This Paradox of Love – A book

I’m reading The Paradox of Love by Pascal Bruckner (translated by Steven Rendall). I’m not finished, but I want to post a few quotes from the book. It is interesting, well written, and the translation is solid. I’m reading it as research for writing more about the paradox of love as a topic.

Bruckner’s take on how we got from where our ancestors were to where we are with male-female relationships is informative. I should have known. His commentary on, and experience with, the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s is interesting (Bruckner is French), but not one I shared.

“Sexual liberation became the most common way of getting in contact with the extraordinary; every morning we reinvented our lives….”

For those of us who may recall some of that time, he asks, “What put an end to this euphoria?” He explains, “We knew only one season in life: eternal youth. Life played a terrible trick on us: we got old.”

He has much more to say; quotes from the book follow.

Regarding the concept of free love, he asks, “How can love, which attaches, be compatible with freedom, which separates?”

Here’s more. These are taken from the introduction:

“Our freedom in love was won in battle at a price that remains to be determined. (Someday the “black book” of the 1960s will have to be written.) Freedom does not release us from responsibilities but instead increases them…It resolves problems less than it multiplies paradoxes…This burden explains in part why contemporary romances are so hard.”

“A paradoxical result: we now ask everything from love; we ask too much of it; we ask that it ravish, ravage, and redeem us…Christianity’s invention of the God of love has made the virtue of love the cardinal value of life…By liberating itself, it reveals itself for what it is, in its flashes of brilliance and in its pettiness: noble and base at the same time.”

Bruckner quotes from Les aventures de Télémaque, by Fénelon, an early 18th Century French novel, “love alone is more to be feared than all shipwrecks.” I like the quote. However, in the world today, it’s blatantly false.

The paradox I promote is that today we would rather suffer the potential pains of love, than to not experience love. And, we seem to keep going back for more. This may seem crazy, but it’s the eventual norm.

I like the chapter title: “Salvation through Orgasm.” I am quoting way out of context here, but along with equating the Aurora Borealis as nothing other than a cosmic orgasm, he says this “…like grace for the Calvinists, the orgasm is the narrow gate to redemption.” You always knew that, right?

Try this: “Depending on whether or not you have an orgasm, the Earth will slip into harmony or into discord: Fourier had already drawn an analogy between human copulation and that of the planets, and saw in the Milky Way an immense deposit of luminous semen. If humans made love more enthusiastically, they would give birth to a multitude of galaxies that would illuminate the planet a giorno [roughly, everywhere] and would solve the lighting problem at small expense.”

I shall never see the night sky in quite the same way again.

A few more like that before moving on: “An erection is an insurrection, the body in emotional turmoil…desire is profoundly moral…Coitus is simultaneously a rebellion against society and the culmination of human nature.”

Ok, enough blushing stuff. Bruckner is right in that it would be an obvious dodge to discuss love between men and woman with no reference to sex. Blame Pascal or the translator, I am only quoting. And cherry-picking.

Here is something that I consider more useful: “…but there comes a time when we have to take the risk of a relationship to the other that will upset our expectations and free us from the dreary conversation with ourselves. Independence is not the last word for people—that is what we are told by the love that has a blind faith in the other: that is why the worst misfortune on earth is the death of the few people who are dear to us and without whom life no longer has meaning or savor.”

And this, “If there is a modern dream (old as the hills but widely shared today), it consists entirely in the twofold aspiration: to enjoy symbiosis with the other while at the same time remaining master of one’s own life.” A dream indeed. Don’t we give up something of ourselves in every relationship?

I agree with, “Love is an experience we don’t want to forego, on the condition that it not deprive us of any other experience.” People in relationships with extremely controlling others might have something to say about this. I would argue that some of us are often willing to be deprived to a degree, perhaps even to submit to a more dominant and demanding love – even a forbidden love.

Regarding the conflict of the old ways of love with new: “Whether we like it or not, to fall in love is to slip back into an ancient, magical humus, to revive childhood fears, excessive hopes, and a mixture of servitude and cruelty. Without this permanence, how could we still read The Princess of Cleves, Liaisons of dangereuses, The Sufferings of Young Werther, Wuthering Heights, Cousin Bette, Madame Bovary, or In Search of Lost Time?

