Monday, February 6, 2012

The_Year_of_the_Break-Up: or what I think about when I think about love

I was at dinner with my mom and my aunt last week. They are both exceptionally intellectual people. One teaches history and the other philosophy. And we like to bat ideas around, especially in a playfully aggressive sort of way. So my aunt, the philosopher, decided to say to me that all the women I have ever dated look just like my mother, and how this is some kind of unresolved Oedipal conflict in my life.

Despite the fact that she had just suggested that I wanted to fuck my mom and kill my dad while at dinner with my mother, I decided to just go along with it. I said: there's no conflict. My mother is a smart, beautiful, intelligent, generous, thoughtful woman. Why wouldn't I want to find someone like her as a partner?

This worked. The fact that she failed to embarrass me, and that I said something more or less sensible (how are you supposed react to that accusation, except with horror), ended the fun to be had in this line of reasoning. So she said, “that's very nice of you to say,” and we moved on to other topics.

At that very moment though, the girl I was (sort of) dating walked up. And I looked at her beautiful smile; her funny, conflicted personality; and her bright and sad eyes; and I realized that in one respect the Oedipal conflict is anything but solved...

In the last year and change I have split up with way too many women, seven maybe eight. In most of those relationships, we would break-up with one another once every couple of weeks, or every few days. And it was just as traumatic every time.  At one (fortunately brief) point, I was in two open relationships with two women with whom the relationship would end weekly. That's a lot of heartbreak. And it isn't like you get better at it through practice. It still feels like confronting a mini-death –  a future which is missing.

Seems like too many.  Also like not enough. In moments I see a Don Giovanni in me. And there were certainly moments this year  where I was compulsed to seek companionship, love, inspiration, and distraction in another's body.   But unlike Don Giovanni it wasn't an economic lust. I wasn't driven to acquire, certainly not at the cost of my ethical self, like Don Giovanni whose lust was not even tempered by rape and murder. I was, rather, driven to fall - in love perhaps, but also just to fall.

In some ways this is unfortunate. Life would be much simpler if I fucked more like a sociopath (or a bro) and less like lapsed Catholic. I don't want to suppress the horror or monstrosity of desire the way a liberated protestant might; I want the opposite: meaning, ritual, struggle, fall and redemption. In short, I can't see, in my object of desire, a mere piece of ass walking down the street. Instead, I see a complicated, nuanced, tragedy waiting to happen.  And I see a weapon to use against myself. It's a cliche to say that you always fall in love with the wrong person.  But everyone who has ever elicited that exciting vertiginous feeling of longing, joy, and alienation we call falling in love, has always also hated me, on some level.

Something about me (and them) has always insisted that the relationship end in tears and anguish, over and over. Many of these relationships this last year, the ones that lasted any amount of time, required weeks or months of separations, midnight phone calls, threats, intentional cruelty, barely comprehensible levels of love and violence. In one, that has lasted six months, I think we have spent just as much time apart as together (It might still be going on, it's unclear). We miss each other so much we forget how painful last night or last week was. Or how monstrously we acted. We try and not call. We try and not suggest promises we can't keep... and so on. It's becoming absurd. It's a labyrinth we know doesn't exist, with no exit, where Joy Division and Lucinda Williams are always playing, and where we dance with The Nuremberg Amateur Dance Society at every other turn. This desire is obviously irrational. Beyond control.  It's stronger than me. And it's stronger than her.  Significantly, all desire follows this careful manufacture. You could suppress it (why would you want to).  But it would get away from you, anyway. 

Any specific object of desire pulls at something in us that resists rationalization. Meaning, you can give it a name, a structure, a meaningful story; you can make lists and spread sheets and flow charts; you can model it mathematically and statistically; you can even identity it's physiological processes and codes;  but, then it slips out of it, reappears elsewhere, in another body, in another place.

