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.
August 27, 2011 § Leave a comment
Fifteen days in the company of my heirs has taught me some interesting things about them:
1. They like stuffy, damp rooms. (Windows remain closed, a/c unused). It’s as if they did not notice the stink.
2. Plastic clothes do not bother them. Patting their back makes a smacking sound — like slapping a super-market shopping bag — yet, they feel neither itchy, nor scratchy, nor sweaty in their shopping bags — er, clothes. Incredible.
3. They do not want to try any strange or unusual foods. They came to Europe not in order to try anything new, but because everyone is going to Europe. It’s not an exercise in exploring the unexplored, but of doing more of what everyone else already does.
4. The opportunity to see the sunrise over the sea from my living room window did not tempt them once to get up a little earlier during their entire 15 day stay.
5. It is possible to walk through this beautiful city and not notice its beauty.
6. A good-looking man and a average-passable woman — their parents — can give birth to three extraordinarily ugly children. Their feet in particular fascinated me: I have never seen such ugly, misshapen, flat, huge feet in my life. They had no ankles: the leg, as massive and as straight as a Byzantine malachite column just runs directly into the broad, flat foot without any attempt at forming anything resembling a joint. With feet like that, they ought to be good swimmers, but — none can swim.
7. Although interaction with older siblings can raise the apparent age and mental maturity of the younger children, apparently the opposite is also possible. The two girls are respectively 15 and 18, but speak and behave as if they were 12.
8. They have no interests. They have nothing interesting to tell and when one tries to tell them something, they quickly telegraph lack of interest by switching the topic. The interaction is all at a level of dumb jokes and constant mutual teasing.
9. Hearing their mother tell me her life story was edifying: she married in a hurry the first man who proposed, in order to get away from her nasty mother; for all that, she remains in constant touch with her mother (now that they no longer live together, she seems less nasty) and says she’s important in her life (“a mother is a mother”) — possibly because the marriage has turned out a failure.
10. The overall impression of the life-story is one of an uninterrupted sequence of bad decisions, one after another, relentlessly. It reminds me of a certain comedian who once observed about a certain national leader that he consequently erred every day of his life for ten years straight.
11. Most advice I give her, elicits disbelief that such a course of action can even be possible.
They seem badly made: both physically and mentally. I don’t recognize anything of myself in these people. How can it be possible that we are the same species?