A new book!

Got this pre-loved, big format, hardbound copy of Jeanette Winterson’s The Stone Gods for only Php 350 in the school book sale! This is my 4th Winterson book after The Passion, Written on the Body, and Lighthousekeeping. Started reading it last night, and I’m excited to finish it and write about it. I’ll tell you what it’s about soon!

Essays in Love by Alain de Botton (Part IV)

  • The more familiar two people become, the more the language they speak together departs from that of ordinary, dictionary-defined discourse. Familiarity creates a new language, an in-house language of intimacy that carries references to the story the two lovers are weaving together, and that canot e readily understood by others. It is a language alluding to  their stock of shared experiences, it contains the history of the relationship, it is what makes talking to the loved one different from talking with anyone else.
  • Perhaps it is true that we do not really exist until there is someone there to see us existing, we cannot properly speak until there is someone who can understand what we are saying, in essence, we are not wholly alive until we are loved.
  • What does it mean that man is a ‘social animal’? only that humans need one another in order to define themselves and achieve self-consciousness. We cannot come to a proper sense of ourselves if there are not others around to show us where we end and others begin. ‘A man can acquire anything in solitude except a character,’ wrote Stendhal, suggesting that character has its genesis in the reactions of others to oneself. Because the ‘I” is not an integrated structure, its fluidity requires the contours provided by others. I need another to help me carry my history, one who knows me as well, sometimes better, than I know myself.
  • Without love, we lose the ability to possess a proper identiy, within love, there is a constant confirmation of self. It is no wonder that the gaze of God is so important in religion: to be seen is to be assured existence, all the better if one is dealing with a God or partner who loves us. One’s presence is legitimized in the eyes of another being who is for one [ and for whom one is] the world.
  • It is no coincidence if, semantically speaking, love and interest are almost interchangeable. To love someone is to take a deep interest in them, and hence by that concern, to bring them to a sense of what they are doing and saying. It takes the intimacy of a lover to point out facets of character others simply do not bother with, sides that may be difficult to confront.
  • Love seems bounded by two dissolutions – that of living under too many eyes, and that of living under too few.
  • If love returns us our reflection, then solitude is like being denied the use of a mirror, and allowing one’s imagination to make what it will of a cut or spot we know we have on our face. The reaction of others to our conduct is comparable to a mirror because it throws back an image of ourselves we are not able to see. It is what makes others so indispensable, that they are able to give us something we are unable to grasp alone, the elusive sense of our borders, the sense of our own character. In our knowledge of others, we are necessarily made to interpret a whole from parts. To fully know someone, one would in theory have to spend every minute of their life with them, in them.
  • The danger of ‘I”-confirmation is that we need others to legitimate our existence, but are thereby at their mercy to have a correct identity ascribed to us. What if we are loved by people with the grossest misunderstanding, those who deny us a side of ourselves by the poverty of their empathy? And what of the greater doubt: do not others by definition, distort us, whether for the better of for the worse?
  • Everyone returns us to a different sense of ourselves, for we become a little of who they think we are.
  • The labeling of others is not a violently obvious process. Most people do not force us into roles, they merely suggest them y their reactions, and hence ever so gently prevent us moving beyond assigned mould.
  • Overcoming childhood could be understood as an attempt to correct the false narrations of others, of our story-telling parents. But the struggle against narration continues beyond childhood: a propaganda war surrounds the decision of who we are, a number of interest groups struggling to assert their view of reality, to have their story heard. Yet reality remains distorted –either out of an enemy’s jealousy, or the indifferent’s neglect or our own  egocentric blindness. Even to love someone implies a gross preconception, a decision taken that someone is a genius or the most beautiful person on earth on the basis of not very much at all, an approach very far removed from the neutral stance real understanding might call for – a pleasant distortion, but a distortion nevertheless.
  • We long for a love without straight borders or straight lines, a love in which we are not reduced.
  • But as we must be labeled, characterized and defined by others, the person we end up loving is by definition the good enough barbecue skewerer, the person who loves us for more or less the things we need to be understood for.
  • Romantic nostalgia descends when we are faced with those wh might have been ur lovers, but whom chance has decreed we will never know. The possibility of an alternative love life is a reminder that the life we are leading is only one of a myriad of possible lives: and it is perhaps the impossibility of leading them all that plunges us into sadness. There is a longing for a return to a time without the need for choices, free of the sadness at the inevitable loos that all choice [however wonderful] has entailed.
  • The unknown carries with it a mirror of all our deepest, most inexpressible wishes. Longing cannot indefinitely direct itself at those we know, for their qualities are charted and therefore lack the mystery longing demands.
  • Did loving someone not follow the same circular pattern, in which the good and bad revolved in time? Otherwise mobile, we remain mistakenly attached to the fixity of human emotions, and to the idea of a hermetic division between love and non-love, once that should be crossed only twice, at the beginning and end of the relationship.
  • We could perhaps define maturity – that ever-elusive goal – as the ability to give everyone what they deserve when they deserve it, to separate the emotions that belong and should be restricted to oneself from those that should at once be expressed to their initiators, eater than passed on later and more innocent arrivals.
