The Logic of Giving Without Giving


Jacques Lacan taught us that love is giving what one does not have. How can one give what one does not have? Further, Jacques Derrida puts love to the order of the impossible. How are we to love if it is impossible?  Both teach us that love does not belong to the order of the giveable. Love, therefore, is not a thing that we can give and take. It belongs to the order of being. We can be love. We love by being love. Being love does not belong to the order of the market which is an order of exchange. It’s an economy of debt where one pays back because one is given or one has received. Love, therefore, does not belong to this give and take symbolic/material exchange. Jesus loved by being love and that’s why he could say love one another as I have loved you ( Jh.13: 34). 

We transcend the market, the economy of exchange both material and symbolic when we become love to each other. In love, we embrace the absolute singularity of the other without laying any demand on the one we love to fall in line with the generalities that we call tradition, custom, law and culture. We let the singular otherness proper to the other one that we love to bloom. This makes our love unconditional. True love for a Christian, therefore, is not measurable by the scale of the market. The true measure of love, therefore, is to love without a measure. It an imperative to love by being love. In this manner, we can give what we do not have… We will be friends, lovers, family, neighbours and communities. We will become what we are not by ourselves. We become lovers, friends, harmonious neighbours and community when we become love. Love is other-oriented. 

In fact, we give without giving. Giving does not becomes a taking when we give without giving in the order of the market. When we give we also take. We take appreciation, reciprocal love and gratitude from those we give.   This makes our giving transactional.  It puts the other in debt and limits his/her way of being other. True love is only giving and receiving without taking. It is giving without giving. Even when I give a symbol of love, say a rose, I am giving love without giving. Rose cannot really carry my love in the fullest sense. But giving of the rose communicates that I have become love. The beloved receives love without taking it. ‘This giving and receiving’ is not of the order of the market. Love as thought by St Paul does not record the calculus of what one receives or gives (1 Cor 1: 13)

To a Christian to become love is to become Christian.  What happens in experiences of a shattered love? We become broken. Such experiences devastate us. We become ecstatic and recognize that we have lost our innocence and are living a changed life.  But this breaking of oneself is also simultaneously making of oneself.  One can assemble the broken pieces of one’s life and put them together to truly become love. It might bring realizations that reduction of love to the order of the giveables of the market leads to shattering of lives.  This realization can enable us to become love and give what we do not have. This is the order of God. God is love. He gives love without giving in the order of the market. Hence, we have to deconstruct love in the order of the giveables. Otherwise, it will deconstruct us and render us shattered.  

We have to do a reverse Kantian exercise. We have to ask not the conditions of possibility of love. We have to examine the conditions of the impossibility of love.  When is love impossible? Love is impossible only when love is put into the order of the market.  The love that belongs to the chain of exchange is not love at all. Love is truly impossible in the order of the market. Love does not belong to the market. It is not a give and take-chain of the exchange-ables.  Love destructs/ destroys itself in the market. We cannot practice love in the market.  True love is becoming love and hence we do not have to give anything. We give nothing. It is giving without giving.  When we become love everything that we give carries our trace of love. Love is nothing rather no-thing ( not a thing) and cannot be given and taken. We give love without giving and receive it without taking.  

Only God, Angles and Humans can love by giving nothing. Only the divine and human can truly give without giving. The logic of love is not one of giving and taking. The logic of love exceeds such logic of the market.  The logic of love is to give without giving. It is also receiving without taking. It does not just transcend the market. It also transcends our materialistic metaphysics.  Love, therefore, is spiritual.  Love is therefore a shattering experience that builds us. To become love, we have to be kenotic. We have to die to ourselves, shatter our ego, or break ourselves. It is breaking that is simultaneously building as it is becoming someone for someone/ becoming other-oriented. It is why love can only become. It can become a  beloved, friend, neighbour, or community.  It is the way Jesus taught us to become neighbour in his parable of the Good Samaritan.  It is challenging to love the way Jesus loved. It is difficult to become a neighbour like the Good Samaritan ( Lk.10: 25-37). Today the nearest are furthest and are caught in the order of the exchangeables of the market. Love has become commerce.

We have the challenge to deconstruct this love of the transaction.  To truly love is to live a mystery. When we truly love we fill the emptiness with emptiness (material sense) and reach contentment of fullness.  Maybe it transcends matter and feeds our spirit. We truly live what Jesus said when he said that ‘man does not live by bread alone’ (Mat . 4:4).  Maybe we have the challenge to overcome the idolatry of the Eucharist, the temptation to live by bread alone. The challenge to us is to transform the Eucharist as means that makes us bread broken and given to all like Jesus is a call of love.  Perhaps. the Church fathers and Henri de Lubac discovered this truth very early. They articulated it clearly when they declared ‘the church makes the Eucharist and the Eucharist makes the Church’.  The impossible love is very much possible. We can be love and give and receive without giving and taking.   Love challenges us to think together giving, not giving, receiving and not taking. Be love and be loved.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao