Monday, September 14, 2009


Here are some thoughts, curious about yours...

What is love? Aristotle described philia, as a desire to do “what it good for the other not for one’s own sake, but for theirs.”

A problematic: A conversation on love, one could imagine, could swiftly expand like a cloud swallowing everything in its path- how did we come to love, why do we love, what kinds of love are there, how do desire and intimacy increase love or cause its destruction? Love, it seems, raises only questions while offering no substantive answers. Likewise, those questions stretch to encompass every emotion, anger, jealousy, despair and happiness. Loves reach is too great.

Why talk about love? What is it about this moment, this place, our relationship, that makes a conversation on love meaningful, even necessary?
I think that while the conditions of love have evolved with our western culture, and the way that we love in relationships has adapted accordingly, we are fundamentally separated, disconnected, as a society. I feel it every day, as I pass people on the street in need without a thought and I hope that people in stores will not talk to me. As much as I try to fight these behaviors, I recognize that this is how I most naturally am. Am I an agorophobe? A classist? Probably yes. But moreover, I am wary of contact. Wary of people who want things from me, even if that thing is just a moment of conversation. I am naturally, and I believe socially conditioned to be indifferent or even selfish.

And the problem with that is, of course, that generosity is one of the main manifestations of love- to do, as Aristotle says, what is good for the other. It transcends and unites all types of love: intimate and familial relations, friendships and professional relationships. All hinge on the generosity of spirit and action.

So in my life, and most definitively in my work and our work, enters the idea of katabasis: a moment of humility. In Conditions of Love, John Armstrong describes it as a “coming down from the plateau of indifference” and defines it as a recuperative virtue. These are the moments that I believe we are making, this is the quality that we attempt to extend to an often-indifferent public. Erich Fromm, in The Art of Loving, says that “our disconnection from other people is the central problem of our times”. It seems to me that we are, in the same small way as a novel or piece of music, offering people an opportunity to join us in a shared moment, which is love.

The leap: To get from indifference to love requires that which Judith Butler insists is what makes a life: recognition. In order to love, one must be able to see, to really see, another person. But on a far more basic and broad level, recognition is what enables us to respect life, precarious as it is. So no love can exists without recognition, it is a fundamental condition of love.

A conversation about a conversation about love. Because how do we have a conversation on love? As I see it, it is too vast a territory to be simply set off upon, we need to somehow demarcate, map, and chart a course across its expanse, just the opposite of what we will do in the balloon. For if we just float over love, we will never get to any meaningful understanding of it, and particularly its relevance to our work, which I think is at issue here. This conversation on love is a conversation about us, it is us.

more to follow..

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