Essays in Love by Alain de Botton (Part II)


  • Two kinds of lying: lying in order to escape and lying in order to be loved.
  • Seduction is a form of acting, a move from spontaneous behavior shaped by an audience. But just as an actor needs to have a concept of the audience’s expectations, so too the seducer must have an idea of what the beloved will want to hear – so that if there is a conclusive argument against lying in order to be loved, it is that the actor can have no idea of what his or her audience will be touched by. The only justification for acting would lie in its effectiveness compared with spontaneity.
  • More often than not, we achieve our goals by coincidence rather than design, dispiriting news for the seducer, who is imbued with the spirit of positivism and rationalism, believing that with enough careful and almost scientific research, laws for the fall into love may be discovered. Seducers proceed in the hope of finding love hooks to ensnare the beloved – a certain smile, or opinion, or way of holding a fork…but it is an unfortunate fact that though love hooks exist for everyone; if we hit upon them in the course of seduction, it is more of change than by calculation.
  • The mind can never leave the body, and to suggest it should is naïve. For to think does not only mean simply to judge [or not to feel], it is to leave one’s own sphere, to think of another, to empathize, to place oneself where one’s body is not, to become the other’s body, to feel their pleasure and respond to their pulses, to climax with and for them. Without the mind, the body can think only of itself and its own pleasure, there can be no synchronicity or search for the other’s erogenous pathways. What one does not feel oneself, one must think. It is the mind that introduces congruence, and regulates pulses.
  • It would be a space beyond recorded time, compressed yet expansive, kaleidoscopic, polymorphous, supremely mortal, the disintegration of all syntax and law, the corset of language burst in screams beyond meaning, beyond the political, beyond the taboo, and into the realm of fluid forgetting.
  • When we look at someone [an angel] from a position of unrequited love and imagine the pleasures that being in heaven with them might bring us, we are prone to overlook one important danger: how soon their attractions might pale if they began to love us back. We fall in love because we long to escape from ourselves with someone as beautiful, intelligent and witty as we are ugly, stupid, and dull. But what if such a perfect being should one day turn around and decide they will love us back?…if in order to love, we must believe that the beloved surpasses us in some way, does not a cruel paradox emerge when they return that love?
  • For if one is not wholly convinced of one’s own loveability, then receiving affection may feel like being given a great honour without quite knowing what one has done to earn it.
  • Unrequited love may be painful, but it is safely painful, because it does not involve inflicting damage on anyone but oneself, a private pain that is as bitter-sweet as it is self-induced. But as soon as love is reciprocated, one must be prepared to give up the passivity of simply being hurt and take on the responsibility of perpetrating hurt oneself.
  • It was the classic Marxist thought, where love is desired, but impossible to accept, for fear of the disappointment that will ensue when the true self is revealed – a disappointment that has already occurred, but is now projected on to the future. Marxists feel their core self to be so deeply unacceptable that intimacy necessarily reveal them to be charlatans. Therefore, why accept the gift of love, when it is sure to be taken away imminently? If you love me now, thinks the Marxist, and if you’re not seeing the whole of me, it would be crazy to grow used to your love until such time as you do.
  • Marxists would unconsciously prefer that their dreams remain the realm of fantasy. They would prefer that their love was not much more acknowledged, that their partner not call them too often, or do them the decency of being emotionally available the majority of the time, a situation in accordance with their sense of worth –why should others think any better of them than they think of themselves? If the beloved by some accident should think well of them…then the Marxist’s first impulse may be to shatter the idyll, not because it is unwelcome, but because it feels undeserved. Only so long as the loved one believes the Marxist is more or less nothing can the Marxist continue to believe that the loved one is more or less everything. For the beloved to begin loving would directly tarnish their perfections by an unfortunate association with scoundrels.
  • The Marxist cry is hence a paradoxical, ‘Defy me and I will love you, don’t call me on time, and I will kiss you, don’t sleep with me and I will adore you.’ expressed in its horticultural form, Marxism is the complex that involves thinking the grass is always greener on the other side.
  • To be loved by someone is to realize how much they share in the same dependent needs the resolution of which had attracted us to them in the first place. We would not love if there were no lack within us, but paradoxically, we are offended by a similar lack in the other. Expecting to find the answer, we find only the duplicate of our own problem. We realize how much they need to find an idol, we see that the beloved does not escape our sense of helplessness, and are hence forced to give up on the childish passivity of hiding behind Godlike admiration and worship, in order to take on the responsibility of both carrying and being carried.
  • The desired person must therefore achieve the correct balance for the Marxist in an area where imbalance seems the norm, the balance between excessive vulnerability and excessive independence.
  • There is a long and gloomy tradition in Western thought arguing that love can ultimately only be thought of as an unreciprocated, admiring, Marxist exercise, where desire thrives on the impossibility of ever seeing love returned. According to this view, love is simple a direction, not a place, and burns itself out with the attainment of its goal, the possession [in bed or otherwise] of the loved one.
  • According to this view, lovers cannot do anything save oscillate between the twin poles of yearning for and annoyance with. Love has no middle ground, it is simply a direction, what it desires it cannot desire beyond capture. Love should therefore burn itself out with its fulfillment, possession of the desired extinguishes desire.

