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, 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?


thailandchani said...

Well, yes. I do agree. :)

I believe love is a chosen behavior - and it is not something we "fall in". It's a conscious decision.

Romance is overrated, in my opinion.


Tom Bailey said...

This is very interesting when it comes to strangers. I was just blogging about strangers and connected to your blog through another blog.

Check out my blog and see what you think.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the person who wrote that "Love is a chosen behavior." At
some point, after the dopamine drenched period of enchantment, love
becomes an active verb, an act of

Either that, or, having read this
quote from the Times, I would feel
like pulling the covers over my head
and never emerging. Also,
the most wonderful book I've ever
read about love, which includes
psychological analysis, philosophy,
science, literary references and
everyday examples is: "Dreams of Love and Fateful Encounters,"by Ethel S. Person, M.D. I think
the infatuation period is "idealization" of the loved object,
but after that stage, there should be, I hope, an ebb and flow of love
that can survive the realization that the beloved is just a flesh and blood person, after all.


Anonymous said...

Your problem is lexical: you don't become "intimate" because you copulate with another naked body (even a greek statue - or maybe because you think so) six or seven times on a row every night for a few weeks or a few months. Even if you dare share some "confidential "details pretty embarrassing about yourself. No. Delusion.

Intimacy is quite another ineffable and subtle story. This is something that nothing can corrupt nor replace, because it has been built carefully and however unwillingly (here I disagree with thailandchani and geri) during years of struggle and shared life, and shared history. The fundations are right and solid, because they passed the.test of longlasthood and trust, in spite of all the angers and hatreds and disappointments and exasperations.

Any goldish god or goddess shining on the top of a hill can bring the same optical illusion, thousands times, millions times. Shining, fire, warmth, hotness, yes, of course, but, like a straw fire:pfft! nothing left after a short while. So good, yes, but so short. and, overall, such a delusion, all the contrary of the required authenticity.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Geri's comment brings to mind Stendahl's "On Love" which describes the crystallization period brilliantly, more than any other treatise I have ever read on the subject of love.

I think that more than choosing to love, choosing to CONTINUE to love even after first blush has revealed a flesh and blood entity like ourselves, with warts and all as they say, is the true endurance test.

Andy said...

Oh Cecilieaux, that was such a good and funny post. I just loved it, especially the end - "We are doomed"!

Fantastic! Thanks.

Hendaque said...

Speak for yourself, C. That may be your experience, but I agree with most of the correpondents--real love is a committment; make a conscious decision to trust, to search, to work to grow, to laugh and cry, to care for and be cared for together. The idea that we become less intimate becasue "errors are made" is facil. It's dealing with differences that make for growth--and there is no better way to grow. That's what relationships are for-- to help make us more complete human beings.

So may I suggest that you that you stop waxing poetic about the about this all the time (more than 20 blogs in Shavings and Antipodes , counting sex, love, etc), move beyond obsessing about the superficial and letting us hear from you about real love.

chichovip said...

My 2 cents reply. There is a difference between sex and love. Of course both of them occur at different levels in our interactions with the chosen partner. Sexual things come more from our animal behaviour or inprint; and love comes from our more human social and inner/outer feelings enhanced by time, social environment, feed back and multiple other things. Intimacy occurs on the way to love not after.
We are not doomed but that does not mean we might not fail again. Everybody is different but dooming is stop trying whatever it is. We might not reach the golden globe but stay happy if we keep moving. In the end sex vanishes and love remains..