For the death of Albertine to have been able to eliminate my suffering, the shock of the fall would have had to kill her not only in Touraine but in myself. There, she had never been more alive. In order to enter into us, another person must first have assumed the form, have adapted himself to the framework of time; appearing to us only in a succession of momentary flashes, he has never been able to reveal to us more than one aspect of himself at a time, to present us with more than single photograph of himself. A great weakness no doubt for a person, to consist merely of a collection of moments; a great strength also: he is a product of memory, and our memory of a moment is not informed of everything that has happened since; this moment which it has recorded endures still, lives still, and with it the person whose form is outlined in it. And moreover, this disintegration does not only make the dead one live, it multiplies him or her. In order to be consoled I would have to forget, not one, but innumerable Albertintes. When I had succeeded in bearing the grief of losing this Albertine, I must begin again with another, with a hundred others.
Marcel Proust, The Fugitive, p. 487
There are moments in Remembrance of Things Past where Proust has staggered me with the brilliance of his perception or the beauty of his words, and this is definitely one of those moments. Yes, I know that sounds cheesy or overly reverential (can you have a man crush on someone who has been dead a century; the answer is, of course, yes), but I'm completely serious. As I always do every morning I was leafing through my copy of the novel and looking at my notes, which are ordered in importance thusly: 1) did I just jot a parallel line to the text, and 2) did I underline individual lines within the passage, and 3) did I include crudely scrawled stars next to the passage, and, finally, 4) did I write something in the margin. This passage had all four, which means that I'd definitely be reflecting upon it further and definitely writing on it (I might write on a passage marked by one of the other categories obviously, but the fourth category is a must). Oh, and this also shows why I'm always so afraid to loan out copies of my favorite books (although I do it all too often; I really need a lending library system where I keep better records of who has my books). Anyway, this passage was marked up to high heaven, but reading it again still brought me intellectually to my knees. I mean, we know about all the masks we wear (and create, and destroy for that matter) but this also means that I am wearing all of these masks with all the people in my life - and the closer they are, and the more time we spend together, then they see more of the masks and must process more of our individual fabricated selves - just as we are continually doing with them in turn. So all of these different Albertines were alive within Proust at all time, just as all the different _____s, ______s, _______s, _______s, ________s, and ______s (names withheld because of respect for their privacy and their sense of self-worth) were/are alive within me at every moment. This means that Marcel, and every one of us, had/has to merge them into one individual, and this means that just as they were fabricated at their birth, they are further fabricated by us as we merge them. It reminds me of the process of saccades, where the eyes act like movie cameras and merge different images into a continuous and moving image. So, when you face tragedy and loss you find yourself like Marcel: "For the death of Albertine to have been able to eliminate my suffering, the shock of the fall would have had to kill her not only in Touraine but in myself." When you ask why someone can't seem to get over the loss of someone, either because they have passed or because the relationship has ended, remember that they aren't simply grieving the loss of one person, but of many. "In order to be consoled I would have to forget, not one, but innumerable Albertintes. When I had succeeded in bearing the grief of losing this Albertine, I must begin again with another, with a hundred others."