 

Advertisements

Essays in Love by Alain de Botton (Part I)

  • Through romantic fatalism, we avoid the unthinkable thought that the need to love is always prior to our love for anyone in particular…my mistake had been to confuse a destiny to love with a destiny to love a given person.
  • If cynicism and love lie at opposite ends of the spectrum, do we not sometimes fall in love in order to escape the debilitating cynicism to which we are prone? Is there not in every coup de foudre a certain willful exaggeration of the qualities of the beloved, an exaggeration that distracts us from disillusion by focusing our energies on a given face, in which we are briefly and miraculously able to believe?
  • Every fall into love involves [to adapt Oscar Wilde] the triumph of hope over self-knowledge. We fall in love hoping that we will not find in the other what we know is in ourselves – all the cowardice, weakness, laziness, dishonesty, compromise and brute stupidity. We throw a cordon of love around the chosen one, and decide that everything that lies within it will somehow be free of our faults and hence loveable. We locate inside another a perfection that eludes us within ourselves, and through union with the beloved, hope somehow to maintain [against evidence of all self-knowledge] a precarious faith in the species.

Why did awareness of this not prevent my fall into love? Because the illogicality and childishness of my desire did not outweigh my need to believe. I knew the void that romantic illusion could fill, I knew the exhilaration that came from identifying someone, anyone, as admirable.

  • Love reinvents our needs with unique speed and specificity.
  • If the fall into love happens so rapidly, it is perhaps because the wish to love has preceded the beloved – the need has invented its solution. The appearance of the beloved is only the second stage of a prior [but largely unconscious] need to love someone – our hunger for love moulding their features, our desire crystalizing around them. [But the honest side of us will never let the deception go unchallenged. There will always be moments when we will doubt whether our lover exists in reality as we imagine them in our minds – or whether they are not just a hallucination we have invented to prevent the inevitable loveless collapse.]
  • Yet we can only ever fall in love without knowing who we have in love with. The initial movement is necessarily founded on ignorance. So if I called it love in the face of so many doubts, both psychological and epistemological, it was perhaps out of a belief that the word could never be used accurately. As love was not a place, or colour, or chemical, but all three of these and more, or none of these and less, might not everyone speak and decide as they wished when it came to this province? Did this question not lie beyond the academic realm of true and false? Love or simple obsession? Who, if not time [which was its own liar] could possibly begin to tell?
  • For those in love with certainty, seduction is no territory in which to stray. Every smile an every word reveals itself as an avenue leading to a dozen if not twelve thousand possibilities. Gestures and remark that in normal life [that is, life without love,] can be taken at face value now exhaust dictionaries with possible definitions.
  • As soon as one begins looking for signs of mutual attraction, then everything that the beloved says or does can be taken to mean almost anything.
  • It was desire that had turned me into this detective, a relentless hunter for clues that would have been ignored had I less been afflicted. It was desire that made me into a romantic paranoiac, reading meaning into everything. Desire had transformed me into a decoder of symbols, an interpreter of the landscape [and therefore a potential victim of the pathetic fallacy]. Yet whatever my impatience, nor were these questions free of the inflaming power of all things enigmatic. The ambiguity promised either salvation or damnation, but demanded a lifetime to reveal itself. And the longer I hoped, the more the person I hoped for became exalted, miraculous, perfect, worth hoping for. The very delay helped to increase desirability, an excitement that instant gratification could never have provided…however much I resented it, I recognized that things needed to remain unsaid. The most attractive are not those who allow us to kiss them at once [we soon feel ungrateful] or those who never allow us to kiss them [we soon forget them], but those who coyly lead us between the two extremes.
  • It is because shyness is the perfect answer to the fundamental doubts within seduction that it is so often invoked to explain the paucity of clear evidence of desire…its invocation betrays all the hallmarks of a hallucinating mind, for is there not always evidence for shyness in someone’s behavior?
  • Out of this perceived inferiority emerged the need to take on a personality that was not directly my own, a seducing self that was not directly my own, a seducing self that would locate and respond to the demands of this superior being…love forced me not to look at myself as through the imagined eyes of the beloved. Not: Who am I? but: Who am I for her?
  • If staying true to oneself is deemed an essential criterion of moral selfhood, then seduction had led me to resolutely fail the ethical test.
  • But this was no easy task, a reminder that understanding another requires hours of careful attention and interpretation, teasing a coherent character from a thousand words and actions.

