Search results for "love "


Author: joe

Thursday, 02 December, 2010 - 23:52

- on lines from Rilke

Gouge out my eyes:
I still see you.
Burst my eardrums:
I still hear your voice.
Hack off my hands:
I still feel you.
Pluck out my tongue:
It still probes your mouth.
Chop off my genitals:
I still have carnal knowledge of you.
Bleed me to death:
I am still hot for you.
Cut out my heart:
It still beats for you.
Dash out my brains:
You are in my bones.
Cremate me:
You are in my ashes.
Scatter them:
You are in every particle.
Variations On A Theme Of Rilke by Patrick O'Shaughnessy

Patrick O'Shaughnessy is my grandfather. This poem has always been one of my favourites. I was reminded of it last night, while watching Graham Harman's fantastic lecture on Speculative Realism and Object-Oriented Ontology at the "Hello Everything" conference. He uses an analogy about cotton and fire to illustrate the withdrawn dimensions of reality that can never be accessed by any kind of relation. Knowledge can never exhaust the objects it encounters: even fire does not exhaust the cotton it encounters.

I imagine a sudden spark catch hold of the cotton, triggering a whooomff of flames engulfing the soft cotton. The fibres glow and crackle, but quickly start to blacken into sooty embers, and disintegrate. As they sliver and spread, there are specks and motes of pitchy, carbonised cellulose dispersing in the air, jetting upwards on the crest of fiery waves or drifting sideways and earthward. Somewhere in that conflagration the cotton is destroyed - the object that was some cotton is now a crowd of particles dispersing in the air, a de-condensing collection of new, smaller objects. Exactly where it is, in the process of that disassembling, that the cotton's destruction occurs - at which point the cotton is translated into its disaggregate particulate components - is ambiguous: is it the instant the fire first catches the flammable edges of the white plant fluff, or when each last part of coherent fibre is finally desiccated and splintered? Is there a gradient of dispersal, or a quantum jump - is "being" on a spectrum or is it a lump?

Michael at Archive Fire uses the example of a horse eating an apple:

An apple is partially 'withdrawn' from a horse who holds it in its teeth because the teeth of the horse are only in contact with the skin of the apple, leaving the inner non-skin parts of the apple "hidden" and temporarily in excess of the horses bite. So the horse can be said to be in direct contact with the real apple, however not in its entirety. There are aspects of the apple that are partially withdrawn. But when the horse bites into the apple a 'deeper' kind of access is granted, the apple's individuality has been compromised, and when the horse subsequently begins to digest the apple the very distinction between the apple and the horse begins to break down. In this example the interaction between apple and horse goes from partial contact and withdrawnness to deeper disclosure and eventually to absorption in such a manner that completely obviates the need to posit any sort of unbridgeable 'gap' between either the two objects in themselves', or between the horse's encounter with the apple and its experience of it. In an intimately enmeshed and complicated cosmos these things often touch, mix and mingle in ways that are specific to what they in fact are.
The Depth of Things - Part 1: Conjuring the Gap by michael of Archive Fire

Here's what I feel, even if I don't really know it - my intuition: my identity is not hermetically sealed from the world - rather my consciousness is ecologically entwined with the environment in which it moves; my body is not a finitely bounded unity, but a breathing, drinking, leaking density plugged into the material world. Perhaps less intuitively - my mind is not an encapsulated mirage hovering around my brain, nor a mere emergent epiphenomenon which is the effect of a billion grey cells, but something more difficult to understand, such that it feels more like magic. In any case it's just as hard for me to think of my individuality as absolute, as it would be for a believer to let go of the essential existence of the soul. Merleau-Ponty says:

I discover within myself a kind of internal weakness, standing in the way of my being totally individualised: a weakness which exposes me to the gaze of others as a man among men, or at least a consciousness among consciousnesses . . .

My grandfather's poem pictures an indestructible essence, in the guise of the obsessive lover. The subject who loves can never be exterminated by any action of his object; but at the same time the loved one can never extract themselves from the grasp of the lover. I know you, even though you emasculate me. But the essence does in fact de-individualise, and the lover is no longer himself alone - his object is absorbed into his bones and his blood; into every particle. Each last speck still remains the "I" of the lover, and yet completely mingles with "you" of the loved. You and I, inextricably intermixed.