And I like, “Moderns are stupefied to find that love is not always lovable, that it does not coincide with justice or equality, that it is a feudal, antidemocratic passion.”

That much is from only the Introduction and Chapter One. There is much more. I’m over my personal word limit. So, I’ll close with a quote from the beginning of Chapter 4, “The Noble Challenge of Marriage for Love.”

This Bruckner quoted from the website Viedemer-de.fr, 2008:

Today, I received two text messages from my girlfriend. The first to tell me that it was all over, the second to tell me that she had sent the message to the wrong address.

As you look both ways in life, mind the gaps.
But love! Crash and burn.
Then get up and love again. Feel the paradox.

From Pleasure, Pain

This is the first in a series of blog posts about what I see as the paradox of love. This essay is my answer to the prompt, what has brought you to your knees? I’m not sure where I’ll go with this. Maybe you can help. Ask me questions, or prompt me in some direction. Please keep in mind, this is merely my take. Feel free to provide yours.

Nothing begins, nothing ends,
that is not paid for with moan;
for we are born in other’s pain,
and perish in our own.
~ Francis Thompson

Twenty years ago, I started using the phrase it’s all about how we feel. Normally, I’d caveat such a mantra by claiming it only applied to people without mental health issues. In this case, I think the words apply universally. How do you feel?

Love is the highest standard we have for caring about others. In literature, movies, music, religion, and in our daily lives; our obsession with love is obvious. It’s poorly defined, extensively written about, and grammatically misused; but love is everywhere in the English language. We want to love and to be loved. It’s our ultimate pleasure. How sweet love is.

I embrace love, but I fear pain. Pain can take over my body. Excruciating physical pain has brought me to my knees. It’s absurd that such pain may be helpful as it travels my nervous system from its source to my brain. Pain is abnormal. Even though we all experience pain, it’s not supposed to be there unless something is wrong. Pain is a symptom more useful to doctors than to me.

As bad as physical pain is, emotional pain is more devastating. In extreme cases, mental grief often leads to thoughts of suicide. In physical pain I might say, I want to die; but, I never intended that. I only wanted the pain to stop. On the other hand, people in emotional agony can be dangerous.

Our vulnerability to emotional pain is greatest when we love someone. When we love another person, we grant that person more power over us than any god or demon. Still, we choose to love. Not just willingly, but aggressively with passion and desire. Why? It’s like we can’t live without it. If anyone does live without love, we consider that sad and dysfunctional.

Love has brought me to my knees in two ways. First, the wondrous and joyful pleasure of experiencing love has led me to my knees with happiness. Be it romantic love, love of parents, love of children, grandchildren, or friends; the wonderful state of love takes away the dark and gives light.

Second, love has dropped me in pain, in fear, in a depressingly dark, hateful passion. Love betrayed leaves behind lifelong scars too deep to ever completely heal. The end of a romance, the betrayal of a friendship, the dismissal of a parent we love, the suffering or death of a child; each of these may, and perhaps should, put me on my knees. Such pain and agony from the dark side of love makes me question the value of life.

There may be recovery or even pleasure at the end of the tunnel. Time may mend love betrayed. Still, our human nature forces us to look back into that dark tunnel, into that abyss of pain and suffering. We remember. Do we dare to ever again risk pain by making ourselves vulnerable? Do we face the agony of finding ourselves desperately miserable because we loved?

Why do we do it? Would you, could you, live without love?

That’s a paradox of love. We know the risks, the vulnerability, and the potential to suffer. And yet, we still seek out love and take the risk. How do you feel now?

Even when we look both ways and mind each gap, we will experience pain in life.

“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you.
You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.”
― Bob Marley (20 years after his death, which means he never said it. True, nonetheless.)

The youtube poem below is worth hearing/reading, and I think the Love Hurts song by Nazareth is worth a listen.

