Monday, September 29, 2014
There are life mates and soul mates,
and if you listen close enough,
you can hear the sun set between the two.
My initial exposure to the concept of "soul mates" came from reading Plato. My secondary influence stems from beliefs espoused and made popular in western culture. The above prose is an adaption of an insight I wrote in 1992: "There is love worth living for, and love worth dying for, and if you listen closely enough you can hear the sun set between the two." I offered this reflection (in a thesis) as a response to the notion of soul mates. In reality, the notion eluded me. Thus, my brain associated it with the common expression: "I would die without him/her" (from which I creatively adapted my poetic reflection). Just recently, in a post titled On the Notion of Soul Mates, I considered the following new thought:
While Plato presents the notion of soul mates as separate,
beings, there is another perspective, that of liberation.
The notion of soul mates as it pertains to liberation
romantically symbolizes freedom: in which each mate
freely chooses the other.
The distinction, for me, lies in the act of choosing. Typically speaking, we choose our life mates. These choices are largely influenced by external, practical, physical, or psychological factors, independent of one very specific, and so it would seem, incredibly rare, experience.
This experience can only be defined as something which is profoundly personal. The sentiment feels as if it is driven by unseen forces that connect us with another being outside ourselves in such an instantaneous and authentically real manner that it seems to happen before we are consciously aware of it. Even if you do not wish to experience this sentiment, even if there are circumstances dictating otherwise, it is as if the connection is so profound that there is no denying it.
Thus, the experience exists outside of the domain of our direct control ... it is indeed akin to having one's breath stolen.
It is an energie that brings a new awareness into being. One part of my brain is eager to say that it is an energie that ignites a new awareness, meaning a previously existing awareness or memory that already resides within the being (i.e., Plato's description of soul mates), but in reality the energie feels distinctively different. It feels like new energie. Like a perfectly harmonized energie strand that somehow twisted its way into your sphere of existence and
as it glides by, tenderly ...
it sneaks up upon you ...
And then, instantly, totally, and utterly lays claim to your heart! It is the feeling of being pierced by Cupid's arrow. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin offered a more poetic version of Plato's notion on soul mates: "Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being."
The world does indeed come into being. The beings are separate prior to the connection, but the bridge that unites them: this new energie, sentiment, or connection, is also a distinctive presence. The presence of a soul mate thus evokes the Christian doctrine of the Trinity (Latin trinitas "triad", from trinus "threefold"). The three entities are distinct, yet are one "substance, essence or nature". In this context, a "nature" is what one is, while a "person" is who one is.
Life mates speak to who we are at a given time in our lives. Soul mates speak to what we are: to our nature, substance, or essence, which is akin to an eternal principle by which the essence itself exists.
Throughout the course of our years, we expand our thinking, our emotions, and our perspectives, however, the substance of our being remains the same. It is this substance, essence or nature to which soul mates directly speak. Even if one has never before heard this language, it is an instinctively familiar one. It is a language so pure and so real that it cannot be mistaken for infatuation, compatibility, or even, a deeply held appreciation and 'love' for another.
Contemplating the notion of life mate vs soul mate inspires new questions for which there are no definitive answers and no definitive rationale behind the sentiments and thoughts they evoke.
One would naturally assume that an individual who does not possess a personal understanding of the notion of soul mate would not recognize the energie should a soul mate come along. And there is merit to hanging onto this type of thinking. However, the merit dissipates when we look to the collective mind of Western civilization where the notion of soul mates has been largely forgotten. Removed from our predominant mythology, the notion of soul mate is conspicuous in its absence and only begins to resurface when one is in the presence of a soul mate. Consequentially soul mates relate to the highest human religion one could experience. Soul mates are the archetypical trinity at the primal origin of our cultural history.
In the absence of soul mates, the Great Life Mate becomes the sole protagonist in our dominant mythology. We choose people based on looks and economy. He is handsome and funny or she is smart and beautiful. We choose for reasons, rather than being chosen by definition of who we are in relation to another. The metaphor for Christ being crucified on the cross is perhaps one that indicates an ancient understanding, namely that we can be with another as a direct consequence of tribal tradition, but a part of our heart dies in the process. We cannot be whole and complete unless the trinity is evoked and the trinity is not evoked unless we are with our soul mate.
We have inherited the myth of soul mates. We are the children of generations of beings who attempted to find wholeness in a world that is longing for the magic and mystery of love. This is our story. History is our parents. We are the children of a love that must be discovered for oneself.
No wonder we have such a yearning for soul mates, such a yearning for romantic love. No wonder the myth of love-at-first-sight pervades our collective fantasies, rendering other forms of love less significant.
