Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Word Love

I've been thinking about the word love recently; the word is used to cover so many aspects of interaction between (human) beings. And this morning I found myself listening to Meat Loaf.

I don't know anything about you, baby
But you're everything I'm dreaming of
I don't know who you are
But you're a real dead ringer for love
A real dead ringer for love
Meat Loaf, Dead ringer for love

And all I can do is keep on telling you
I want you
I need you
But there ain't no way
I'm ever gonna love you
Meat Loaf, Two out of three ain't bad

How well these songs point to projection and romantic attachment. And yet behind these feelings is the call to oneness. I don't often listen to Meat Loaf and when I do I'm reminded of a friendship when I was about fourteen. My friend liked the music and somehow when I look back I see a resonance in his disposition and that of the music. He was a about a year older, straight and his time was split between mates and his girlfriend. I was waiting to grow out of my gay desires; 'it's just a phase I'm going through'. Of course it was not a phase. I never had any sexual desire for this friend; he was just so obviously straight and into girls, but we were good mates. I'd like to say I loved him, pointing to that deep camaraderie between people who enjoy each others company / being but I'm not sure I did, I'm not sure I had the capacity to hold what I was, to be comfortable enough in my own skin, and yet that friendship was important to me and when I think of it I feel that there is some unfinished business. We drifted apart when he left school and I stayed on in the sixth form but when he was about seventeen or eighteen, possibly nineteen he came looking for me to ask me to be his best man. He was getting married. I'd not met the girl. I was still at school, struggling to make sense of and/or repressing my (homo)sexuality, feeling bad about my weedy frame and graced with a sensitivity and wisdom that at the time I could not integrate into a sense of what it was to be a man. I said no, I would not be his best man. I could see I had nothing of the skills required for the role. He was disappointed. I see that he must have seen something in me he valued and I feel a sadness that we lost contact. There is a very subtle aspect to love here. It is the part of ourselves that knows what is for the best. It is related to wisdom and compassion.

There are many aspects to sex but at its root sex is to cleave. Cleave in both meanings of the word together; to split open (the self) along its natural grain AND to adhere. It is a call to oneness. It can spring from or lead to deeper emotional intimacy. The libidinal and the emotional aspect of this weave a complex tapestry and represent the deep desire both to emerge from and back into oneness. This oneness is the love that all the various endeavours leading to (and from) our projections and attachments seek. Anyone who understands this could not be homophobic. Moreover, intense sexual desire requires distance; it is to some extent natural for that to fade as deeper love bonds form and romantic attachments fade into mature relationship. Gay and straight adolescents of my generation (and I say of my generation as I think things are changing) explored this tapestry from very different starting points. My straight contemporaries started dating girls they at least partly knew in school and the emotional aspect formed a backdrop against which exploration of sex could begin; both threads were discovered together. But for gay men the two are often separate; starting by meeting strangers and engaging in sex with little or no emotional backdrop we had to come out before we could start the exploration. And of course gay men together are very yang. There is yin in it but the balance is very different from a heterosexual relationship.

This came to me a week or so back -

Cruising and sex with men in gay bars
Like daffodils in springtime
How wonderful to be naked with a man

Anonymous, base, lust fuelled sex can indeed be awful but it can be full of life and end in laughter at the absurd. In such laughter is to be found a twinkling of love.

I don't know anything about you, baby
But you're everything I'm dreaming of
I don't know who you are
But you're a real dead ringer for love
A real dead ringer for love

life's journey is to gain the wisdom to know just which aspects of 'love' we glimpse in those twinklings and many a pop ballad has been written on that subject!

Returning to friendship:
“Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend. The rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair. Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest. Above all, Eros (while it lasts) is necessarily between two only. But two, far from being the necessary number for Friendship, is not even the best. And the reason for this is important. ... In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets... Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, 'Here comes one who will augment our loves.' For in this love 'to divide is not to take away.” 

― C.S. LewisThe Four Loves

Friday, 4 April 2014

Unfolding beauty

Through the week DC and I went to see an amateur production of The Steemie. It was great; well acted, and staged. We both very much enjoyed it. I later commented to DC that we were probably getting to be the last generation who had experienced women such as those in the play. One of the women reminded me so much of my mother's mother. As well as humour there is a lot of the struggle and hardship of 1950's working class life portrayed in this play, together with warmth and friendship.

I was talking this evening about the play with my parents. They started to tell of their experience as children round about that time. My great grand mother on my mother's side came to England from Ireland and it seems soon had my grand mother. My grand mother had a hard life and a kind heart. Her husband was amongst other things a miner. Talking with my parents a number of stories came out. My grand mother used to take in washing to earn money. She would wash it at home by hand in a laborious process then iron it using a flat iron heated on a coal range. One day my mother still a child ran by and knocked over some of the ironing. Her mother picked the whole lot up and threw it over to the floor saying 'I'm sick!' I could feel the exhausted almost desperate state of my grand mother and the shock and realisation of my mother. 'That was when I realised' said my mother. I knew what she was going to say next - 'and I started to help her' I could see the pivotal experience. There is the Buddha nature.

My father told tales from his childhood and I recalled his parents. His mother died when I was eighteen, I used to enjoy her company and occasionally I find I miss her almost thirty years on. My brother and I have our roots are in working class Tyneside and have made the shift to middle class. But times and class structure change and in truth the working class of my grand parents is no more. My life has encompassed the tail end of a way and time now gone together with a way and time of which my grand parents could not have dreamed. I find it had to imagine what my nephews lives will encompass.

The Buddha nature, unborn, unchanging yet reflecting and reflected in this unfolding moment.

In memory of my grand parents.