I have no idea what happened to those math skills!!! Yikes!). And every Sunday he was the one to take me to advance ballet (yes, I was actually a successful ballerina! HA!) , which was always followed up by a Laura Secord ice-cream at Fairview. During the week dad was always sure to be home to take us to my brother’s practices (soccer, football, rugby…though I remember football the most!), and weekends we’d never miss a game. He was always there! For as long as I can remember come midnight on New Year’s Eve we’d have a father-daughter dance to Jose Feliciano’s Light My Fire. Dad also escorted me to London and Canterbury when I was first accepted for post-graduate studies. My Lord did we walk!!!! He’s also the one that was there to pick up the pieces when my marriage ended. And though he is not perfect (who is?!), and upheavals are part of any home-life, he was right about one thing: we always knew we were loved! Maybe you don’t think that’s such a notable life lesson, but it has marked my life in the most remarkable way, for it is dad that taught me to love. It is dad that taught me the unconditionality of loving. Through all adversity, destitute of circumstance, emotional exhaustion, and despair my father has always been there and I know he always will. He has taught me this: the unconditionality of love is oblivious to the factical. This gift has not always found a safe-haven of reciprocity, but it is a life-compass that I pray my own children will cherish and look back upon our shared life with the tenderness that I now do.

I love you dad!

Good byes

“Parting is such sweet sorrow” has been the mainstay of my life for over 7 years now. Trapped – in what seems an eternity (again the Greeks are nothing if not dramatic!) – in the undertow of life events, saying “good bye” comes more often than hello. And yet, there is truth in this quote, for with each salutary gesture more assured are we in our primordial attachment.

Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2

Juliet:
‘Tis almost morning, I would have thee gone—
And yet no farther than a wanton’s bird,
That lets it hop a little from his hand,
Like a poor prisoner in his twisted gyves,
And with a silken thread plucks it back again,
So loving-jealous of his liberty.

Romeo:
I would I were thy bird.

Juliet:
Sweet, so would I,
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.

Preceding this passage is this passage:

Juliet:
A thousand times good night!

Romeo:
A thousand times the worse, to want thy light.
Love goes toward love as schoolboys from their books,
But love from love, toward school with heavy looks.

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