The thing is... these other forms of love do seem less signifiant when one actually hears the sun set between the two.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Existence precedes essence
SOPHY: I have to admit, Hegel, sometimes I wish I were more like you.
HEGEL: But you can be! Existentially speaking, you are a totally self-originated being! You are who you create!
SOPHY: That's terrific! Because the woman in me (needs the man in you)
To get our 'hearts' into existentialism, we need to get our heads around nineteenth-century Hegelian Absolutism, the philosophical "these are my thoughts and I'm sticking by them" view that the only picture of life is from the outside looking in. Shania Twain says "but I win when I choose, and I can't stand to lose, but I can't always be the rock that you see. When the night's get too long, and I just can't go on, the woman in me, needs you to be .... the man in my arms, to hold tenderly cause I'm a woman in love and it's you I run to ... yeah the woman in me, needs the man in you."
Why does anybody need anybody?
Shania decides to sing about it... and she says why - she can't stand to lose - so why isn't she asking why she can't stand to lose? Why isn't she asking why she needs? She is answering a different question. She is answering why somebody needs somebody else.
Perhaps these questions only make sense if you're a lofty German philosopher.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel maintained that history is the unfolding in time of "Absolute Spirit." The spirit of one age (say, 1969 Summer of Love) generates its own antithesis (the uptight absurdism of the 80s Yuppie movement), and the clash of the two creates a new synthesis (the love song singing vegans of this era and the Happy Meal Toy Toting Techies of today).
And so it goes, on and on, a dialectic of thesis / antithesis / synthesis (which gets forgotten, reminded of by a freak chance of fate, and then reconsidered and idealized and eventually made candidate for the new thesis) and so on.
Hegel thought he had jumped outside history and was looking down on "It All" from a transcendent point of view ~ just as Shania realizes "I'm not always strong, and sometimes I'm even wrong". And from both POVs he looks pretty good. Jealousy? Just a fallacy in the dialectic. Questioning? Just another move. Deflated? Not to worry.
The dialectic is on the move, and there's nothing to be done about it. Just hang on and know that "it's you I run to". George Wilhelm Friedrich thought he was looking at history from God's point of view! While Shania sees it through a woman's POV!
ENTER HEGEL'S CONTEMPORARY
Søren is like totally annoyed! "She knows him!" Søren says. That is not - and cannot be - the point of view of existing individuals. In that statement, existentialism was born. "I am true," Søren said. "You know me. You know how I feel. I'm right here in the thick of this and I'm nervous, too. I'm in danger of despair. Me. And so I want you to need the man in me because I need the woman in you!"
So, if Kierkegaard hears you singing about him and asks what you need, "What do you need of the man in me?" don't say, you can't stand to lose." My advice: Philosophize.
The twentieth-century French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre picked up on Kierkegaard's idea of an individual's scary isolation from their feelings in order to rationalize who they are and what they need and spun out the implications for human freedom and responsibility. The way Jean-Paul put it is, "existence precedes essence," by which he meant that human beings have no predetermined essence the way, say, a sock does. We are indeterminate, always free to reinvent ourselves.
If we see ourselves as only objects with fixed identities, we cease to Be, with a capital B.
And one way to see ourselves as objects is by identifying with a social role. That, Sartre says, is mauvaise foi, or bad faith. And that ain't good.
Sartre listens to the Shania's video and observes that even if Shania can't stand to lose, he still has faith in her. People who have faith learn how to inspire it in others by exercising it themselves. People who believe a certain way, have a certain attitude, stake out some point on the scale of intimacy versus distance, etc. This is fine as long as the person who has faith is conscious that it's all a gamble. But we all know that. Très mauvaise foi!
Silly posts like this make fun of our tendency to unthinkingly identify with the attitudes and values of our social group or preconceived ideas by showing us exaggerated instances - like country western songs & philosophy. This is itself a philosophical chess move: the reductio ad absurdum.
Reductio ad absurdum is a type of logical argument that extends a premise to the point of absurdity and then claims that the opposite premise must therefore be true. One reductio argument that was made here is this: "If we assume someone is a certain way, what's to stop us from believing everything we hear?"
(So I'm not perfect. I'm a philosopher.)
On the other hand, it is also bad faith to envision ourselves as having perfection with no differences.
Two cows are standing in a field. One says to the other,
"What do you think about this mad cow disease?"
"What do I care?" says the other. "I'm a helicopter."
For the existentialist philosophers, genuine curiosity, i.e., anxiety - the one they call "angst" because it has such a bitter taste when you say it - is not a symptom of pathology to be addressed by therapy. No, it is a basic human response to the very conditions of human existence: our mortality, our inability to fully realize our potential, our not being able to stand it when we lose, our womanly needs, yeah, yeah, Oh baby...
