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Chapter 7

Love and Reality

THE SELF by its very nature is compelled to love reality. The self has to aim after happiness and there is no happiness except by the successful love of reality. Were the self really to get what it wants, its various phases or possibilities would be working as one; and what it was after as a whole would be working as one with all other things. The self, in other words, must find some means of saying that something other than it, is for it, is approving of it.

     I am quite aware that if Jim Haskins were told he was trying to love reality as a whole in caring for Miss Edith Ritchie, he might say "Balderdash"; "Nothing of the kind"; "Quit your kidding." And for that matter if the more learned professor of chemistry, Andrew Harding, were told he was in pursuit of reality as a whole in courting the daughter of his teacher, Professor Simons, he, too, might say, "None of these soaring, needlessly philosophic outlooks." Still, sometimes the only way to be completely factual is to be philosophic. There was a time when Jim Haskins had not heard of Edith Ritchie. He now thinks (and in fact has told Edith) that if she loves him, "The world is mine." Sometimes Jim is swept by a feeling which goes beyond his toes and his ears, and which he regards as the grandest thing in the world. He does not see this feeling as close to the material in his philosophy course at college, but it is. For Edith Ritchie, as she may deserve to be, has been taken by him as a symbol of the whole world and when his self meets through her body the self of Edith Ritchie, something of that world which she symbolizes comes to him; not lucidly perhaps, not cognitively, not in the form of a spiritual blueprint; but still, however accompanied by fuzziness, that something represents the world. Love is a tremendous instance of that insistent possibility of symbolism of which I have spoken. Indeed, sex is basically philosophic.

     Why, if Edith should be aloof or deny herself to him, may Jim be swept by a desolation that seemingly is limitless? Why should no other body have the meaning for Jim that the body of Edith Ritchie may have? Why has a biological entity taken on the vastness of import, the inescapable undulations of meaning which the biological entity called Edith Ritchie has taken for another entity called Jim Haskins? Plainly, the cause is not body, or even self, in its ordinary meaning, for other bodies and selves have psychologically or biologically what Edith Ritchie has. And therefore, that largeness of meaning which has been given to this particular self or body is a symbolical largeness of meaning; that is, it stands for something. What is that for which the self or body of Edith Ritchie stands? Where are the boundaries of the thing represented in Jim's mind by this one person? Does it end with a state or a country or a family or an ocean or even the sky? There is no ending in Jim's mind of the thing represented by Edith, for she stands for everything. Everything is another term for the world or reality. Jim may be in a confusion as to the boundaries of his deepest desire, yet beneath the confusion that desire has universality.

     Logically, relations need not be particularized or lucidly bounded to exist. We may be affected by something without knowing that it exists or knowing its shape. Jim Haskins, without knowing it, is concerned with a certain relation of general and particular, of great importance in logic and aesthetics.

     Jim Haskins marries Edith Ritchie. The object Edith Ritchie now becomes, as far as human law permits, the object Jim Haskins. There is still, however, a third partner to the relation of Edith and Jim. That partner is the world as a whole. If Jim, through his love for Edith, hates this third partner he will become sulky, even though apparently dependent more and more on Edith. The same goes for Miss Ritchie. Too often, however, two people come together in the marriage bond, or otherwise, and use their high estimate of each other to depreciate, and even hate, the world in general. Here it must be insisted on that hate for the world in general is failure in life—no matter what else happens.

     The purpose of love is to feel closely one with things as a whole. I have intimated before my vigorous disbelief in the idea commonly had that sex governs our attitude to things. Sex is the intense, inescapable, tremendous representative of the necessity of a person to complete himself by seeing that whatever else exists is related to him; and indeed is he. Sex, seen fully, is intellectual, has knowledge to it, is philosophic. It is the symbolic, joyful junction of two bodies or selves: symbolical of the joy there would be were a self to accept the world entirely and see its freedom in doing so.

     Ronald Hill was a moody young man who despised his uncles, the people he met, people in general; he thought himself a profoundly distinguished being whose attitudes had a dimension to them that could not be discerned elsewhere. Though Ronald proudly lived in this exalted, sequestered island, when eighteen he noticed that the desire for woman was strong, mastering. He used to talk contemptuously of women, saying: "Liz is a light weight"; "Hannah knows nothing but the powder on her nose"; and "If Margaret knew more she would know as much as a half-witted man." He saw women as playthings to be manipulated and twisted by his own masterful, spiritual cunning.

