October 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
What do women like M — and like my mother — expect? That they can hurt people and not lose their love? That people hurt by them will not try to free themselves from pain by trying to grow indifferent to their manipulation?
What goes on in their little heads? Do they expect some sort of Stockholm syndrome to unfold? Or some kind of Bergmanesque/ Dostoevskian masochist reverse-psychology, “get back here and hurt me, hurt me, do”? How is that supposed to work, now?
Perhaps they do; and perhaps not entirely wrongly: perhaps some such mechanism does operate in some human heads, as hard to imagine as that may be to some of us (thank you).
Interestingly, both M and my mother seem to have taken offense — disappeared in a huff — once they’ve found out that my mind does not work that way. My unBergmanesqueness is damnable. My unDostoevskian autonomy makes me unfit for their love. They only want to love people prepared to be their slaves.
This puzzles me: why would one want to love a slave? I can understand institutional slavery: a man might put himself willingly into that condition to escape debts or taxes (see Reid’s article on bond-servants in SEA); another might want to be his master for the convenience of being served (god knows I do use servants for that very reason). But why does that relationship need to have any psychological underpinnings? Why must there be an emotional inter-dependence?
September 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
I’ve gone back to reread M’s letters — after all she was an important person in my life for more than half of it — and ended up dwelling for a while on the 11 points she makes concerning my paradox (that I actively avoid people yet find most pleasure in art and music which are, after all, the works of people). Try as hard as I would, none of these comments seemed to me worth reflecting upon.
This really does seem to be the end.
M’s comments were strangely similar to all the comments — thousands of them — which I had received on the MSB (aka “My Successful Blog”), now since closed; closed because running it in part consisted in engaging the commenters — i.e. replying to their comments; and the comments being worthless and not worth replying to, the work eventually became dull. In the three years I ran it, how many good comments can I count? Four? Five?
Company is not a good; good company is; but where it is absent, and it is absent always, remaining alone with oneself and keeping one’s own counsel is the way to go.
September 11, 2011 § Leave a comment
What use all this education, all this reading and art and culture, if it does not educate one’s psychology: one’s ability to imagine other, different motivations and at least notice them in others?
Thinking about M, entering her world, is like reading one of those bodice-rippers in which men are strong, acquisitive, and jealous; and women coo. It seems… hominid: an evolutionary throwback: tiresome (no hope of ever seeing a change) and boring (relentlessly predictable).
September 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
M says that she wants me to tell her what I feel and think; but there is no point: I’d have to expend vast amounts of time and energy on explaining myself, which I do not care to do — I am too old, too tired, and too… realistic: even if I did — she probably wouldn’t understand the explanation. M’s inability to grasp how I think and feel is astounding: she has known me for 25 years; corresponded with me daily for 10; has spent hundreds of hours on the phone with me; yet, she does not understand the most basic ways in which I function.
When, in the darkest hour of my life she refused to help me – I had asked her for a $12,000 loan: a relatively small sum given her resources, but one that could have changed my life entirely; and, in the same email, sent me a photo of a $6,000 chandelier she’d just bought; telling me, in effect, that a chandelier was more precious to her than my fate; her intention was clearly to hurt me. It worked: it did hurt me. Yet, not, as she imagines, because she was showing me that a chandelier was more important to her than my fate; since by then I had come to know well that M has no clue as to what she should or should not want; indeed, in all her life decisions she seemed resolved to make the wrong choice at every turn; but because she was so transparently setting out to hurt me. It was her conscious decision to hurt me that hurt.
It continued to hurt for a long time. Which is why I stopped writing; writing reminded me of the hurt; not writing allowed me to forget. (Which, eventually, I did: the wound stopped bleeding, then closed, and, eventually, nothing but perfect indifference was left. Now, like a great philosopher, if I could by the destruction of the whole world and all the living creatures within it, relieve myself of a small twitch in my pinky, I would; and the opposite: if by inventing a cure for AIDS and malaria, or a machine that turns stones to bread, or a pill which prevents violence and war, I could relieve the same pinky twitch, I would, too: my pinky matters to me more than the whole world’s happiness or — otherwise — does. M’s, unfortunately, included).
Yet, M imagines that I had stopped writing out of vindictiveness. She imagines this, I suppose, because that is the way she functions; and because this is how the people she knows function. But I am not like that: I was hurt at the time, but if I had any feelings towards M, they were the feelings of pity. By her own foolishness she was pushing me away; she thought she was disciplining me, but she was in fact — losing me: losing the only thing that — she repeatedly declared — gave her joy. She was, in effect, punishing herself; cutting off the nose to spite the face. How could I not pity that? Yet, M does not understand it. Pity is not a feeling she understands.