Categories: Patrick Shaughnessy, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Graham Harman, objects, withdrawal, love, poetry, essence, knowledge, relation,
Comments: 0

Widows and ghosts

Author: joe

Thursday, 11 November, 2010 - 22:28

- on the haunting of the dead.

In the grey tumult of these after years
Oft silence falls; the incessant wranglers part;
And less-than-echoes of remembered tears
Hush all the loud confusion of the heart;
And a shade, through the toss'd ranks of mirth and crying
Hungers, and pains, and each dull passionate mood, --
Quite lost, and all but all forgot, undying,
Comes back the ecstasy of your quietude.
So a poor ghost, beside his misty streams,
Is haunted by strange doubts, evasive dreams,
Hints of a pre-Lethean life, of men,
Stars, rocks, and flesh, things unintelligible,
And light on waving grass, he knows not when,
And feet that ran, but where, he cannot tell.
Hauntings by Rupert Brooke

It being armistice day I pulled Rubert Brooke off the shelf again. In previous years I've been drawn to his poetry; it is adolescent at times, pining, twee, yearning. But there's something else to it, beyond the famous stuff - The Soldier and The Old Vicarage, Grantchester. His poem, The Life Beyond reminds me of an embryonic John Donne writing The Apparition, while The Hill hinges precariously, half-loose, on a last line that jack-knifes the heady, laughing breathlessness of what went before. Some of the appeal has changed now - The Way That Lovers Use is a voice of solidarity for the lovelorn: I'm not the envious one any longer. But I still love his spontaneous rhythm and natural ease - "Hear the calling of the moon, / And the whispering scents that stray / About the idle warm lagoon. / Hasten, hand in human hand, / Down the dark, the flowered way, / Along the whiteness of the sand, / And in the water's soft caress, / Wash the mind of foolishness, / Mamua, until the day." - from Tiare Tahiti

Brooke's life, cut short as we know, also adds a pathos to the poems. The patriotism and apparent valour in the sonnets belie his doubts and fears; his commission to join the expeditionary force for the campaign at Gallipoli, which he never saw, dying from an infected mosquito bite on the way there. There seems something even crueller about a death in service but which doesn't grant the victim any claim to heroism. My own great-grandfather survived the Great War, but died on the return journey, disqualifying my great-grandmother Annie, his widow (who survived him without dreaming of remarrying for another 74 years), from receiving a war widow's pension.

In one of his surviving unfinished pieces, Fragment, he lingers on the deck of a ship, looking in the window at his friends, "heedless" of the battle that awaits them.

"fainter than the wave's faint light,
That broke to phosphorus out in the night,
Perishing things"

- He seems a ghost himself, dwelling on their imminent "pashing" and "scattering", torn between pity and pride. And there on the sea in 1914 where he wrote the lines from Hauntings, he conjures an image of the ghost's own ghosts - the spirit of the dead haunted by vanishing intimations of a long-gone life. I imagine Brooke himself, kneeling by the misty river separating the afterlife from this world, with evasive dreams of his loves, his heart-breaks and his confusions... his feet on the grass, a clock set forever at ten to three, images that seem familiar and yet are always receding into shadowy forgetting. I also think of William, my great-grandfather, waiting by that river for 74 years, not knowing why, not comprehending the time, not even recognising any memory of a left-behind wife, a tiny daughter, and a son he never met. I like to think that Annie finally joined him, full of unknown joy to find him still there. And I hope Rupert, too, found someone to dispel his ghosts.

Categories: poetry, armistice day, Rupert Brooke, William and Annie, poetry, ghosts, haunting, love, death, Lethe,
Comments: 0

Love and estrangement

Author: joe

Monday, 01 November, 2010 - 19:12

- on being a loving man

A motherly voice sings:

I wish that you were here
Running round my heels
Only you and I know
How this lonely feels
I never fell in love
The way that I love you
But father, brother, son's
Too much for any man to do
So you fly and you fly, fly away
So you fly and you fly, fly away
I'd keep you with me still
Even though I know
Nothing's worth the holding
If you can't let go
I spend my nights alone
Or in drunken company
That's the only medicine
That's left for me
Till I fly, till I fly, fly away
Till I fly, till I fly, fly away
I need to have something
That money cannot buy
But even children know
That only angels fly
All these wasted years
I never have been sure
When to ask for less
And when to beg for more
Will I fly, will I fly, fly away?
Will I fly, will I fly, fly away?
I'll fly away
I'll fly away
The Way I Love You by Linda Thompson