It's enough to make you wish you were an airhead philosopher instead of an existentialist.
Oh, whoops! Did I just say that?!
two magic words
The existentialists are eager to learn how to differentiate between "existential anxiety," such as the anxiety of not being able to stand it when they lose, which they feel stems from the human condition, and the ordinary neurotic anxiety, such as the anxiety of Sophy:
Sophy began to hyperventilate when she started telling her friend about the doctor. "I'm sure I'm lovesick."
"That's ridiculous," said the friend. "You've never before been lovesick. You don't even know the symptoms."
"Exactly!" said Sophy. "That is my precise symptom - not knowing!"
The twentieth-century German existentialist Martin Heidegger would respond, You call that lovesick, Sophy? It's only been four weeks. And by four weeks I mean quit thinking about loss all the time! Heidegger went so far as to say that human existence is being-toward-death. SO NOT the guy you want to invite to a fancy dinner party!
To live authentically, we must face the fact of our own needs squarely and take responsibility for holding others tenderly in the shadow of doubt. We must not try to run away by denying the fact of love.
Three friends go over to Sophy's house for wine and cheese and gossip. The fun-loving friend asks her just what it is she likes about this guy and reminds her of her very own kewlness factor and slew of suitors.
The second friend says, "I hope it is love."
The third friend says, "I would love to see that happen for you."
Sophy says, "I'd like to see that happen to me!"
For Heidegger, it's not just that living in the shadow of doubt is more courageous; it's the only authentic way to live, to admit that love is a gift we cannot command.
This quote illustrates the limits of our freedom. A person may ask, "Have you ever considered moving to Paris, but cannot know if the answer will be Yes.
There is another existentialist puzzle buried in this quote - namely, "Who the hell are you to tell us whether or not we have the power to decide our destiny?"
Victor Hugo asks Esméralda what Paris is like. Esméralda gazes into her crystal ball, and says, "Hmmm, I see some good news and some bad news. The good news is that it's easy to take a dog to Paris and they are essentially welcomed everywhere!"
"Wow! Terrific! What's the bad news?"
"Your flight leaves at Tuesday morning."
Thursday, September 25, 2014
A little opera
The Loves Acis and Galatea (1827)
Andre Charles Guillemot
Galatea, a semi-divine nymph, is in love with the shepherd Acis, and tries to hush the birds that ignite her passion for him ("Hush, ye pretty warbling quire!"). Acis's close friend, the shepherd Damon, provides counsel to the lovers as they pursue each other. He sings a beautiful siciliana-style serenade, "Love in her eyes sits playing", upon their first meeting. The act closes with a duet by the young lovers, "Happy we", which is echoed by a chorus.
Acis and Galatea (1862)
Jardin du Luxembourg
In this wonderful myth...
Long ago in Sicily... Galatea was a sea nymph, a Nereid, who lived by the island inhabited by the Cyclops Polyphemus, son of Poseidon, who was deeply in love with Galatea. However Galatea liked the young shepherd Acis, son of Pan. Galatea and Acis used to mock Polyphemus's songs of love for Galatea. Polyphemus caught them sleeping on a grassy hill, and killed Acis by crushing him under a huge rock. Acis's blood formed a stream beneath the rock. Galatea turned it into a river and named it after him.
The story of Acis and Galatea was told by Ovid in Book III of his Metamorphoses, and it is also the subject of a 1732 opera by Georg Friedrich Händel; here are excerpts from the Libretto, by John Gay:
- Wretched lovers!Fate has past this sad decree:No joy shall last. Quit your dream!Behold the monster Polypheme!See what ample strides he takes!The mountain nods, the forest shakes;The waves run frighten'd to the shores:Hark, how the thund'ring giant roars!
- His hideous love provokes my rage:Weak as I am, I must engage!Inspir'd with thy victorious charms,The god of love will lend his arms.
- Acis (later):
- Help, Galatea! help, ye parent gods!And take me dying to your deep abodes.
- Mourn, all ye muses! weep, all ye swains!Tune, tune your reeds to doleful strains!Groans, cries and howlings fill the neighb'ring shore:Ah, ah, the gentle Acis is no more!