Tangled!

The tagline of the movie, “They’re taking adventure to new lengths,” really justifies the extent Disney went to remaking this Brothers Grimm classic. This movie marks the 50th animated film made by Walt Disney Animation Studios, and it’s really extra special with its wonderful music, the breathtaking digital magic of its animation, the heartwarming narrative and the easily lovable characters that will keep you grinning, and sighing, and maybe crying towards the end. How is it different from the past princess films?

First, the title. There was critique about renaming the film differently than the fairy tale it adapted, but Disney defended this move by saying that Tangled is not just about Rapunzel,  it’s also about Flynn Rider, the male protagonist who is the key element in all the deviation they made from the fairy tale. Give it to the bad boy prototype to shake things up, to make life exciting, to convert stasis to motion. The word ‘tangled’ is the perfect description of the ‘beneficial’ misfortune of two young people who met each other under unlikely circumstances (and naturally fall in love). They are on a common ground though, as their lives become entwined: they both pursue their freedom, a leitmotif that runs clearly till the end of the film.

Second, the music. This Oscar-nominated musical features the great Alan Menken,  and when you know it’s Menken music, he’d have a surefire hit song (The Little Mermaid, Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, and Enchanted). Despite this movie’s pop-rock overtones, the period music that he created in the soundtrack will still remind the audience about its medieval historicity. Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, and Donna Murphy sing their hearts out in this adventure. Mandy’s a bit inept in the Broadway-like range of some songs, and her best vocal performance is the duet with Zachary in the syrupy-sweet “I See the Light” which is also luckily, the Oscar nominated original song for this year. Zachary Levi (of Chuck TV series fame) had his first singing stint with Katherine McPhee in the re-recording of the song “Terrified,” and his baritone voice is promising for any singing stint in the future. Donna Murphy on the other hand, is WOW. Her voice is cunning, commanding, captivating. All musical nuances as a scheming evil stepmother was delivered to perfection.

Lastly, the non-human sidekicks. Maximus, the palace horse, was hilarious! His human-like qualities are the funniest, and his fights with Flynn are laugh out loud moments. The mimicry of bodily actions in animated form are quite amazing, given that he has four legs! Pascal, Rapunzel’s cute chameleon, conveys clear emotions through its wide range of facial expressions. It serves as Rapunzel’s confidant and conscience, and despite its tiny form was able to assert its formidable character in the narrative.

Tangled has a lot of ‘easter eggs’ in store for its viewers. Allusions to past Disney movies can be seen, as homage to the wonderful history of Disney’s animation. The traditional format is remediated into digital, adding oomph to the usual, thus adding more visual pleasure to its audience. It’s a must-see. Loved by its critics and its audiences, Tangled is a milestone in animated cinema.