Relationships & Restauration [June 2014, Chronicles of Dis-Infection]


It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is.

Hermann Hesse

So then what about relationships? What about them? To be in one or not to be in one seems to be among the relevant, obvious, first-to-mind questions. This is not just a matter of chance and looks, we know, but also of serious chatting up or hitting on techniques. It‘s difficult to figure out how „to hit on“ became the standard term for „to try to get someone‘s romantic attention by initiating and, most likely sustaining, a conversation with the end of establishing the possiblity of a further series of encounters with increasing degress of romanticality and, ultimately, physicality“. „To hit on“ seems seriously better suited to domestic violence type of situations.

            The reason I give such a technical account of „hitting on“ is because I‘ve seen this horrid clip on youtube where this guy in the course of a single afternoon [hard to prove on such a clip] hits on three ladies [sequentially] and manages to make out with each and every single one of them, I mean voluminous translingual sputum transaction. The last lady must have gotten tiny samples of the previous two, I‘m afraid. It knocks any sense of romance straight out of you.

            The worst of it all is how he achieves his end: he‘s not exactly the aesthetically enticing type, nor does he really have anything interesting to say. However, he babbles away at the prospective lingual target at approximately 500words a minute without letting up. Intermittently he touches them or grabs their hands or high-fives, some-flipping-how establishes physical contact. Also, this admittedly doesn‘t lack practical psychological refinement, he occasionally, super-strategically pretends to completely loose interest [„see if I care, silly lady“]. The overall impression is one of a very skilled street magician trying to place something on or taking something from the gullible trick-participant. Except that in this case the objective is straightforward salivary exchange, thence procreational congress. And the other half of the impression is that of a rather horrible, bothersome person. So then to see the whole loquacious, underhanded scam come to fruition and the rather good-looking gals being kissed by this…forgive me…puck … is like seeing something made of tons of steel soaring into the sky: it‘s highly counter-intuitive, well-nigh impossible but you cannot deny its reality. What makes it worse it that it comes off as being conceived/carried out purely in pragmatic terms, almost like it were this guy‘s job, or maybe hobby, but that intrinsic interest in the accosted females is fundamentally zero. I think this attitude could also be referred to as cynical. And for the record, I don‘t consider this matter in terms of: „hater“, „hate the game“, „respect the guy‘s skills“, etc.

           

            A much more interesting topic is love. The fact that love is one unified word is the heights of crazytude in itself. All the concepts, emotions and practices that have been massed under this term to still, after all this time, being able to unite under one „term“ is surprising. Specific powerful terms and phrases have thankfully managed to calf from the mother-word: infatuation, to like one [you] like a sibling, to like, to have fun together, et cetera. This is good because it allows us to grade our degrees of affection, giving one, if so desire, ample opportunity to build up to the verbal nuke otherwise known as „i l˚∆e [2nd person singular]“ . Though, to be realistic, many enough people manage to water the phrase down to a wholly inocuous utterance, which interestingly goes together with removing the ,I‘ from the statement, as if the love in question might come from any random direction: ,love you‘.

            There are dozens of theories and conceptual constructs to a complex concept such as love but one that fascinates me is that it is never an emotion of the single moment. There is not one moment when one loves, loves exclusively, is able to laserbeam „love“ into one amorescent point. Rather, I, personally, subjectively, perceive it as this very long process that occurs across months and years and ultimately decades [possibly death?] and to which, at any given single moment, you do have access but in a limited way. The restriction being that it is a moment, unable to encompass what has come before.

            And the process is not just one of feelings either, it is a combining of two bodies, their thoughts, emotions, conversations and actions which manage to make two people both one and two, a hybrid being where each one transcends her/himself. Being faced with what a helpless, unwieldy mess this situation presents conceptually, yet struck by the strong emotional transformations it effects within us we resort to our go-to word: love! And hope to thereby sum up the amazing history of togetherness, that sentiment of being more than only oneself. Ultimately, I suppose, among other things, it could also include the realization that the ego is a rather shabby, make-due-ish concept.

            Be that as it may, there remains the question of love. The absolute mystery of love. And the polymorphous, promiscuous usage of it. You can say „I love you“ to your partner, „I love you, Mum“, „Love you, bro!“…without any sense of cognitive dissonance and always signifying something distinctly different. Yet clearly there is an underlying emotional continuity connecting all of these expressions, implying good will, positive affect and various shades of individual sentiment.