      Surprisingly, nevertheless, he found himself once sobbing on Hannah's shoulder, weeping that he needed her always, and hoping that she would never leave him. When Margaret was once curt to him, he got into a terrible fury and threw a stone through the garage window. Two weeks later he humbly phoned to Margaret and asked whether he could see her. To her he said that night nothing else mattered but her, and that however the world went, if he had her he would be happy. He called her an angel, said she was wonderful; but when he went home he masturbated, thinking that she had been cleaning his shoes, wiping his lips after he had eaten heavily, and lying face down on the floor permitting him to walk over her. When he came to see her the next evening he was humble again. At about ten o'clock he was weeping on her shoulder and saying that he was a miserable being and that without her he was as lost as a "beer bottle at the bottom of the ocean." Margaret permitted him to touch her body pretty much as he pleased, and in a close embrace Ronald had an orgasm.

     Fifteen minutes later somehow Ronald and Margaret got into a discussion on politics. Ronald, in an exhibition of pompous, sarcastic intensity, called a certain senator who supported trade-unions, "A no-good, hypocritical, nincom­poop, hell-bent on getting to the White House by a road of union membership cards and union dues." (Ronald was a kind of master of a regimented, withering rhetoric which placed together tremendously gorgeous words with words of foul content. As he put it, he "liked to throw mud under the stars.")

     Margaret said: "Senator Haines, I don't think, is as bad as all that. After all, Ronald, he may really believe in unions."  Ronald answered: "Look, mouse, you have been hornswoggled hook, line and stinker, by all the liberal droppings you've read. Your beautiful staring eyes take in everything from those stinky-pinky red sheets you read. I don't see why women should be let alone with politics anyway. They'll be taken in by any Greek-letter faker with a whining, bleeding line." (This was Ronald at his rhetorical piercingest. As he put it, he liked "to put together James Joyce and a truck driver in negligee.") His eyes now blazed triumphantly, maliciously. Margaret was taken aback by the attack on her intelligence. He seemed to be gazing at her from a cruel mountain top. She began crying. "Ronald," she whimpered, "that language to me, do you think it's right?"—"Look here, Margaret," answered Ronald, "if a gal starts crying just because a political statement she makes is demolished with both barrels, without tear or favor to Eve or Steve or Old Mother Hubbard herself, well, I just think that crying, sigh­ing, curved ignoramus—(snapping his fingers)—I say that if that shown-up non-Adam starts shedding the big worry tears of ignorance, why then I, Edmund Burke on the rampage say: 'Let her shed.' " Margaret was silent for a while. She looked at him in surprise. She rose from the couch they had been lolling on and stood up.

     She said: "You think you're damn brilliant, Ronald Hill. It may be true that you know more about books than any person in this fair-sized city, at least your age; and you can quote your Joyce and your Rimbaud in your bad French, but when you quote Ronald Hill to me in just that way you're going to do it from now on when I'm not around. Get out." She shook, but held her place. Ronald sat open­mouthed a moment; his eyes narrowed; he clenched his fist; in a minute he walked out.

     Margaret did not hear from Ronald for six days. On Friday afternoon he called on the phone. He said to Margaret who answered the phone, "I'm coming over." Margaret answered: "Not if I can help it," and put down the receiver. On Saturday morning she received the following note:

Dear Dramatic Marge:

     I do profoundly suppose that intellectual coruscation may be attended in this vale of fears and valley of mistimed sallies with cerebral suffering, Schopenhauer de luxe.

     Please see me, please see me, please see me, please see me, please see me, please see me, please see me, please see me, please see me, please see me, please see me, please see me.

     This night ere the dusk falls over mournful politics and never-to-be-running Ronald at 7 o'clock, your father's time, I shall ring the bell.

     Please see me, please answer the bell, please smile, please forget, where are the woes of yesterfear?

Yours, but not mine,  
Ronald

          

   


     At 7 o'clock, with the precision of a nautical instrument, Ronald rang the bell. He had been hovering around the corner for about twelve minutes and had timed his first-class wristwatch immaculately. Margaret answered, after an afternoon of swaying thoughts. Her mother liked Ronald for he had always been polite to her: in fact he was always polite to older women. Margaret had not told her mother just what Ronald had said, she had only mentioned that he had forgot himself and insulted her. Her mother had replied: "Why, dear, every young man, no matter how nice, can forget himself now and then." Anyway, at 7 o'clock the thoughts of Margaret had swayed to the answering of the bell. Ronald, as a matter of course, was invited to have dinner. At the dinner table he was meek, offered information and opinions as if he had received a favor, and said very astutely that he felt Margaret's sociology course at college might be the means, in time, of her helping to eradicate a few of the more ugly spots in America—"and that takes in our city, too." He was particularly courteous to Mrs. Milton, Margaret's mother. On the whole he did little talking. He acted the part of a penitent who knew dinner could be important.