- But don't despair. Ovid goes on to tell us:
- The stone was cleft, and through the yawning chinkNew reeds arose, on the new river's brink.The rock, from out its hollow womb, disclos'dA sound like water in its course oppos'd,When (wond'rous to behold), full in the flood,Up starts a youth, and navel high he stood.Horns from his temples rise; and either hornThick wreaths of reeds (his native growth) adorn.Were not his stature taller than before,His bulk augmented, and his beauty more,His colour blue; for Acis he might pass:And Acis chang'd into a stream he was,But mine no more; he rowls along the plainsWith rapid motion, and his name retains.
The Triumph of Galatea (c.1514)
Villa Farnesina, Rome
In Raphael's scene of the nymph's apotheosis (Stanze, I, 118-119), Galatea appears surrounded by other sea creatures. A Triton abducts a sea nymph; behind them, another Triton uses a shell as a trumpet. Galatea rides a shell-chariot drawn by two dolphins.
The mythology of Acis and Galatea moves audiences with the struggle between creature and divine. The matter is a vexed one. On one hand, it is the eternal love story between destined souls to become one. On the other hand, it is the agon of losing one's love to supernatural forces. The greatest achievement of this myth is that it continues to inspire lovers with the splendor of love rather than the defeat of loss.
We swoon over Galatea's love for Acis and agonize over the somber eloquence of Acis' fate. The genius of this myth rivals that of Lucretius and the elegiac lyricism of Vergil. Its standards are neither spiritual nor aesthetic. Galatea is the heroine of the now endangered art of loving. Any lifelong reader of mythology can read into the myth the universal sentiment of love lost but metamorphosed into a golden age of rebirth. We are genuinely moved by Galatea's heroic pathos as she transforms her beloved Acis into a beautiful flowing river, suggestive of the flow of physical pleasure.
Beautifully implicit in this little opera is the almost invisible transition of physical to eternal love. Love is a power stronger than the lovers and in their greatest moment of weakness, overcomes Polyphemus' power by evoking eternity - an eternally flowing river.
We cannot say precisely how long time's nature will last, but we can say, with respect to duration, that love is eternal, and recall it whenever we are possessed to do so.
Alas, now you sleep
So sleep misses me
My mind dives in deep
With you I am free
Sad we're apart
Side-by-side is my vision
Revealing the heart
Smiles can't be hidden
Our lips slowly touch
Your eyes, fire dance
Revealing so much
In our magical trance
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Exposition Universelle / Palais de l'optique (1900)
Georges Leroux (1877-1957)
Beings Split Apart
In Plato's dialogue The Symposium, Aristophanes praises Love in another way, unlike that of either Pausanias or Eryximachus. Mankind, he said, judging by their neglect of him, have never, as I think, at all understood the power of Love. For if they had understood him they would surely have built noble temples and altars, and offered solemn sacrifices in his honour.
Aristophanes describes early humans as having had four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces. He continues that there were three genders: man, woman and the "Androgynous". Each with two sets of genitalia with the Androgynous having both make and female genitalia.
The men were children of the sun, the women were children of the earth and the Androgynous were children of the moon, which was born of the sun and earth.
At the time humans had great strength, which threatened to conquer the gods. Rather than destroy the humans as they had the Titans - losing their tributes in the process - Zeus devised a plan: he split humans in half as punishment for their pride, doubling the number of humans who would give tribute. Apollo sewed up the humans with the navel being the only remnant of their original form. Each human would thus forever long for his/her other half; the other half of his/her soul.
It is said that when the two find each other, there is an unspoken understanding of one another, that they feel united and would lie with each other in unity and would know no greater joy.
The Kiss (Lovers) 1908-09
Gustav Klimt (1862-1918)
Galeria Belvedere, Vienna
While Plato presents the notion of soul mates as separated beings, there is another perspective, that of liberation. The notion of soul mates as it pertains to liberation romantically symbolizes freedom: in which each mate freely chooses one another.
By freely choosing each other soul mates demonstrate true love - and thus praise Love. Humans then devise their own strategy for dealing with the gods. Each new couple is thus treated as 'one' under law and the tributes paid (to gods/state) are that of one.
Take that, Zeus!
Humans adapt to the flow of separate beingness, obeying not the logic of Zeus' punishment, but rather the stream of consciousness inclining them toward a reconstruction of form from within their newly liberated dimension of existence.
The Lady of Shalott (1888)
John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)
The Beauty of Autonomy
Zeus' punishment resulted in something unique for human civilization: autonomy, which elevates humans to their former strength by igniting a new humanism of Love. The quest for unity deepens, but so too does enlightenment, progress, law and reason.
Humanity sets a new stage in the conquest of the gods. In a human-centric viewpoint, the gods go from being many to only being 'one'. Humans ultimately restrict the multiplicity of the gods' omnipotence to that of a singular being.
