Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Romance as Estrangement

Sunday, reading The New York Times I came across a gem of an epigram, within a question, quoted in a book review, from what seems to be a very experimental, deeply philosophical novel. This gem follows:
‘Strangers become intimate, and as intimacy grows they lower their guards and less mind their manners until errors are made, which decreases intimacy until estrangement exceeds that which existed before the strangers ever met,’
Notice the comma at the end? That's because it is sandwiched inside the question “If the observation were made to you that [epigram quoted above] would you be inclined to agree?” The full quote is from The Interrogative Mood - A Novel? By Padgett Powell, as reviewed by Josh Emmons.

Ok, so this is not my idea. But wouldn't you agree with its profound truth?

We become intimate in the flush of infatuation and lust that we call "falling in love." For a time we are in paradise and there has never been another person or another state like it in the entire history of humanity remotely similar to our beloved, our love, our lovemaking.

Who cannot recall becoming inflamed in languorous multilingual conversation over a glass of red wine, then waking up next morning by a pale white body, a naked Greek statue enfleshed, at rest after crests of passion uncommon to the species in their depth and palpitating frequency?

Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Travelled, speaks of men at the point of orgasm declaring love to a prostitute -- or more commonly, a one-night stand -- as a phenomenon having to do with a temporary collapse of ego boundaries that, absent the spike of brain chemistry, keep our emotions within certain prescribed social limits.

Intimacy. Fused inside and out. Then confidences. Then the slow unpeeling of the knight's armor and the lady's veil. I drink too much. I nag. I have this teensy-weensy habit ... but it's OK, because you love me, no?

No.

No, it's not OK, and it gets worse when, without thinking, you say or do something the knight or the lady would never do. The cat's out of the bag: I am me, you are you. The bag is slowly emptied of all the psychic detritus lying there, sometimes causing unspeakable pain in the other and unfathomable guilt of one's own.

Eventually, it is better to be apart, to erase every last vestige of the other until things are back ... no, until you are in a new primordial universe in which the other person never existed and you never met. Of course, we are as if made of wood: the nail's been taken out but the hole remains.

So we try to fill it again with a new shining lover on a hill. A new rush of what we think is love.

We are doomed.

Wouldn't you agree?
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