Love each other less violently

And who are you? she sternly spoke
To the one beneath the smoke.
Why, I’m fire, he replied,
And I love your solitude, I love your pride.
Then fire, make your body cold,
I’m going to give you mine to hold,
Saying this she climbed inside
To be his one, to be his only bride.

[…]

It was deep into his fiery heart
He took the dust of joan of arc,
And then she clearly understood
If he was fire, oh then she must be wood.

Leonard Cohen – Joan of Arc

The protagonist in horror is always a potential victim, even when she is the perpetrator, even when the killer’s and the narrator’s hands overlap. The protagonist can’t help but fall prey to the body she inhabits; the story has an endpoint, by which she will either be alive or dead. There is no uncertainty between those poles. In our flesh, we contain the potential for violence, not as an illness but as a characteristic. 

When Cronenberg shows the physical destruction of the body, it is not from an aesthetic fascination or in order to shock, but in order to make it real, to show the lastingness of the act, its irreversible consequence.

All of us are subject to our bodies, and when we succumb, we are gone.

Averroes gives us a mind on loan from the mass of universal spirit, but this chunk of the larger intellect is only activated within the animated body; once the body dies, the self with its specifics is erased from the intellect.

Feminist inquiry is about understanding how things work, who is in the action, what might be possible, and how worldly actors might somehow be accountable to and love each other less violently.

Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto p. 7

The beauty of us as Donna Haraway’s “mortal and fleshly knottings”. 

The body for David Cronenberg in all its uniqueness and fragility. This same body, depending on who perceives it, can be untouchably holy, pleasurable to defile, in need of protection, and also killable.

We have our ways, says Haraway, of making each other killable.

The idea of cannibalism, too, realises we are all potentially made killable, depending on the way we choose to see each other. In a sense, this is the problem underlying all desire; the Hegelian push-and-pull between wanting to devour (to think of as killable) and not wanting to lose (the regret of having made killable). To sustain while consuming is where the balance necessary for life and pleasure lies. Not to destroy the other fully, which would contribute only to self-destruction, but not to abstain either from the life-giving communion with the other; learning only to nibble at the other’s body before allowing the flesh to grow back, in a metaphorical sense.

This is part of the time we give to each other when we give. 

There is, of course, a narcissistic refusal to face what is other, choosing instead to live in the self-produced fantasy of the disembodied other, who exists at a safe distance within abstraction; the narcissistic attraction only to what is necessarily disembodied, unable to exert either refusal or acceptance of one’s desire.

Disembodied means: not desiring in itself, because desiring is to give in to the mortal flesh and its vulnerability, to give in to entropy, to what can be destroyed. It means reaching out to the other in full awareness the flesh’s necessarily time-bound arc, its temporariness. Sometimes, it’s not enough to want to burn each other up. Ash isn’t substantial enough to love.

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Birdearth and Boudmo

Birds pull worms from the wet earth, loosening the seams that hold the world together. The world is fabric made from disparate pieces sewn into a unified joy, but the birds pulling at worms unstitch the composition, cause the continents to drift apart in island shards, and the body too splits in half along a winding seam, the soft drapes of its flesh now open in raw edges, budding with teeth. Two matching rows of teeth, zipped down and apart by the irresistible force of aching beaks. The teeth chatter to reveal their presence, unheard because no ear has time when the mouth is open. The teeth try to clamp back down on their mirror peers but cannot reach, and in their yearning they shudder like cymbals, like sequins on a spinning dress.

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In other news, I never seem to get sick of this: https://youtu.be/OwCSkQpnWvk

Radio

Podcasts are great, and there are so many of them. It is such convenient fun to listen in on the research and/or thought collection of another person, often some-one specialising in a field I am interested in but haven’t done much delving into of my own. Someone is talking into your ear as if telling you a bedtime (or any-time) story, except they are telling you about the connections drawn between the various sources of information they have found on a particular topic.

That said, not all of the podcasts I listen to are effectively non-fiction; some of my regulars are also artfully composed digests on literature or music. But the thing about podcasts that brings about a kind of fatigue, sometimes, is that they involve choice, specifically the choice to give oneself over to what is effectively another person’s realm, voice, and material. I have to be in the mood for the host’s voice, timbre, diction, and favoured topics.

You could argue that this is just as much the case with radio, but the nice thing about radio is that you tune in and things have just been streaming on without you, you dip into something that’s just going on already, and whatever host is there, whatever piece is playing, you settle in and listen to it: it’s the equivalent of sneaking into a performance room with the lights out, taking a seat at the back, and not having to explain yourself or introduce yourself to anyone. Things just unfold in front of you at their own pace, in their own time, and if you leave, they will continue even if you’re not there to listen to them.

Psychologically, there is something soothing to me in this, and radio, much more so than podcasts, is a medium I love. The fact that I can tune in and tune out and encounter a surprise, is so relaxing. I don’t have to choose whether I’m more in the mood for a podcast on the misuse of apostrophes or an interview with Damien Hirst, whether I’d rather listen to a woman’s take on contemporary slang, or a man’s; I can just tune in and see what’s there.

All this to say the following: my one true love, as far as radio goes, is a station [the Belgian classical station MUSIQ3] that has been in my life since I can remember grasping the concept of radio stations, and being able to differentiate one station from another. It plays in my parents’ house, and now it plays on my laptop whenever I want audio company but don’t want to let one of the usual podcast hosts or Youtubers* into my space. For some reasons, radio hosts (perhaps it’s just this particular station, though) seem less intrusive, simultaneously less rambling and less scripted, and they give more space to what I need: music I didn’t choose, but that someone else (smarter, with better taste, passionate and well-intentioned) chose for ‘me-the-audience’.

Radio is my permission to let someone else decide, to drift along with a programme that isn’t directed specifically towards me and my preferences (inferred from whatever links I may have clicked, or tastes I may have indicated on social media) but exists on its own merit. This all probably sounds too much like I’m asking for permission to like and listen to radio, when a lot of people around me seem to have time only for things that are specifically designed for them, things that will in some way improve them or boost their knowledge, but I like the drifting, leisurely quality of radio, the way it doesn’t want to do anything for me in particular. It lets me listen in, float along with the programme, without pretending to make my life any more productive.

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* Don’t get me wrong, the video essay is one of my favourite contemporary forms, and I love watching, and learning from, those – but sometimes I like tuning in to something for any other purpose than listening in on something.