Emerging from Zeus' punishment, humans deconstruct the gods to whom they paid tribute. Artistic, cultural, philosophical and political autonomy rise forth from humanity in a definitive moment in human history, a sort of retribution that culminates in a revolution of love that is entirely turned toward individuals themselves, toward persons and humanity.
Humans rejected Zeus' ignominy and radically created a new way of viewing the gods. In doing so, they totally transformed the domains of Mount Olympus, claiming final victory over their creators.
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Amor Sacro e Amor Profano (Sacred and Profane Love) c.1514
Galleria Borghese, Rome
Philosophy highlights things that give meaning to our lives. Socrates' enduring quest for living the good life liberates the mind toward revelations on these things, including the intimate feelings upon which they may be based, feelings that transform the entity into a collective, for falling in love is not a solitary experience; it is an experience that simultaneously includes others.
Falling in love calls upon the Roman goddess Venus, whose functions encompass love, beauty, intimate relations, fertility and prosperity. She is the embodiment of the Neoplatonic concept of sacred love. Sacred love embodies the notion of 'beyond being' (book VI of the Republic). In Plato's famous analogy of the Sun, he says that the Good is beyond being (ἐπέκεινα τῆς οὐσίας) in power and dignity.
Titian's painting depicts this concept. Dignity, for a woman, resides in her being protected, i.e., clothed. While power resides in her 'being', in her liberation of form from limited human constraints in reasoning.
Venus, the mother of the Roman people, sits lovingly beside the woman (dressed in white) who has fallen in love. This transformation of state goes from being dignified and seemingly pure (white wedding dress) toward being liberated and free from the predominantly human characteristic of wearing clothing, that state which arises from our functional need of protection from the elements.
When falling in love, an individual transforms themselves from one form of love to the other. From the notion of love based on convention and social norms toward the feeling of being in love, a release from a state or situation that limits freedom of thought or behavior. This flourishing or sense of abundance overflows much like how a fountain of love overflows upon those who partake of it.
Triumph of Cupid (1719)
Carlo Cignani (1628-1719)
Reaching inside the sacred Fountain of Venus is an allegory for falling in love. Cupid, our love totem, reaches inside the fountain symbolizing, in Titian's dreamlike landscape painting, our desire to have that which is set apart and forbidden (Émile Durkheim on sacred things).
Walter Friedländer outlined similarities between the painting and Francesco Colonna's Hyperotomachia Poliphili, proposing that the two figures represented Polia and Venere, the two female characters in the 1499 romance where Poliphilo pursues his love Polia through a dreamlike landscape, and is, seemingly, at last reconciled with her by the Fountain of Venus. This story is easily interpreted as more conquering love, it is an allegory for falling in love, for the journey or transformation that occurs when one is struck by Cupid's arrow.
Falling in love is the dream of love personified. François Rabelais, in The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-34) wrote: "Far otherwise did heretofore the sages of Egypt, when they wrote by letters, which they called hieroglyphics, which none understood who were not skilled in the virtue, properly, and nature of things represented by them. Of which Orus Apollon hath in Greek composed two books, and Polyphilus, in his Dream of Love, set down more..." (Book 1, Ch. 9).
Philosophically speaking, falling in love is a quest for the dream of love. It is the search for the grandiose, a desire to "reach toward" that resplendent magnificence, and a finding or liberating of it (depicted in the fountain spilling forth) within oneself. Metaphysically speaking, it is a physical transformation whereby white light is illuminated.
In Titian's painting, we see the transformation of white being made lucid, clear, and plainly visible in a nude Venus. Not only does this vision occur in a dreamlike landscape, but the dreamlike landscape is also a natural place, a return to "home" which is often how those who have fallen in love describe the experience of being in the presence of their beloved.
Falling in love as a return home references our exile from Ithaca, that place in the Greek conception of a hierarchical world in which everyone, in accordance with his degree of excellence, has a place assigned to him, being torn away from this 'natural place' is a form of suffering and injustice, just as a return home is a positive good connected with the restoration of the harmony of the cosmos.
This separation between home and being exiled is depicted in the distance between the dressed Aphrodite Pandemos (left) and the nude Aphrodite Urania. Aphrodite Pandemos is that goddess of low sensual pleasures, whereas Aphrodite Urania is "the heavenly Aphrodite".
The unspoiled, harmonious wilderness in the background of this painting is Arcadia, the home of the god Pan (in Greek mythology), who is associated with the mother goddess. In Pindar's Pythian Ode iii. 78, Pindar, the Ancient Greek lyric poet from Thebes, refers to virgins worshipping Cybele and Pan near the poet's house in Boeotia. Titian's painting could also be an allegory for fortune and fate, with Cupid representing "the child of Zeus...Fortune") [C.M.Bowra, Pindar, page 63; fr. 63.15–20].
