Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Dangerous Cocktail

Recipe:

--1 somewhat serious perusal of St. Augustine's Confessions
--1 rapt viewing of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight

Shake..... (Read the warning label)

What comes out? Well, if you're like me (it helps to dust the cocktail with a good helping of suspended disbelief), you get a tragic, mental, emotional, ripping noise that comes from your gut and ends up hanging, embarrassingly, in the room like a frumpy ghost.

The cats think it's all good fun.

Why exactly are love stories like that (Achilles and Patroclus, Romeo and Juliette, Troilus and Cressida, Layla and Majnun, or Clapton and Pattie Boyde, for that matter) so compelling?

And--forgive me, this is not systematic philosophical inquiry by any means--why does it seem like the story is, at bottom, that which moves us, and not sympathy for the individuals themselves, trapped by their tragedies? It is not the sweet, loyal face of Patroclus that we pine for. Clapton's "Layla" does not invoke a sudden desire to see (extend to the other senses) the object of his personal "brand of heroine." It's the idea of the story that draws us, hungry and battling some inner turmoil we can't quite articulate, to these fictions.

But I've stepped over a line, calling them fictions, as if positing that we don't respond equally to "true" stories. But then, retold, what story is entirely devoid of fiction?

Let that rest, though.

My question: Is it the idea that we cherish, the idea that two people can want each other so badly.... We've certainly felt it ourselves. But if the dream fails for us, as it so often does, was it the dream that we loved or the human embodiment that dream?

And poor Augustine, to hold sexual love as the basest of human desires. Well, it's certainly the source of great suffering; some romantics would give anything for a crack at such love.

So what if, indeed, it is the dream we long for? Are we not, as Augustine would say, blind to the true nature of our desires, which crave the invisible, intangible, unchanging things, the dreams that vanish upon waking, whispers so frail they splinter and dissipate when the story ends, and we are left hollow, seeking incarnations in the place of some divinity? In other words, are we crazy?

Ugh! *stupid cocktail* Why this wretched desire for this opium that wreaks havoc on our capacity to appreciate, er, pretty damned much anything during the time the mind succumbs to the dream?

And afterwards? A lingering throb, the bite of regurgitated bile.

Warning: (1) Serving size is directly proportional to the extent of hangover one wishes to endure days following. (2) Consumption of the above recipe impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.