     After dinner Margaret and Ronald went into the living room. Margaret was silent, so was Ronald. Finally he said: "In the best Rumanian, Margaret, I'm a heel." Margaret, after some seconds said: "I wouldn't put it just that way, Ronald."

     "I could put it worse, dear."—"You don't have to try." Then there was silence for about ten minutes. Suddenly Ronald began sobbing strongly, clutched Margaret's shoulders and buried his head in her breast. "I need you Marge of Marges, more than I need myself. Yet something makes me want to throw you away, as a stupid angel might his wings. But you are not stupid, angel; you will have your wings forever. You will have yours while mine are in an ashcan in the City Hall into which fat Mr. James throws his Republican cigar butt. I'll need you forever, even when I'm dead." And then in a shrill voice he said: "Even when I'm dead, even when I'm dead, even when I'm dead," and he sobbed unrestrainedly. Between sobs he muttered: "Angel, angel, angel." And then, with his head on her breast, he was silent. After a few minutes he rose, said with great polite­ness, "Margaret, I can't stand it any more, I'm going now. I'll see you and you'll see me even if I don't see me, or Mimi." Margaret, surprised, said: "Goodbye."

     Ronald could see Margaret as someone to whom he must give unlimited devotion or as someone on whose body he was treading. Though his self did not consent, the body of Ronald went drivingly towards certain objects: in this instance, the bodies of girls about his age. Older women did not cause such a body drive, therefore, there was no conflict, and Ronald could be constantly polite. He saw the whole world as an interference with the liberty of himself. To give himself to the world meant surrender of his self-sovereignty, yet he was compelled to give his body, at least outwardly. Margaret and Hannah represented outside objects to which he was driven; but the world of which these objects were a part was looked on with hatred by Ronald as an oppressor, invader of his own world. He was driven to read books, yet he hated the world which they represented. That is why, while walking over a bridge, he threw a book he had been reading with intensity ten minutes before, into the river he was crossing. At times he could not read books at all. While this was going on he would take long walks, and give him­self to his own meditations. He hated the world, yet he was driven towards particular objects in it, like girls and books. When his body, after an orgasm, had symbolically been given to one of these outside objects—Margaret—Ronald felt unconsciously that he had yielded up the kingdom of himself. He had to crush that which was the cause of his own shameful submission. She to whom he had surrendered was a feminine, zealous student of social problems. The political discussion was seized on by Ronald as a means of regaining his sovereignty. His unconscious had to bear down hard. He had gorgeously to elevate himself, and contemptuously to shatter a hitherto successful opponent. Ronald was up against the tough question of just how to give oneself to a person while hating and fearing the world she represented. He did not know how to answer it. He swung from insolence to humility; from triumphant malice to tears. In disliking the universe he could not like Margaret and at this age he could not manage to dislike.

     In my experience I have met men who masturbated after having been with a woman. The solitary masturbation proved to them that the force to which they had yielded, to which they had yielded with a deep hate though apparently with orgiastic abandon, could be manifested by themselves to themselves. For these men reasoned that in submitting to a power which was not they, they were saying that they were dependent, humiliatingly attached. The masturbation stated that: "I don't need her, I can do that myself." There was a young man, who after showing ardent, sweeping devotion to a girl, found when reaching home he had to go to the bathroom. This young man associated being alone in the bathroom and defecating, with his own triumphant autonomy. When his parents or others had been oppressive it was in biological procedures of the bathroom that he found solace for the onslaughts of his ego. Though he had enjoyed the carnal satisfactions of sex, he felt, nevertheless, that he was giving up something. He restored that something to himself in the bathroom.

     There are women who, after sex, have felt depressed and sulky. The depression and sulkiness have the same cause as the like feelings in men. Their bodies have yielded but they themselves have not; and they have seen this offering of body as insulting to an intactness of personality. A woman often alleviates this situation by the changing of the man into a person who, belonging to the woman, represents her own individuality; therefore, yielding to him is an act of power. But where the man is seen as a stranger there is a keen attitude of self-disapproval, which may take the form of morosity, quarrelsomeness and retaliation. The feeling that a man belongs to one, is owned by one, has likewise its painful, guilt consequences.