Pindar revised traditional mythos so as not to diminish the dignity and majesty of the gods. This painting may also be a subtle example, perhaps, of Pinder's approach to the omniscience of the gods with its elegant compliment: mortals (dressed in white).
Being descendants of divine unions, privilege mortals sit along side their mythical heroes, with cupid serving as an intermediate group between the gods and men, sympathetic to human ambitions. Thus, viewing this painting as an ethical issue, we do not judge the gods, we merely strive to experience their presence, away from our ordinary human experience. Indeed, this paining represents the finest breeds of humanity seated next to divine passions.
"For Pindar a mortal woman who is loved by a god is an outstanding lesson in divine favors handsomely bestowed." [Gilbert Highet, The Classical Tradition, Oxford University Press (1949), p. 225]
Falling in love denotes a divine union. In this painting Titian's elusiveness is telling his audience that he will not talk of it ("silence is a man's wisest counsel")
[New Nemean Odes 5.14-18. The hushed reference to Phocus's murder is cited and translated by C.M. Bowra, Pindar, pages 67-8: I am shy of speaking of a huge risk / Hazarded not in right, / How they left the famous island, / And what fate drove strong men from the Vineland. / I shall halt. Truth does not always / Gain more if unflinching / She reveals her face; / And silence is often a man's wisest counsel.]
Here, Titian depicts our readiness to shape traditional mythos to fit the occasion.
Venus serves as an oracle to a prophet, commemorating a human victory - claiming love for oneself. Falling in love is that claim upon that which initially eludes us, that sentiment of which the maidens sing:
ἐμὲ δὲ πρέπει παρθενήια μὲν φρονεῖν
γλώσσᾳ τε λέγεσθαι.
γλώσσᾳ τε λέγεσθαι.
I must think maidenly thoughts
And utter them with my tongue
The dithyrambs in honor of Dionysus, the god of wine and fertility, flow forth from this painting, an allegory of that sentiment which sings forth from our bosom when we fall in love. Love's ballads capture the grandeur of the moment of victory, of Poliphilo pursuing and ultimately reconciling with his love Polia in Titian's landscape.
Titian's Renaissance style sets the tone for rebirth, a rekindling of ancient myths that evoke the gods or the Muses. Praise goes to the victor, narrated by myth, the central figure (left) exemplifies a mortal, who transformed, gains an audience with the world of the gods. Titian's Amor Sacro e Amor Profano (Sacred and Profane Love) represents the grand sentiment associated with falling in love, that unfolding of the sacred against a background of symbolic elements such as the sea, darkness, fire from the bosom, mountains, and the privileged moral predicament (depicted the castle).
King of Syracuse, delighting in horses; and his fame shines
among strong men where Lydian Pelops went to dwell,
Pelops that he who clips the earth with his great strength,
Poseidon, loved when Klotho lifted him out
of the clean cauldron, his shoulder gleaming ivory.
Great marvels in truth are these, but tales
told and overlaid with elaboration of lies
amaze men's wits against the true word.
Cupid's shoulder gleams ivory. Poseidon, the "God of the Sea" is called upon; venerated at Pylos and Thebes in pre-Olympian Bronze Age Greece as a chief deity, Poseidon was integrated into the Olympian gods as the brother of Zeus and Hades (Mount Olympus depicted above left in the landscape). The conflict between Hades and Persephone represents the division between mortals and gods. Pelops, whose cult developed into the founding myth of the Olympic games, represents love's games. Cupid leans over the Fountain of Venus, an allegory for the holy grail or cauldron from which the sacred can be touched.
Great marvels are depicted in Titian's painting as great marvels are discovered in the experience of falling in love. The wedding between Nicolò Aurelio and Laura Bagarotto in 1514 (the Aurelio family coat of arms is depicted on the sarcophagus) represents a courtship.
Hippodamia with Pelops in a racing chariot
Hippodamia's father, King Oenomaus of Pisa, was fearful of a prophecy that claimed he would be killed by his son-in-law. So when suitors arrived, he told them they could marry his daughter only if they defeated him a chariot race, and if they lost, they would be executed.
Pelops, son of King Tantalus of Lydia, came to ask for Hippodamia's hand in marriage and prepared to race Oenomaus. Worried about losing, Pelops went to the seaside (depicted on the right side of the painting) and invoked Poseidon, his former lover. Reminding Poseidon of their love ("Aphrodite's sweet gifts"), he asked Poseidon for help. Smiling, Poseidon caused a chariot drawn by winged horses to appear.