  • One may wonder why those who claim to love us at the same time harbor such apparently unfair hostilities and resentments. We shelter within an untold number of contradictory emotions, broad layers of infantile responses over which we can have little or no control. Rages, cannibalistic urges, destructive fantasies, bisexualities,and childhood paranoias are all enmeshed within the more respectable emotions.
  • Life for the emotional is very different, comprised of dizzying revolutions of the clock, for what they want changes so rapidly that who they are is constantly in question.
  • In our better moods, we would also find comfort under the illusion of a projected future. Because there was a threat that love would end as suddenly as it had begun, it was natural that we should reinforce the present with an appeal to a common future, one lasting at the very least until our death.
  • The tragedy of love is that it does not escape the temporal dimensions. When one is with a current lover, there is a particular crusty in the thought of one’s indifference towards past loves. There is something appalling in the idea that the person for whom you could sacrifice anything for today might in a few months cause you to cross the road [or to the bookshop] to avoid them.
  • Anhedonia – a disease defined by the British Medical Assoc as a reaction remarkably close to a mountain sickness resulting from the sudden terror brought on by the threat of happiness.
  • The problem with happiness is that in its rarity, it proves intensely terrifying and anxiety-inducing to accept.
  • The inability to live in the present perhaps lies in the fear of realizing that this may be the arrival of what one has longed for all of one’s life, the fear of leaving the relatively sheltered position of anticipation or memory, and hence tacitly admitting that this is the only life that one is ever likely [heavenly intervention aside] to live. If commitment is sense as a group of eggs, then to commit oneself to the present is to risk putting all one’s eggs in the present basket, rather than distributing them between the baskets of past and future.
  • We loved one another too much – or to confuse things, because we hated loving one another to the extent that we did. It amounted to a fundamental protest, I hate having no choice but to risk loving you like this. The pleasures of depending on someone pale next to the paralyzing fears that such dependence involves.
  • It is easiest ot accept happiness when it is brought about through things that one can control, that one has achieved after much effort and reason. Such happiness was dangerous precisely because it was so lacking in self-sufficient permanence.
  • Lovers may killed their own love story only because they are unable to tolerate the uncertainty, the sheer risk, that their experiment in happiness has delivered.
  • Hanging over every love story is the thought, as horrible as it is unknowable, of how it will end. It is as when, in full health and vigor, we try to imagine our own death, the only difference between the end of love and the end of life being that at least in the latter, we are granted the comforting thought that we will not feel anything after death. No such comfort for the lover, who knows that the end of the relationship will not necessarily be the end of love, and almost certainly not the end of life.
  • It is part of good manners not to question the criteria responsible for eliciting another’s love. The dream is that one has not been loved for criteria at all, but rather for who one is, an ontological status beyond properties or attributes. From within love, as within wealth, a taboo surrounds the means of acquiring and sustaining affection/property. Only poverty, either of love or money, leads one to question the system – perhaps the reason why lovers do not make great revolutionaries.
  • The desire is that I be loved even if I lost everything: leaving nothing but ‘me’, this mysterious ‘me’ taken to be the self at its weakest, most vulnerable point. Do you love me enough that I may be weak with you? Everyone loves strength, but do you love me for my weakness? That is the real test. Do you love me stripped of everything that might be lost, for only the things I will have for ever?
  • Once a partner has begun to lose interest, there is apparently little the other can do to arrest the process. Like seduction, withdrawal suffers under a blanket of reticence, an unmentionable issue at the centre of the relationship: I desire you/I don’t desire you — in both cases, it takes a age for either message to find articulation. The very breakdown of communication is hard to discuss, unless both parties have a desire to see it restored. This leaves the lover in a desperate situation: the charms and seduction of legitimate dialogue seem exhausted and produce only irritation. In so far as the lover acts legitimately [sweetly], it is normally ironic action, action that smothers love in the attempt to revive it. And so at this point, desperate to woo the partner back at any cost, the lover turns into romantic terrorism, the product of irredeemable situations, a gamut of tricks [sulking, jealousy, guilt] that attempt to force the partner to return love, by blowing up [in fits of tears, rage or otherwise] in front of the loved one. The terroristic partner knows he or she cannot realistically hope to see their love reciprocated, but the futility of something is not always [in love or in politics] a sufficient argument against it. Certain things are said not because they will be heard, but because it is important to speak.
  • At the basis of all sulks lies a wrong that might have been addressed and disappeared at once, but that instead is taken by the injured partner and stored for later and more painful detonation. Delays in explanations give grievances a weight that would lack if the matter had been addressed as soon as it had arisen. To display anger shortly after an offense occurs is the most generous thing one may do, for saves the sulked from the burgeoning of guilt and the need to talk the sulker down from his or her battlement.
  • The sulker is a complicated creature, giving off messages of deep ambivalence, crying out for help and attention, while at the same time rejecting it should it be offered, wanting to be understood without needing to speak.
  • Romantic terrorists are doomed to disappointment because if a fundamental inconsistency in their approach. You must love me, says the romantic terrorist, I will force you to love me by sulking you or making you feel jealous, but then comes the paradox, for if love is returned, it is at once considered tainted, and the romantic terrorist must complain, If I have only forced you to love me, then I cannot accept this love, for it was not spontaneously given. Romantic terrorism is a demand that negates itself in the process of its resolution, it bring the terrorist up against uncomfortable reality — that love’s death cannot be arrested.