     Wherever sex is separated from other attitudes and activities of personality there is psychological trouble. Sex should be a means of accurately approving of the whole self. If a woman or a man, though apparently loved, is a means of disapproving of the world or of oneself, there will be displeasure with, or hate for, that man or woman. A woman may find it necessary, unavoidable, seemingly ecstatic, to give her body to a man and yet. hate him for it. It often happens in marriage that a woman, bound to her husband, needing expression of her body, and finding the only means of doing so in a man she still sees deeply as a stranger, will hate her husband for it. Sometimes she will punish her husband by means of a child. She will show affection to a child as a way of giving pain to her husband. But at times she sees the child as a stranger and the husband as belonging to her. At this time, without knowing it, she may pain the child.

     Love and marriage, in the contemporary world, are attended often by desires to possess, desires to hate, giving of one's body without the giving of one's self, anger, shame, misery. It is all because that third partner in any relation of two people is not seen for what it is and not loved. One cannot really love a person without loving reality, just as one cannot love oneself without loving reality; and as a logical corollary, one cannot love another without loving oneself. The last statement may be made clear by the following observations. If one does not love oneself and one appears to be loved by another, then that which one is not able to do is being done by another. Now this other person is either wrong or right. If he is right, then the person who doesn't love herself doesn't know herself. But a person who doesn't know herself cannot be honest, and it would follow then that a dishonest and therefore weak person is loved. This, strictly speaking, is impossible as I will show. On the other hand, if a person is wrong in loving a person who doesn't like herself, then the other person is really pitying, and to pity in this instance is to be contemptuous.

     Love is a tremendous field for that agonizing interaction and simultaneity of superiority and inferiority common to contemporary human beings. A human being is compelled to love or approve of himself, but if he does so by means which his critical unconscious cannot justify, he will feel inferior and pained. Self-love, unless it is truly based, is also self-contempt. It follows then that if love for another is really another form of self-love and untruly based, this love for another will be a factor in profound pain.

     Selma Gaylord, like all human beings before her, had to find herself pleasing in her own eyes. Whether she knew it or not everything she did had as its deepest and ultimate purpose the being able to look at herself and to find what she saw good. She met Ted Wendling. Ted met her on June 12; and on June 16 he called her "Wonderful." Selma wanted all her life to be called wonderful and here was someone whom she had not known at all five days before using this proud adjective to describe her. Selma had not gathered satisfactorily the data making valid the term "wonderful"; but neither had she given up the idea that she might be deserving the adjective. When she heard Ted use the word she was not in the mood of a churlish inspector of phraseology. For her own peace of mind she had to justify her existence and here was someone doing it for her in a most torrential and unhesitating style. When Ted, the same night, said that he needed her more than he needed anything else in the world, Selma felt a responsive, immeasurably deep glow somewhere in her body. For here a person who was nowhere less than a week ago, was saying that without her his existence would with difficulty continue. However, Selma, at moments, was aware that men could tell stories and that Ted was beating the drum of adoration perhaps too regularly. But Selma and Ted continued to meet and Ted persisted in using the words: "wonderful," "adorable," and—in letters—"divine." He kept on saying that without her his life was empty, not worth living.

     The night that Selma met Ted she was critical of him. She did not like his ways so much, he seemed somewhat awkward, he was not the best-dressed person in the hall, and he did not talk with the courtly grace of a Leslie Howard, or a gay philosopher on a white horse. She felt, too, that there was a clumsy eagerness on his part. She wished that his eyes were a little different. But as the days went on and as Ted kept displaying his devotion to her and insisting on her indispensability, the defects noted at the beginning dis­solved in a mist of transmutation, forgiveness, praise. For here was a person sent by the world to corroborate Selma's hopes that all was well with her and that she could assert herself as a triumphant, unblemished being in a puzzling and wide world. Ted came to stand for the world as benign; for a world that recognized the distinction of Selma Gaylord; for a world with which she could come to joyous terms.

     With the months, Selma no longer saw Ted as an object like other objects. She divided the world into three parts: herself; Ted; and everything else. She grudgingly admitted the existence of everything else. What was strange in Ted she lessened, altered. As Ted insisted on making his life hers, she came to see him as being herself. What Selma did not know, as all this went on, was that she was really loving herself with the participation of another.