Behind Laura Bagarotto is two parts of lighted sky, which could be seen as wing-shaped. On the sarcophagus (on the right) a suitor is being killed while a young maiden, similar to Venus, stands aghast in the background. Flowing from the fountain is Poseidon's blessings.
Titian's Amor Sacro e Amor Profano (Sacred and Profane Love) can be seen as an allegory for falling in love, for the philosophies that illuminate the enormous experience of being 'touched by love'. Falling in love transcends the human predicament and elevates it toward the nature of love, itself (Venus). Love transcends theories of human nature, desire, ethics, and so on.
Philosophically speaking, love logically begins with questions concerning its nature, which is where Titian takes us in his allegory of falling in love. Implied here is that love has a "nature," that it cannot be described in rational or meaningful propositions, only in sentiment. The sentiment evoked in Titian's painting is one that presents a metaphysical and epistemological argument, that love ejects us from our reason; but, on the other hand, it delivers us to the realm of of the gods.
In English, the word "love," which is derived from Germanic forms of the Sanskrit lubh (desire), is broadly referenced in our desire to be god-like in nature. Our natural attraction to love, toward the feelings experience in falling in love, stems from this desire (eros, philia, and agape).
Eros refers to that part of love that inspires passion, an intense desire for something often referred to as erotic desire (Aphrodite Pandemos). Aristotle's Philia, by contrast, entails a fondness and appreciation of the other (Cupid's kindness toward mortals). Agape refers to the paternal love of the gods for humanity (Venus). All three elements of love (the Platonic-Socratic maintains that love we generate for beauty on this earth can never be truly satisfied until we die [sarcophagus]; but in the meantime we should aspire beyond the particular stimulating image in front of us to the contemplation of beauty itself) are presented in Titian's painting.
Falling in love invokes the philosophy of language, of the relevance of meanings, and also provides us with a knowable, comprehensible, and describable understanding of the nature of the gods.
Three little words: "I love you" warrant no further intellectual intrusion. Love is liberated and free and brings us face to face with the gods as an allegory for the divine within.
If love possesses a nature, it is one that is identifiable only in personal expression with it. To be properly understood, one must feel love. Perhaps this prerequisite for understanding love in order recognize its nature is why Titian's painting has long since eluded scholars.
Ruminating on the nature of falling in love coupled with the experience of falling in love opens our eyes to seeing it depicted elsewhere.
Monday, September 15, 2014
It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life.
It faced - or seemed to face - the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor.
It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.
Human creative acts of perception join passive and active elements in thinking and impose unity on the subject of our romantic affections. The faculty of mind that manipulates images devises its own linkage between beloved and "intuition". As opposed to purely mechanical justifications for the allowance of emotional sentiment, romantic idealization attains the absolute by consulting self-awareness in the process.
Romantic idealization is Bergson's élan vital, "a vital impetus, containing within itself the possibilities of a multiplicity of life-forms". The élan vital - which I call Romantic Idealization - gives rise to a process of eternal struggle between love, intuition, and matter; the process is Romantic Creativity.
Falling in Love
Falling in love thrusts the mind upward. Owing sensation to intuition, each moment spent romantically idealizing a person, idea, or situation, produces an increasingly complex intelligence about the nature of the experience, which increasingly expands the intuition by inspiring it to grow toward new parameters established by the connection. The idea is similar to the joy one experiences when love is renewed: the pre-existing notions softly dissipate into the background as the recognition of new sensations flood one's conscience with new truths.
Love is an extension of our conscience awareness that directs our attention upward toward the ideal: it inspires behavior, as well as attitudes, and in an all-consuming eloquence of mind, ignites a smooth, elastic, adaptable, mindfulness that immerses itself in the immediacy of the moment and soars.
Imagination conceives of this intuition and announces its intention to "imagine". It is the mind that loves with the entirety of its being and begets the intuition and imagination to work in collaborative harmony with the divine within.
Indicative of the intensity love brings to imagination, excitement soars at discovering divine sentiment. We then allow ourselves to be fascinated and hypnotized by the intensity of each interaction, in this case, Romantic Idealization; i.e., love that has momentarily confounded life, alters behavior and indeed, as the heart sings, praises it through expressions of delight combined with inventiveness.
Inventing new moments is the burden of romance that is lifted from within to create tender arrangements from which the romantic narrative takes flight. As these new inventions increase, so too do their effect upon the conscious and subconscious self. Love songs are sweeter, time slows down, and fanciful invention arouses the romantic spirit.
