Even when she gradually ceased to be present in my thoughts and all-powerful over my heart, I felt a sudden pang if I had occasion, as in the time when she was there, to go into her room, to grope for the light, to sit down by the pianola. Divided into a number of little household gods, she dwelt for a long time in the flame of the candle, the doorknob, the back of a chair, and other domains more immaterial such as a night of insomnia or the emotion that was caused me by the first visit of a woman who had attracted me.
Marcel Proust, The Fugitive, p 533
There are times, despite my ever present skepticism, when I am reminded that Marcel did love Albertine. Yes, he was often cruel to her, but aren't we often cruel to the ones we love? (As the great Canadian philosopher reminds us, only love can break your heart) In turn, I found his comment about little household gods to be as true as it was emotionally crushing. We've all been there, and this also brings us back to previous discussions about the Museum of Broken Relationships. Usually the little household gods reside in more tangible items: that discarded t-shirt from an ex-lover stuffed in the back of your drawer or that picture you hide in files on your computer. They can be, as Proust proposes, "immaterial" - I remember being driven into an intense crying jag after me divorce after receiving an email informing me that my ex-wife and son would no longer be covered by my insurance. It was a reminder of how I had failed them, but it was also another little connection that we shared, now lost. Proust's observation about how the "immaterial" could be "the emotion that was caused me by the first visit of a woman who had attracted me." We've talked about this before, but when you're with a woman you've at that moment with every woman you've ever slept with, and not simply biologically. Everything that you do at that moment is a product of every other time you've been with a woman, and her response at that moment is a reflection of every other woman's response from every other time. It's why it's so difficult to start a new life simply by giving away the more tangible domains of the little household gods.