     Like many others, Selma loved Ted, not because of what he was, but because of what he was to her. In fact, as far as she was able, she kept away from seeing what Ted was in relation to everything else. If she thought of her lover in terms of other things, other people, it was essentially because she had to think of these things and people in order to feel Ted as to herself. The chief reason she loved Ted, then, was not because he was a person having the universe in him, a person with bones, flesh, mind, and possibilities, but because he needed her and therefore provided evidence validating her self-love. Selma said to Ted: "My one wish is to make you happy," and Ted said to Selma: "I would give my life to make you happy." But if Ted were happy and Selma felt that she was not the cause of that happiness she would not like it. (Ted would not like it either if Selma were happy and somebody else had brought happiness to her.) Selma was really interested, not in Ted's happiness, but in the fact that in being able to make him happy she seemed important in her own eyes.

     Once Ted went on a trip to Springfield, Massachusetts.  Selma bade him goodbye with the appropriately large emo­tional ceremony. She told him: "I hope you will have an interesting time, Ted, and don't come back just on my account." But when Ted wrote her a short and apparently hurried letter in which he said he was busy and "things are more interesting up here than I expected," Selma didn't like it, although she did not affirm to herself just so that she didn't. She had a kind of pleasure when, in the next letter, Ted said he was feeling blue and "the people up here don't seem to know what it's all about." Selma wrote in her next letter: "I know, dear, that being in a strange city may make you feel blue, but, after all, you know you're there for the best so don't mind me and don't come back until everything you went to Springfield for has really been done. I don't want you to lose any opportunity just because, you know, I can't carryon so well without you. When we get married, all our difficulties will be like last week's rain." When Ted, a few days later, wrote: "I've met a real live number, a fellow who knows the score"; that this man had been in show business, that he (Ted) was going to visit his family that evening, Selma, without being too clear about it, didn't like it so much. When she was depressed she felt it was because she missed Ted. She did not know so well she could be depressed because Ted could be happy in one way or another without her. She did not know that she could be affronted because Ted could be having a good time without her playing the big role. When she grieved she felt she was worrying about Ted.

     Selma went through the procedures and states of mind which many lovers have gone through. Strictly speaking, those procedures and states of mind are not of love at all. When a person loves another, that person is interested in the other's happiness without any reservations whatsoever. To love a person is to wish to please that person; but one sees oneself as cooperating with the whole world to please—not as being in competition with it. Selma's mind went through something like this: "I want to please Ted, but if anything else can please Ted, then that means he needs me so much the less. If he needs me so much the less, then I'm not as good as I thought I was. Therefore, if anything brings happiness to Ted where I'm not concerned, I shouldn't like it: I'm against it." Now Selma, in all her respectable, seemingly devoted romanticizations, could never sharply articulate her real attitude to Ted. If a good deal in Selma's mind was love, then love is a quite ugly, a quite diseased, quite hurtful thing. To know and feel the self of another is a beautiful thing. To see another person as having meaning and beauty and power is a lovely procedure. But to see another person as having meaning, having beauty, and having power because one can use that person as an argument in behalf of one's self-love—that is really to despise a person; to hate him; to deindividualize him.

     In the love that is accurate, jealousy is not possible. Jealousy is a feeling of pain caused by the fact that a person who means something to oneself should mean something to an­other. Suppose Ted Wendling is cared for not only by Selma Gaylord, but by Ricarda Dale. Selma has said that her chief interest is to make Ted happy. If Ted gets any real happiness from meaning something to Ricarda, then there is no reason for pain to Selma. If Ted does not get any real happiness from his being cared for by Ricarda, then Selma should commiserate or pity Ted for he is doing something which is bringing him harm. Now pity, wherever it occurs, means a seeing of weakness in the person for whom it is shown. We cannot love weakness because weakness is not beautiful and only the beautiful is lovable in itself. If we love weakness, it is not the weakness that we love, but our use of weakness to make ourselves strong. We find then that if Selma were loving Ted in himself she would see Ted's relation to Ricarda as bringing either pleasure or pain, good or bad, growth or harm to him. If it brings him pleasure or good or growth, she should be happy because of it. If it does not, it means that she was mistaken in her love for Ted because he is weak, does not know himself and therefore cannot be seen as truly lovable. That is the accurate outline of the jealousy situation possible in Selma's mind.

