Under the lamp

What do I think of love? — As a matter of fact, I think nothing at all of love. I’d be glad to know what it is, but being inside, I see it in existence, not in essence. What I want to know (love) is the very substance I employ in order to speak (the lover’s discourse). Reflection is certainly permitted, but since this reflection is immediately absorbed in the mulling over of images, it never turns into reflexivity: excluded from logic (which supposes languages exterior to each other), I cannot claim to think properly. Hence, discourse on love though I may for years at a time, I cannot hope to seize the concept of it except ‘by the tail’: by flashes, formulas, surprises of expression, scattered through the great stream of the Image-repertoire; I am in love’s wrong place, which is its dazzling place: ‘The darkest place, according to a Chinese proverb, is always underneath the lamp’ (Reik).

— Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse (trans. R. Howard)


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