Wandering out of the ambiguity of this song emerges a woman whose son grew up and outgrew the mother/boy bond that is, at least for a while, the whole of the world, to the exclusion of all else. I hear the song introduced by a male voice hiding a background story of bereavement, mourning an estranged mother behind an ambiguous, partial telling. The ambiguities work their magic in the ears of a man struggling to love the way that fathers, lovers, brothers and sons love - is it possible to be all of these lovers, at the same time, and to love well?

There is no pain like the pain of estrangement - or perhaps, all pain is estrangement. In the love between a mother and a son, no other love will ever come above or before it, but in time, sure as death, the world gets in its way and pushes itself between them. I can't imagine what medicine heals the pushing apart, but I am all too used to the kind of love that carries with it its own melancholy. Love with a consciousness of its own ending, a mind with knowledge of its own demise, a day that knows its night is coming. Like returning after many years to a old town that you know so well but in which you are now a stranger, or recognising that leavings you made and thought were graceful exits were hack-and-slash sprees, or like realising the alternate endings you chose were cataclysms for universes you didn't know existed, you see the world with uncomprehending ears and eyes: the strangers' words are unintelligible, the gestures foreign, the faces blank, the space void - you have been cut off, an amputation, meat.

So then, how much more miraculous to love without melancholy! Love that doesn't think, or know anything, that is lost in being, rather than contemplating its demise. Not a divided thing, split, reflecting, speaking - just being, humming, everywhere, a god, absolute. I want to say a love to be lost in, but that wrongly implies wanting to be found. A love so unthinking it is stupid, brainless, foggy, blind - but these words mean more than they seem to say: numb, stunned, instant, immediate, enveloping, eclipsed, oblivious.

I don't know how to love all the loves a man should love - father, lover, brother, son. Some loves are those we do - we love a love like man speaks language, imperfectly, with melancholy, estranged. But then, language also speaks man, and some loves are loves which do us - love loves my love, which is as close as I can get to writing what love does. What does that love do? Love loves. A love loves us.

Categories: love, estrangement, melancholy, Linda Thompson,
Comments: 0

That thing about academia

Author: joe

Tuesday, 02 February, 2010 - 20:38

So I've been trying to work out how to develop the theme I started a week or two ago about how academia seems always to avoid, escape and devalue "practice" even as it strives to be the only institution that might legitimise that "practice". It was a long-winded post about complicated academic language, written with complicated academic language.

I enjoyed the response I got to a subsequent post - a thought experiment inspired by real events - in which I tried to write some powerful ideas down in a more direct, earthy way. One such response was - "Joe, are you in love?". And I thought - that's how we should write!

Sod the technical jargon: when we write, we should try to be understood as lovers, as wells of passion for what we do - our action in the world should be the force that drives the green fuse through the veil of symbols with which we obscure the world when we write in academic language. If I write about my work, why would I not want my reader to wonder - "is he in love?"

Categories: language, writing, academia, practice, love,
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An American Neighbour

Author: joe

Saturday, 23 December, 2006 - 00:11

Windsor, 1999: an American neighbour was a lover for a while. She heard me through the walls, I bought her flowers because I scared her daughter by banging on the door, and she thought I was 'Etony' because I wore a waistcoat with my suit.

For some reason I forget, I told her I disliked Robert Burns. For christmas, she gave me a book, inscribed it beautfully; it was an Everyman, one of my favourite bindings; it was 'The Poems and Songs of Robert Burns'. Later, of course, we fell out permanently.

I don't even know whether she'd ever been to Scotland. I could have deceived myself and seen her earnest American evangelism as irony. Funny the things that you think of at christmas.

Categories: xmas, poetry, american, lover, books,
Comments: 0

Arthur Lee: 1945 - 2006

Author: joe

Saturday, 26 August, 2006 - 01:14

In memory of Arthur Lee (1945 - 2006)

Menticulture podcast - To Arthur Lee

Duration: 6:06; Size: 5MB

Categories: love, arthur lee, the damned, calexico, alone again or, podcast, guitar,
Comments: 3