We have tried over and over to simplify and model and rationalize human desire. The Soviets in the 50s and 60s tried to plan an economy (based on rational and scientific ideas about human need/ desire) that would only produce what they predicted their citizens would want, which was never what they actually wanted.  Here in the U.S. we tried to rationalize our enemies and predict how they would react based on how many deaths or losses they could tolerate. And through these scientific analyses we produced the most absurd, irrational and barbaric policies imaginable. Just like our Soviet counterparts maintaining their economic plan through the gulag, assassination and ordinary terror, we razed civilizations in the name of modeling our little human desires..

And just like my maybe-girlfriend and I who engage in whatever level of violence we can live with (not very violent), all of desire always seems to slip towards horror and brutality.  The story behind anything is like the Nuremberg trials, a narrative of a good and just war against obvious evil that conceals the experience of barbarity; that conceals a citizen-soldier - the baker, the tinker, the banker - willing to smash a kid's face with the butt of his rifle. And when he goes home, he is no longer human the way he was before.

Desire, even conflicted shameful desire, always feels right. The thing you want is without morality. Until you have it. And then in regret you might see yourself for what you are. Or not. Desire is not a mirror. You probably don't know what came over you. You reach for straws to explain what you have done or felt. But the explanations rarely ring true.

Desire is a ghost. You glimpse it and name it and it's gone. It can be objectified, forced outward into the commodity fetish-object. But then just as quickly it disappears from there as well.

Desire is always tragic. It ends in the dissolution of itself. And in the dissolution of the lover. And sometimes even the beloved object.

And in this is the truth of the Oedipal conflict my aunt was wielding at me. All desire is basically Oedipal. Outside of psychoanalysis the story of Oedipus is primarily a story of fate, of an irresistible force. And however you conceptualize it, the irresistible force for us humans is that we each end. Awareness of that ending is the burden of recognizing yourself in the mirror. The details of the Oedipus narrative which so obsess the psychoanalyst – blindness, incest, patricide  – merely tell the story of symbolic castration, of alienation from the human (through the breaking of the incest taboo), and of the end of authority; all of which are the story of our horror at the confrontation with our own death.

And so we're in a (not) funny situation where an irresistible force (that we end) meets an immovable object of desire  (continuity). Thus: we act like idiots; we act like tyrants;  we are shocked when nothing works out the way we planned.


  1. Jorge after reading several of your posts, I would like to throw out an idea. I state it as such, because that is all it is. (Which by the way all the philosophers belief's you choose to refer to, are also merely ideas that they had. Not any of those ideas were original. which just adds to their lack of authority. Not making them irrelevant, just no different from anyone else.) Back to my idea or thought rather. You seem to be an need of very high levels of stimuli. Although currently bombarded it seems specifically like you are emotionally starving. You want to constantly feel something or everything in great depth. There are some solutions to this. Stop reading others ideas and philosophies and allow your mind to become less polluted so it can solve this. Of course I am making a huge assumption that you want this to be solved. If you feel fine about your so called hunger, then ignore my thoughts on how to get beyond it. I have a great deal more to say about your minds state, but who the hell am I to analyze someone else. For all I know our world would be in great shape if everyone had a little bit of Jorgisms part of who they are. By the way Freud's ideas such as psychoanalysis and his obsessions with everything having a sexual take on it, are no longer considered relevant or helpful forms of psychology. His probing the mind and his working with patients one on one is hailed as his predominant contributions. Well I might have over simplified the matter but I think I got across the gist. Is you were already aware of this and were only referring to his ideas to make a point in your writings then, I apologize for being presumptuous. I could comment on and on. Not on this one post but the ideas you present as a collective. Not to criticize you, but to personally philosophy about what you wrote. I will read more and look forward to your new posts. Not to come across as arrogant, but the more years I live the less I could care what goes on in others minds. Well please don't take what I wrote all that serious. I'm just dealing with a far to overactive mind.

    1. Hey. Thanks for commenting and looking around my blog. I look forward to reading yours once you start writing in it :) (Great title by the way.)

      I think my main interest in writing about Freud and others of his kind is from a kind of history of ideas point of view. As in how did these ideas make us who we are. And more specifically how is my life/ work a reflection of those cultural currents.

      Or possibly telling brainy stories about myself just makes my life seem a bit more meaningful...

      Anyway, thanks.