 

X – Xu and the Gong (NaPoWriMo #28)

Why do we have x-words, if they sound like they start with z? I’ve discovered the word formerly used to denote a Vietnamese sum of money. The xu (pronounced soo, as in moo, you, or too) is one-hundredth of a dong. Can you see where I went with this? Enjoy!

***

A Xu for You
by Bill Reynolds

I found a lucky Xu
I wanna give it to you.
Ninety-nine more, you kin get a dong.
What’s wrong? Duncha wanna a dong?

With yer dong, ya can get along.
That’s right. You can have a long dong.
A long dong with a song, all…
For a measly, simple xu.

So, wacha gunna do?
First a xu, then a dong.
With yer dong, get a gong.
Bang a gong with yer dong!

So, let’s sing the song,
Let’s bang the gong
You got a dong, so…
Let’s get it on.

***

 

 

Look both ways, then sing the song and bang the gong.
Let’s get it on, but mind the gap in yer dong when you sing the song.

W – Wilkes-Barre’s Deer (NaPoWriMo #27)

The deer statue has been resting on the Luzerne County Courthouse lawn, in Wilkes-Barre (pronounced berry), PA, since 1909. However, it was first placed in the city’s central area, where the old courthouse was, in 1866. That was a year after President Lincoln was assassinated, the Civil War ended, and Walt Whitman wrote the poem, Oh Captain, My Captain (all in 1865).

I wrote this poem from the persona of the deer, who never seems to complain. Since home cameras and photography became popular, people have been taking pictures of friends and family sitting on the deer. The photo I used is of my mother holding me on the deer, circa. 1947. Thanks to Sue for tweaking it to look mo’ betta here.

 

 

***

I Knew You When…
by Bill Reynolds

Oh, deer me! As you can see,
my time here’s been so long.
The Civil War was in the past,
all memories aren’t quite gone.

One year after Whitman wrote
his poem of woe, his poem of hope,
I came to this city, I thought quite pretty.

On Public Square, I stood so proud,
for twenty-four years, I knew that crowd.

In nineteen-oh-nine, to a new home I moved,
to guard this lawn where I now stand.
O’er a hundred years, as I’ve now proved.

Six generations I’ve watched them grow,
grands both ways I got to know.

Been standing here without a sound,
through floods and droughts upon this ground,
storms and disasters all around.

I’ve felt your touch and bore your weight,
There’s more to come, so here I’ll wait.
Bring your camera and your smile,
for here I’ll be yet quite a while.

I was here, you all should know
the day yer granddad stood so near.
I’m sure we’ve met, but before I go,
It’s me they call the Court House Deer.

***

Remember the past, look to the future, live in the present.
Mind the gaps and be well.

R – Renga, The Poetry of Art (NaPoWriMo #21)

Renga is a longer poem alternating three and two line stanzas. Sue and I collaborated on this one. She wrote the haiku and I did the couplets following. She used the 5, 7, 5 syllabus pace and I used 7 for each line. We decided to write this so each couplet is related to the previous haiku, and the entire poem shares a theme. The final stanza completes the poem and the circle. Sue’s blog, An Artist’s Path, is here.

 

 

The Poetry of Art
By: Bill Reynolds & Sue Viseth

’tis a fickle thing
the words in verse, prose, and rhyme
chosen over time

feel the beat and tap those feet
catch the bop and keep the time

poetry is song
music from the heart and soul
sing it to the world

poet’s voice is here, voice is there
voices writ in blood and bone

no word writ in stone
rather, molded from the clay
poets turn the wheel

words are medium on wheels
the quill a master’s pallet

the artist within
molds the clay and sings the songs
a poem is born

something deeper than the poet
the words take form and art is

share art with the world
come together and create
poets live forever

Look both ways for poets and poetry,
but mind all the gaps.

Q – The Quiet Man’s Poem (NaPoWriMo #20)

I get it.

Quiet Man’s Poem
by Bill Reynolds

First as a child, then as a boy
No shy child as many would ploy.
Silence in me is part of my nature.
Spoken words etch not my portraiture.

My teen years of silence, not taken a joke,
Was the indication of a challenge to bear.

More words to share, growing older I spoke.
Mostly not words they wanted to hear.