            However, capital L Love, the romantic love we perceive as emoting for our partner, no matter how qualitatively variable and conceptually maddening it may be, is distinctly different from the other types of love we tend to profess. Zizek put it aptly, by stating something along the lines of romantic love being one of the single most discriminatory emotional structures known to humankind: I love this person, I care about this one person insanely to the exclusion of other people, I will care for the weal of this single individual even if it be to my own detriment, I will incinerate my existence on the altar of this other beloved being! To the exclusion of others. I save him/her from the sinking ship while the others drown, I shield him/her from the approaching bullet, I only now arrive at the idea of donating my blood, my spine marrow, my kidney because s/he will depart me otherwise. Love as a consuming Alter–Monomania, with a cathexis to end all cathexis.

And yet, and yet, within the romantic eventhorizon bending around the singularity of the loved one, the absolutely antithetical emotional logic comes alive. If you can believe it. In the malmorphic gravitational field of Amor [trillions of one-dimensional, infinite arrows] the lover is seized by fuzzy logic, blurred inclusion rather than razor-sharp discrimination. Say Karney, Mc Nultz and Bradbury in Cognition and the Development of Close Relationships (Fletcher, Clark, et al., 2003) „[…] suggested that partner rely on their global impressions when asked to evaluate specific aspects of the relationship (Weiss, 1980). As a result of a process of ,sentiment override‘, partner who are generally satisfied with their relationships should tend to evaluate specific aspects of the relationship positively […]“. This sounds like an emotional module specifically in place to maintain dyadic relationships: you sweep a specific irritation under the carpet of the warm global glow. And, of course, sentiment override sounds significantly better, more empirical even, than fooling oneself or being lenient towards the person one bloody loves or maintaining a sense of perspective. In any case, I find it fascinating that such contrary principles operate at the very core of what means love. But it shouldn‘t come as a surprise, as hate usually is also interpreted as the dialectical complement of love. And, as if to make up for this overboardingly uni-centric notion of love, Buddhism, Christianity and most other omniplanetary faiths have coughed up a complementary, opposite: unconditional love for the complete stranger – agape, One of the four Immeasurables, et cetera.

            What about attachment? By virtue of a relationship one attaches oneself to another, two previously distinct ways of life become intertwined and thus interdependent. My happiness depends on that of my significant others [though the implied notion of insignificant others, on idealistic grounds, might well be challenged] and, ideally, vice versa. Ideally in that symmetry, to me, is a feature of a healthy relationship. Yet one must not get over-attached either, meaning that one looses one‘s sense of self in pursuit of fullfilling the other‘s every imagined or real need&desire, to the sole end of strengthening the attachment. So there‘s a balancing act in attachment: one must calibrate soin-de-soi and love-of-the-beloved. Strangely and interestingly, relationship scientists view this issue quite different. According to Alland: „Adult attachment researchers typically define four prototypic attachment styles (secure, preoccupied, dismissing, fearful) derived from two underlying dimensions – anxiety and avoidance (Bartholomew & Horowitz, 1991; Brennan, Clark & Shaver, 1998; Fraley & Waller, 1998)“ (p.62). It seems slightly insane that the defintion of human attachment should be defined so negative: only one of the four styles seems somewhat positive, though one could also argue for it being ,complacent‘. And the underlying dimensions are negative–zone utilitarianism at its worst: I avoid my girlfriend so little, show so little distress in her corporeal presence that people are quite right to speculate that I love her – anxiety-free, avoidance-free love!

            Anyway, just now skimming through Badiou‘s The Century and landed on this gem, gem because it seems to brilliantly reflect, in its facets, the contemporary moment:

A restoration is never anything other than a moment in history that declares revolutions to be both abominable and impossible, and the superiority of the rich both natural and excellent, it comes as no surprise that it adores number, which is above all the number of dollars or euros. […] A restoration is above all an assertion regarding the real; to wit, that it is always preferable to have no relation to it whatsoever. (Badiou, p.26)

            The TINA-reproach has been thrown around by progressives for a decade or two, and with numerous examples to substantiate it. In a way it feels like we‘re almost living in a TWNA-era: there was no alternative…but to land here, but to make contact in this specific, as-always neoliberal present moment. But I cannot pursue this route of inquiry because I‘ve effectively disconnected myself from global politics, I no longer follow its viscitiudes, its inescapable developments, whereas just a few years ago I did, to no appreciable geo-strategical effect, I‘m sorry to report. The point I wish to make is that a negligible number of people is still calling for revolutions, what is rather asked for, is that we desist from the most glaring idiocies of the past, to wit, presently, sporting mega events. The FIFA Soccer World Cup about which 95% of folks were whinging about until the day before yesterday, at which point Non–Brazilians tossed their complaints and placards into the closest corner, sat down in front of the closest TV set [that‘s right, TV, not a computer screen, as a future, vintage 2005 might have it] and began cheering for the soccer-ultra-talented warriors of their local macro-tribe.

            And so on. And so forth.

 

 

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About tmabona

writer, reader [bolano, DW, bellow, deLillo], runner, badmintoneer
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