     However, it may be said that jealousy will occur. The question to be asked is: "Does the jealousy arise from that in a mind standing for love or that in a mind which is against love?" In every instance, despite the sultry, seemingly noble literature written around jealousy, the thing itself, no matter how frequent, is a bourgeois state of mind, a possessive state of mind in which self-love truculently and imposingly stalks and maneuvers as love for an object. We can be displeased with a person because that person prefers a cheap quality in another rather than a real quality in ourselves. But if he does so, why cannot we come forth in a straightforward fashion and say: "This person is capable of weakness, of blindness, of shortsightedness, of selfishness"; and therefore say that in so far as he is capable of these unlovely qualities, that much we do not love him. Is it possible that we can really love a person whom we think to be unfair to ourselves and therefore unfair as such? This would mean, if it were so, that we could love an unfair person, an ugly person. This is impossible. If we think we love such a person it is because we have taken him for something else and therefore the graceful thing to do is to admit it and say it wasn't love in the first place.

     Getting back to Selma: Selma was jealous of Ted because a person she had built up, acted not in accordance with the specifications which she had given him. If Ted were unfair, then that capability for unfairness was in Ted before he met Selma and before he met Ricarda. If Selma did not see it, then she did not know Ted and this means she could not love him because it is absurd to say that a person can love something which he doesn't know. If he thinks he does, he is really loving something else. Selma's self was hurt because someone she had constructed to represent, externalize and justify herself, had the boldness to interfere with her arrangements and the architecture of her vanity. I must be clear here. Where there has been jealousy in drama, in the opera, in the novel—as in the instance of Selma—it was not the love in a person that supported it, it was the lack of love associated with perhaps some of the real elements of love.

     A person is everything that he is and nothing else than he is. His possibilities are part of what he is. To say that one loves a person is the same as saying that one loves what a person is, and this, in turn, is saying that one loves everything he is. Consequently, love is in exact proportion to accurate knowledge. To say that love—as many have intimated—is based on mystery, dimness, blindness, blurri­ness, though it may sound fetchingly "romantic," is really to do away with the true mystery, the true expansiveness, the true grandeur, the true intensity of love.

     Every perception is made up of what we are and what the object is. If a person has a perception of another, then that perception, as in the instance of the perception of a brook, or a steamer, or a house, is made up of what the person brings and what the object is. This means that if Selma Gaylord has a perception of Ted Wendling which is not accurate, then what Selma has done is to interfere with what Ted is by bringing something of her own either to lessen or to make greater something beginning in Ted. Now if Selma sees more in Ted than what is coming to him she is, strictly speaking, pitying him. For whenever we give to a person praise, or devotion which is not deserved by him, there is pity attending the offering. If Selma does not see Ted accurately and does not give something which is coming to him, then Selma is grudgingly unfair. Injustices to a person consist in every instance of either denying something to a person which he deserves or granting something to him which he does not deserve. It is clear that in order to avoid the injustice of denial or the injustice of excessive granting, a person must be known wholly and exactly as he is. Otherwise, we shall, in the long run, either pity that person or be unfair to him.

     Love, certainly, is not pity. Love, certainly, is not grudging. The conclusion, then, is that love is the giving to a person of all that which is coming to him or her; nothing which is not deserved; everything which is. For that, a constant, comprehensive, intense desire to know a person is necessary. In the history of the relation of selves and of men and women, such a desire has often—exceedingly often—been lacking.

     I do not agree with the meanings given by Freud and others to such matters as the Oedipus complex and the Electra complex, because I believe that the terms mentioned are both too narrow and too inclusive. Nevertheless, there is a similarity in the relation that a young man may have to his mother and the relation this young man may have to a girl; and there is a similarity between the basis of a girl's feeling towards her father and her feeling towards some male with whom her life is involved. The fact is that, deeply speaking, there is a likeness in the relation between mother and baby, brother and sister, young man and girl, father and son, brother and brother, sister and sister, and so on. Wherever two lives are deeply involved; wherever two selves seek realization through each other, the situation is, basically, somewhere akin. In each instance, there is a process of having another person belong to one and a process of belonging to another. The self goes forward and the self recoils, wherever, while trying to maintain its own power, intactness, or supremacy, it finds another self necessary to its existence. Every love relationship is a moving equation of dependence and independence, of giving and conquering. And in every instance where the giving and conquering are in some lop­sided arrangement, there is pain given and pain taken.