Romantic idealization conceives of itself through another. It lifts our attention toward mindfulness. It is the aspect of self that conceives of that which lies beyond oneself. It is the excitement of discovering another that stirs us from within. It expresses delight before the world and declares to itself the word "love" ~ a word recognizably "too short a word for too long a feeling".
Romantic idealization conceives of itself through another. It lifts our attention toward mindfulness. It is the aspect of self that conceives of that which lies beyond oneself. It is the excitement of discovering another that stirs us from within. It expresses delight before the world and declares to itself the word "love" ~ a word recognizably "too short a word for too long a feeling".
Romantic idealization is our heart's response to a superior understanding that dwells within. In it, we value new concepts of time by allowing ourselves to experience truths we did not previously know existed. In doing so, our minds rearrange past notions into fond, heartfelt memories to make space for the enormity that encompasses the heart, mind, and essence of self.
Love is spontaneously intuitive. Both love and romance are codified in the creation of life and involves two bodies, though one could conceive of the notion that each being is held by the other in desirous affection. There is nothing mechanically repetitive about love. Love is always new. The difference is ultimately linked to a pure state of intuition that has the capacity to recognize new truths.
As romance evolves into love, it becomes increasingly aware that it must continue to find new truths, which may be anything other than what was previously understood, and which we equate with discovery. Allowing for discovery is the intellectual realization that one is "in love with love" and that we need love to live.
Love compliments our being, connects our intuition to our vision, and allows us to see straight through to the source of our affection. This seeing connects us in a way that boundaries dissolve, problems dissipate, and possibilities abound. Anything that is not integral to the flourishing of love is diminished so that the expression of self and truth might flourish.
It is upon the path toward truthful flourishing where romantic idealization reigns. Sentiment is the impetus and imagination is the preface to A Love Story that we script for ourselves.
Friday, September 12, 2014
The Kamikaze Bunny Ballad
Just look at us where we stand;
Our bedtime is at eight.
We don't like carrots in a can,
Because they are so very fake.
'Do you like our oozies?' we ask.
'And aren't they kinda cute?'
We agree it is a disagreeable task
To turn docile creatures into brutes
We with our little fluffy tails
That bounce while we eat
You cook us with our entails
And on your keychains put our feet
'It is our custom,' you say
'To take that which we see;
And that's just our way -
A fluke of fate, if you please.'
But budding is our plan
Though it may seem a wee bit mean,
We follow lead from the Great Lapin
The wisest bunny ever seen.
So, having no mercy to give
We swipe away your lucky rabbit feet!
And cry the cry by which the Kamikaze Bunny live
And thump you on the head as we screech:
'You have no right to cut off our tails
And throw the rest away,
And if we catch you recounting lucky rabbit feet tales,
You'll drop to your knees and pray:
'Forgive us y'all
We think not as we toil -
It seems that thinking above all
Is for some like taking castor oil.''
But we are armed and ready,
To blow you away all together
So that no bunny suffers your indignant pedi
And keeps their parts together
I shook myself awake and tried,
To think of all that which we do:
'Come, little bunny tell me how you feel,' I cried
'And together we'll hug it through!'
They said 'We hunt for the naughtiest human prize'
Among nature's spies
And pounce upon them in the silent night
And giggle when they realize
That rabbit feet are not lucky
Carry instead a nugget of gold
For carrying around furry little feet is yucky
And the custom is really getting old
And sometimes they listen and update their scrolls,
So that future progeny might learn, too
Keeping us as pets will not console
A baby bunny pruned
'And that's our tale' (they gave a little wink)
'By which we reconsidered lucky rabbit wealth -
And very gladly did the moral sink
Into our books upon the shelf
I heard them bounce away, as I had just
Made their furry little plight shine
Rescuing bunny feet from wicked clutch
By composing this little rhyme
I thank them much for telling me
How not to demonstrate our wealth
But chiefly for their hearts, so brave and wee
I toasted them to noble health
And now, if e'ver by chance I see
A lucky rabbit's foot dangling from a chain
I'll cry the cry of the Great Lapin
And summon the Kamikaze Bunnies again
Who will point their oozies at your toe
A very heavy weight, indeed
And remind you of that which you already know
That Kamikaze Bunnies only need
A gentle hand, a speech that is
So that their whiskers don't flicker with woe,
And their faces don't wince in sorrow,
Their eyes, like cinders, all aglow,
Who bring us joy to and fro,
And hop and bounce, and oh
Are so very cute and loveable
And if we cut off their little feet, like so
We'll incur their wrath, just like long ago
So don't act like you don't know
That Kamikaze Bunnies exist, to keep us on the straight and narrow
All before their bedtime at eight.