  • To suffer a blow and feel nothing — in modern parlance, it means the blow must have been hard indeed.
  • It is surprising how often rejection in love is framed in moral language, the language of right and wrong, good and evil, as though to reject or not reject, to love or not to love, was something that naturally belonged to a branch of ethics. It is surprising how often the one who rejects is labelled evil, and the one who is rejected comes to embed the good.
  • The essence of Kant’s theory is that morality is to be found exclusively in the motive from which an act is performed. To love someone is moral only when that love is given simply for the sake of giving love.
  • One cannot blame a lover for loving or not loving, or it is a matter beyond their choice and hence responsibility — though what makes rejection in love harder to bear than donkeys who never can sing is that one did once see the lover loving. One finds it easier not to blame the donkey for not singing because it never sang, but the lover loved, perhaps only a short while ago, which makes the reality of the claim I cannot love you anymore all the harder to digest.
  • Repetition compulsion – an ungovernable process originating in the unconscious. As a result of its actions, the subject deliberately places himself in distressing situations, thereby repeating an old experience, but he does not recall this prototype; on the contrary, he has the strong impression that the situation is fully determined by the circumstances of the moment.
  • Feelings of virtue breed spontaneously in the fertile soil of suffering. The more one suffers, the more virtuous one must be. The Jesus Complex was entangled in feelings of superiority, the superiority of the underdog who appeals to a greater virtue in the face of the irresistible tyranny and blindness of his or her oppressors.
  • The Jesus complex lay at opposite ends of the spectrum from Marxism. Born out of self-hatred, marxism prevented me from becoming a member of any club that would have me. The Jesus Complex still left me outside the club gates but, because it was the result of ample self-love, declared that I was not accepted into the club because I was so special. Most clubs, being rather crude affairs, naturally could not appreciate the great, the wise, the sensitive, who were to be left at the gates or dropped by their girlfriends. My superiority was revealed primarily on the basis of my isolation and suffering: I suffer, therefore I am special. I am not understood, but for precisely that reason, I must be worthy of greater understanding.
  • We start trying to be wise when we realize that we are not born knowing how to live, but that life is a skill that has to be acquired, like learning to ride a bicycle or play the piano. But what does wisdom counsel us to do? It tells us to aim for tranquility and inner peace, a life free from anxiety, fear, idolatry, and harmful passion. Wisdom teaches us that our first impulses may not always be true, and that our appetites will lead us astray if we do not train reason to separate vain from genuine needs. It tells us to control our imagination or it will distort reality and turn mountains into molehills and frogs in to princesses. It tells us to hold our fears in check, so that we can be afraid of what will harm us, but not waste our energies fleeing shadows on the wall. It tells us we should not fear death, and that all we have to fear is fear itself.
  • The philosophy of mature love is marked by an active awareness of the good and bad within each person, it is full of temperance, it resists idealization, it is free of jealousy, masochism or obsession, it is a form of friendship with a sexual dimension, it is pleasant, peaceful and reciprocated [and perhaps explain why most people who have known desire would refuse its painlessness the title of love]. Immature love on the other hand [though it has little to do with age] is a story of chaotic lurching between idealization and disappointment, an unstable state where feelings of ecstasy & beatitude combine with impressions of drowning and fatal nausea, where the sense that one has finally found the answer comes together with the feeling that one has never been so lost. The logical climax of immature [because absolute] love comes into death, symbolic or real: the climax of mature love comes in marriage, and the attempt to avouch death via routine [the Sunday papers, trouser presses, remote controlled appliances]. For immature love accepts no compromise, and once we refuse compromise, we are on the road of death. to someone who has know the pinnacles of immature passion, to settle for marriage is an unstable price — one would rather end things by driving a car off a cliff.
  • Let me call them romantic positivists, who believed that with enough thought & therapy, love could be made into a less painful, indeed almost healthy, experience.
  • Whereas art had a morbid obsession with the problems that attended love, romantic positivists threw the focus on the very practical steps that could be taken to prevent the most common causes of anguish & heartache. Next to the pessimistic views of much of Western romantic literature the romantic positivists appeared as brave champions of a more enlightened and confident approach in an area of human experience traditionally left to the melancholy imagination of degenerate artists and psychotic poets.
  • Rendered pessimistic by the intractable pains of love, I decided to run away from it altogether. If romantic positivism could be of no help, then the only valid wisdom was the stoic advice never to fall in love again.
  • For all the sacrifices demanded by the stoic life, was there not something cowardly within it? At the heart if stoicism lay the desire to disappoint oneself before someone ekes had the chance to do so. Stoicism was a crude defense against the dangers of the affections of others, a danger that it would take more endurance than a life in the desert to be able to face. In calling for a monastic experience free of emotional turmoil, stoicism was simply truing to deny the legitimacy of certain potentially painful yet fundamental human needs. However brave, the stoic was in the end a coward at the point perhaps the highest reality, at the moment of love.
  • Love had to be appreciated without flight into dogmatic optimism or pessimism, without constructing a philosophy of one’s fears, or a morality of one’s disappointments. Love taught the analytic mind a certain humility, the lesson that however hard it struggled to reach immobile certainties, analysis could never be anything but flawed — and therefore never stray far from the ironic.