     I have dealt with the instance of Selma Gaylord and how she was displeased when her lover, away from her, seemed to be faring pretty well—despite her absence. The displeasure of Selma Gaylord is fundamentally like the displeasure of a mother of whom I was told. This mother, Mrs. Harrison, had a son who went to Cincinnati. She told him to take care of himself, not to be homesick, and to do everything that would enable him to achieve his life's purpose. Her son, Richard, wrote: "I weighed myself yesterday, mom, and I find I weigh two pounds more than I did when I left home. I guess the eating in Cincinnati is agreeing with me. I took a walk by the shores of the Ohio and went back feeling life was pretty good. When I got home, my landlady offered me some food; but all I had was a glass of milk and an orange. I've been sleeping pretty well and I think Cincinnati is going to do mighty fine by your wandering boy."

     Mrs. Harrison, like Selma, didn't see it so clearly, but she wasn't pleased when her boy told her he was gaining weight, was feeling good, and was receiving such unobjectionable articles of food as oranges and glasses of milk from his landlady. Somehow she felt that all of Richard's health-building activities ought to be initiated and managed by her. She was displeased, and somehow in her next letter to Richard she inserted a splenetic air which Richard observed and at which he was surprised. He didn't see why his mother had to remind him in just that tone that he owed $80 to his uncle (his mother's brother). He got the idea somewhere that his mother was not too pleased he had found his life in Cincinnati suitable to his welfare.

     Richard was right. Mrs. Harrison—like Selma with Ted Wendling—wanted her son to be happy, but happy only through her means. She wished to be considered indispensable to her son. She mistook this desire to be considered indispensable, for love. A good deal, then, of mother-love is based on vanity and absence of an unlimited desire to make the object of such love happy. That Richard could find good food and good lodgings in Cincinnati, away from her, was looked on as an affront by his mother. To be sure, Mrs. Harrison had no conspicuous inclination to look at this fact clearly; she took out her displeasure with Richard by trying to make him uncomfortable as to other matters, such as the money he owed. But when her vanity, clothed as mother-love, was injured by Richard's ability to find tranquillity and satisfaction away from her, she retaliated just as a girl loving Richard might when her self-consideration was attacked.

     Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as the Oedipus complex as an isolated entity. It happens with most human beings that the first object of what is called love is a parent; and one reason for this is that the parent is the first person whom the child meets. If a child were to meet another person—and this is possible—then that sense of needing and being needed would arise from a person other than the mother and father.

     Now every human being, in a love relation with someone, when he comes to be in a love relation with someone else, has to coordinate the new attitude with the old. The drive towards unification of our principal feelings is inevitable. Whenever a person has a new emotion of magnitude, something must happen to a previous emotion of magnitude. One of the procedures commonly followed when a new emotion arises, is to liken it to, and assimilate it with, an old emotion. One, then, does not need the concept of Oedipus complex to explain such a necessity of likening and assimilation.

     Also to be expected, is that the person use the old emotion to belittle or depreciate the new, or the new to belittle or depreciate the old. A girl, then, who thinks that her mother belongs to her will use the feeling that a young man belongs to her either to combine the two emotional situations or to playoff one against the other. The procedure can be explained without using terms borrowed from Greek tragedy.

      A boy can be vexed that his sister, as to whom he has a sense of possession, should find happiness in another. A sister can be vexed with a brother for a similar reason. Love, historically speaking, is based on a feeling of possession which, in turn, arises from the feeling that a person's life is incomplete without us and that because of what we are the person we love exists. Therefore, wherever the basis of that possession is interfered with, there will be a feeling of injury. It is clear that once possession and love are regarded as equivalent, any feeling whatsoever implying possession is like any other feeling implying it.

     As I have pointed out, there is a desire on the part of every human being to be independent and yet to have his existence justified by something external to himself. This means that wherever we are needed by someone we feel that this someone is saying the world is approving of us, and that therefore our specific self is given approval. Still, we feel that where the person who belongs to us is other than ourselves, this otherness is inimical. This means that where possession, the logical end of which would be the complete absorption of another by ourselves, is interfered with, we resent it. At the same time if this desire for possession reaches completion, we come to a feeling that we are really losing ourselves, and that therefore our sense of painful, guilty isolation is not assuaged. Persons, therefore, can simultaneously be driven towards a complete possession of another—lover, son, brother, sister, father—and at the same time be greatly pained by the feeling that in doing this they are only accen­tuating their own separation from the world.