Others wanted to know why ‘twas I
Who made less noise than they did cry.
My smile never inquired just why,
“Of all talkin’, ya never was tired?”

Small talk they called it, noise without brains.
Not shy, in silence, I’m quietly plotting
Demise and disposal of whatever remains.

Now older, and less quiet I’ll be,
I listens and sez the damnedest of things.
Have it your way, but please try to see,
I can make stop those annoying rings.

Contemplate me
as you pass through yer day.
Most of the time,
I simply have nothing to say.

 

Listen quietly when you can,
mind unheard gaps,
and look both ways.

Click on the photo to watch a funny scene from a the movie, The Quiet Man.

Scene from movie, The Quiet Man, staring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara

O – Onomatopoeia (NaPoWriMo #18) Never Again

Years ago, I packed in over several nights, with a backpacking group near Truckee, CA, north of Donner Pass. We were at approximately 7,000 feet elevation in the Sierra Mountains between Sacramento, CA and Reno, NV. It was a very exciting trip.

A year afterward, I planned to repeat as a day-hike in with a friend. After he backed out, I decided to go it alone. I ended up going later than I should, and was unprepared for what I encountered. For my foolishness, I paid the price with months of back damage and pain. I can almost laugh about it now – almost. It was also exciting, but in a very different way.

Onomatopoeia is the formation of a word from a sound associated with what is named, such as cuckoo or sizzle. It is also used for rhetorical effect, as in this poem.

 

Never Again
by Bill Reynolds

High Sierra beauty.
No food. No drink. No sense!
What plan? Quick in, then back out.
Whoosh. Like the wind. Time passed

Boink. Suddenly, it’s late.
Dusk. ARGH! Gotta get out.
Before dark. Oh no: It’s feckin’ dark!
No moon, no map. Had a lighter. Zip.

Oh, shit. Muddled.
Not one essential, much less ten.
No flashlight! Groan. Why?
Thinking? Stoopid. Grrrr to self.
Clatter climb rocks. Get out. Fast. It’s Dark.

Thump. Crunch. I fell, no moon. Ark!
Did I say, “It’s dark?”
Crunch. Footsteps. Are they mine?
Can’t see. Bonk. Oof! Pain.
F-word, again. No better.
I keep swearing, like it’s gunna help.
Bam. Step in hole. Crunch. Knocked out breath.

Shocked. Confused. Must see but cannot.
Crackle, smack. Branch to my face. Blood. Ooze.
Buzz. Bugs? Crunch. Twisted ankle.
Scrape, bang, boom, bash. ACK! More pain.

Bonk. Fall on face. Dark. Hurt. Walk.
Pain. Bam. Oof! Again. What’d I step in?
Another hole. Whack, crunch.
Damn holes. Hiss. Oh god. A snake?

Hear something? More crackle.
What’s that? A clatter?
Get out. Fast. Don’t run. Too dark.
Bear? Mountain Lion?
Kill me? Eat me? Yikes. I’m so screwed.

Hoot. Owl. Danger.
Skunk. Whew. It stinks.
Careful. Out fast. Whiz? Crap!

I’m Cold. And wet. In pain.
Must pee. Yikes. Unzip.
Done. Relief. Don’t fall in it. Re-zip.
Ouch more. Get out. Don’t fall.
Boink. Thud. Head pain.

Scrunch, twist, whack.
Repeat. Fear. Repeat. Dumb me.
How far? How long? Lost?
Alone. Clatter. Alone?
What was I Thinking?

Break free. Find car! Keys?
Oh no. No keys. Groan. Swear.
Hidden key. Found it.
Brrrrr. Shaking. I am very cold.

Tall grass. Kerplunk. Dropped key.
Damnit, can’t see. Cold. Pain.
Sore knees, search the ground.
Feel in dirt, no gloves. I found it. Clatter to feet.
Hold tight. Screech. I scratched car, then swear.

Bang. Slam door. Varoom.
Start engine. Get out. Cuckoo.
Oof over bumps. Drive. Find my brain.
Good trip. Nice day. Never again!

Bring a flashlight.
You can’t look either way, nor mind the gaps, if you can’t see.