September 2, 2011 § Leave a comment
M wishes to correspond with me. She does because her life is empty — there is nothing enjoyable to fill her days — and she can’t think of any way to fill them. Poor soul, she’s not autotelic.
Consequently, like nearly everyone else on the planet (also not autotelic), she feels lonely. And though it is probably true that having experienced the superior companionship I can offer — the wit, the challenge, the fascination1 — (thank you, thank you) — of course she can think of no one else with whom she could get the same quality experience; yet, realistically speaking, it can’t be all about me: unless she is willing to do for others what she used to do for me, there probably isn’t a long line of people eager to provide correspondence: out of bed, M simply isn’t an interesting person.
(And she’s getting old. Though age does not affect a woman’s performance in bed, generally people don’t know this, and the number of those willing to take a punt on her skills must be even smaller now than it was twenty years ago).
Husband as absent as ever, kids gone off to their various schools, her life’s been deprived of all those little nuisances (meals, errands) which for most of us in her position provide the semblance of meaning: her mind is free to contemplate the emptiness of her life.
In a bid to revive our correspondence, M has written me two long emails discussing herself, her life, our love, what it has meant for her, her analysis of why it has died, and her hopes for the future. The overwhelming impression from the careful reading of both is her lack of grasp of the facts. She makes numerous references to events in the past which either did not happen, or did not happen the way she says she did.
“I could never love you more than my children”, she says at one point, “can you not understand it”, utterly convinced that I had repeatedly asked her to leave them and be with me; which, of course, I never did, having always understood clearly that I can never spend in her company more than the two weeks we were usually given at a stretch. I could only suffer the boredom of her conversation and her emotional volatility for so long — essentially, until the initial passion cooled off; which, being about two weeks, put a limit on our meetings; a limit which conveniently coincided with about the amount of time she could ever have off from her family duties.
So, I never asked.
In fact, there was one clear instance of the opposite: once, when at the security control of an airport in Asia, heading back, she turned around to say that she suddenly felt she could do it — by which she meant: ditch them all and stay: right now, by not going through that gate. Gently but decisively, I pushed her through the security gate.
I was doing the right thing, she said next day on the telephone, the right thing for her husband, for her children. What was there for me to do but not to deny it? Tell her that two weeks having been up, I was sick of her and eager for her to go back and stay away for the next three months?
It is easy to accept that M might be deluded as to her condition in life, or as to why things have happened to her, these being a matter of interpretation — merely faulty cerebration; but it always surprises me to see her not remembering facts; or misremembering them.
Yet, it should not surprise: misremembering seems a pretty common phenomenon: one I observed with all kids of people, including the closest: my mother and my wife.
Those who cannot remember the past, etc., says the philosopher. Surely, as a species, we’re doomed to repetition (birth, reproduction, death) — perhaps misremembering is the nature’s way to ensure that we do? Perhaps I have been able to break the mold, to live a different life because I have… a better memory?
So, what should I do now?
Past experience teaches that to engage her in honest correspondence makes little sense: to point out where she’s going wrong in her memories, her analysis, and her myth-making would, as always, fail to achieve a thing: it would only hurt her while she firmly held onto her misconception of things.
But to take up the correspondence while avoiding the truth (pretending to agree, or merely sidestepping the whole discussion) would be a waste of my time: what would I stand to gain from a correspondence which does not address the truth, and from which, as a result, I can never hope to learn a thing?
And, indeed, what would she gain from such correspondence? I’d be giving her comfort, no doubt, but comfort isn’t an absolute good and sometimes can be harmful: here, it would merely be anaesthesizing — it would help her continue to ignore the emptiness of her life; and thus allow her to do what she’s (unawares) resigned to: perpetuate the unhappy situation she’s in; whereas what M needs — if she is ever to be better — is a good, hard, honest look at her life, its hopelessness, and the urgent need to change everything. Now.
By far the best decision, therefore, would seem not to correspond at all — in the hope that her frustration should grow as a result and eventually precipitate a confrontation with truth. Not much of a chance of that in someone her age — if she has not figured it out by 45, what chance she suddenly will at 46? — but better some chance than none at all?
Or else to tell her to shut up and come for two weeks?
1 I do not mean fascination with me, God forbid, humble me, no, but with my own ability to become fascinated with things — chased silver, maki-e, Armenian red. Though, of course, it is also fascination with me: dull, un-autotelic people, unable to develop their own fascinations, see mine and catch them — but, all too often catch them wrong, not as fascination with whatever it is that I find fascinating at the moment — Bartolo di Fredi, say — but as a fascination with me — because I am capable of being fascinated. There is something to the theory that humans, by and large, are merely a semblance of individuals, but in fact empty machines; mere machines for replicating memes.