     We love because we desire to be entirely ourselves: everything we can be. We are interested in sex because sex is a means of fulfilling that desire to be entirely what we can be. When Selma Gaylord went through her evolution of mind as to Ted Wendling, her fundamental desire was to be and to live; and, of course, implied in the fundamental desire "to be and to live" was the desire to live pleasurably or joyously. One reason for my insistence on using, at this point, simple terms, is the wish to tie together contemporary psychological terminology and the great expressions of feeling to be found in the great literatures of England, America, and the world. Only by having a common vocabulary can an accurate coordination take place between the insight of say, Shakespeare in Othello, La Rochefoucauld in his Maxims, Dostoevsky in his Crime and Punishment, Ibsen in his Hedda Gabler, and Chekhov in his Three Sisters—and the full im­port of a case-history of the immediate present. Were I to be content with the fact that love in Faust is expressed in language other than it is expressed in a psychiatric finding, I should countenance that expression of words with double motive, which in other connections, I have described as making for that compulsory togetherness and conflict which is neuroticism.

     There are many persons who are in some way like Ronald Hill; like Selma Gaylord; like Mrs. Harrison. Persons who do not know themselves well enough (and most persons don't) will see love as a chance for the possession of another person, and for the triumph arising from managing him. The question is, Does love have to be possession, hidden management, darksome resentment, inimical confusion? It doesn't.

     There are two sources for every emotion; these sources are the two ways of self. As the world has been, it is easier to get to satisfaction of a kind by not seeing the tremendous and subtle and wonderful reality outside oneself in its completeness, its exactness, its tireless change. So we decide to get soothingness and power by not seeing it. And we have done this in love. But the very fact that it has made for perceptible and obscure misery shows that people don't want to lessen reality in coming to tranquillity in might for themselves. What's in people may; people as whole beings don't.

     There is a possible (as purpose it is inevitable) true triumph in fleshly majesty of the self through the seeing, the dealing with another self as wholly it is, in its limitation for a time, and in its hate of limitation. A self can say to another being, "Through what you do and what you are and what you can do, I can come to be more I, more me, more myself; and I can see the immeasurable being of things more wonderfully of me, for me, and therefore sharply and magnificently kind and akin."

     Love, like God, is in progress. If loving a person truly implies loving the wholeness of things truly—and it does—then, since there is no limit to how much we can authentically love the wholeness of things, there is no limit to the successful combating of the pretenses, the petrifactions, the antagonistic murkiness, the acquisitiveness which have at­tended the doings of one self with another in amorous territory. The purpose of experience is knowledge; and the purpose, or rather the very substance of knowledge—though this is not consciously seen often—is the having of a state of self in which there's the pleasure of a great definiteness of personality with an unhindered flexibility of personality. That is the personality as accomplished aesthetics.

     This situation is equal to rapturous, factual cognition; and this rapturous, factual cognition is a love of what's real, attended by enough of the facts and enough shape to them or organization of them. Further, this authentic love of reality, or things, must see this reality as unified, personal, concentrated. Expansion goes with concentration. And so, it can be said without verbal overbrimmingness, that an adequate, pleasing relation with things implies a concentrated, deep, flexible, comprehensive relation to a thing as person or self. Such a relation, represented physiologically or in terms of touch and the other senses, when physiology is right, is love.

     Something of this love as accomplished or complete is present in the relations of people as we now see them. Tom and Mary are going for it. Just as we can see the wholeness of one hundred in the imperfection of 30, or 42½, so the wholeness of amorousness as truth can be seen in the fumblings and retractions and muddle of love as a sociological happening. The value of a love situation, therefore, is how truly or willingly or with how little unnecessary opposition, Tom and Mary, say, do go after what they really mean. This going after what Mary means or Tom or Kathie or Dan, does exist; but a going after something else exists too. It is the tangling of the two purposes that makes for the painful "paradoxes" of love that we see everywhere.

     If Tom and Mary see themselves as having an immeasurable lot to do with all the things they know and all the things they don't know, and their desire to be just themselves is not seen as fighting with their deeper desire to be all themselves, Tom and Mary will not only be in love, but deeply moving and alive and forming in love. (The "in" of in love is quite often a fixity like that of being in a room one can't get out of because what's outside the room is feared.) Knowledge of anything or everything is inevitably knowledge of oneself, and oneself as loving and love. Let us say that Tom and Mary know this and are happy knowing it. Then they love because Tom is Tom-and-Mary and in process of being Tom-and-everything-else, and so is Mary. And being this, they help all the presumed Toms and Marys there are.

 

Copyright © 1981 by Definition Press

 

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