The Last Song movie

There is always, always something that’s going to make you cry in a Nicholas Sparks movie or book. It’s quite an obvious formula that your tears, as reader or viewer, will come from the family issues, romantic love, and someone dying in the narrative. Getting a copy of this movie already had me guessing beforehand ‘Who’s gonna die?” The knowledge of someone dying though, still did not prepare me for this tearjerker, however annoying Miley Cyrus’s lips are sometimes, or that there were scenes that were quite choppy they were unnecessary. The sea turtles are quite a puzzle for symbolism, because it is a weak excuse in the plot for the two lovers to be together. I haven’t read the book yet, but based on the adaptation’s appeal to capture the younger demographic, The Last Song cannot be measured for depth aside from the obvious romantic sentimentality. No other expectation should be made other than that.

Greg Kinnear who plays Miley’s father, and the little boy who played her little brother were believeable. Their support roles actually made me the story move forward. The two lovers were just caught in the dilemmas, and not actually the ones acting as catalysts.

My affinity goes to the father and brother in the movie. The lovers’ coming of age? Given.

T.S. Eliot reading Prufrock!

The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

By T.S. Eliot

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question. . .                               10
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,                               20
And seeing that it was a soft October night
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;                                30
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—                               40
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all;
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,                       50
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?                    60
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
 .     .     .     .     .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets              70
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? . . .

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
 .     .     .     .     .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep . . . tired . . . or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?                  80
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet–and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,                                             90
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say, “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,                                           100
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”                                          110
 .     .     .     .     .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old . . . I grow old . . .                                              120
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown               130
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

New books!

I made a self-imposed moratorium on myself with books, but I just couldn’t help buying these four today as homage to the classic writers and to Diana Wynne Jones who recently passed away.

Only P180 each!

Flipped through the pages, and it has 2-5 short stories in it. What a bargain! It’s really handy because they’re just pocket-sized, and has uniform, classy, minimalist covers that will look good as a set! By the way, there are FIFTY titles in the Mini Modern Classics set to celebrate Penguin’s 50th anniversary. Gotta collect them all! 🙂

Sigh, goodbye Ms. Jones! I look forward to reading the original concept of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film, Howl’s Moving Castle. Even Neil Gaiman got sad that you’ve passed on.

Put me in a straightjacket if you’re with me and we’ll happen to pass by Fully Booked again!