The Insistence of the Flesh
(This post will be heavily dependant on others I have written and without having read those may approach gibberish. If this post doesn’t make sense to you, I would encourage you to (re)read Alone in this world, Most Beautiful, Life on Earth, Time on Earth, So Red the Rose, I prayed before I wrote this…, Invisible Sleeping Woman…,
well, really, all the prose I’ve written to this point. This is not so much a summary moment but definitely a point in that progression of thought.)
“Is this a dagger which I see before me,
the handle towards my hand? Come let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
to feeling as to sight? or art thou but
a dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
as this which I now draw.”
I want to say, “Gee Whiz, Mac, grab it for God’s sake and find out.” If this treachery you imagine yourself committing is real, the real touch of a real blade will certainly clarify it for you. But “art thou but a dagger of the mind, a false creation, Proceeding from the heat oppressed brain?”
So what is real?
Well, which sense are you asking?
Touch, obviously, is compelled by physical contact with an object. Taste and smell, largely interdependent, operate at distance in addition to immediate contact. How often have you said,”That smells so good I can almost taste it.” In your mind, you are tasting it. Sight and hearing; ah, there’s the rub; they are designed to gather information from distance without any contact with the object. I see my mesquite tree in my front yard and I know it’s real without touching it. I think it’s beautiful in a non-traditional way but when I touch it, most displeasing to the touch; rough, brittle bark that splinters against my hand and, yet, the dry, almost sandalwood scent of it is very pleasing to my nose. So, is it beautiful or not? What is the summary judgement of this tree, so I can move on?
Could we possibly go though life examining each object by each sense to render judgement knowing that the judgement would only apply to ourselves because each person senses differently? Not to mention the difference in context, the prejudicial baggage we all carry?
The sweet, blessed chaos of it all.
A psychological experiment for you: imagine a circle and a square. Which is more pleasing to you? I would expect the vast majority would respond the circle. Why? We are already imagining touching the smooth, round circle as opposed to the sharp, pointed square. The lesson is they should both be equal; they are only constructs of our minds.
Everything is constructed in our minds. That is where the real only is.
Yesterday, I was listening to my new disc of J.S. Bach, the Goldberg Variations (if you have 1.5 hours to just listen with eyes closed, I highly recommend) and with my eyes closed, I began to see the shapes of the notes: they appeared round, like drops of water falling into a pool of water creating a similar sound, the sustain of the notes rippling out across the pool. I’m just saying I imagined them beautifully realized; interesting, isn’t it, I didn’t imagine them as squares falling.
When I was at the bookstore buying the Goldberg Variations, I went over to the art section to get a book on Matisse (for those of you keeping up with the inside jokes.) I noticed this life size bronze sculpture of a very homely woman, seated, with a shawl over the back of her head. As I was looking at this large nosed, heavily wrinkled, square jawed face with small sallow looking eyes, I thought “Okay, that’s somebody’s mom. No one would pick her as a model, but the artist put great thought and feeling into the execution of that piece.” As I stared at it I realized it was a mother, Mother Teresa. The flush of embarrassment and shame I felt is impossible to express. Because she didn’t fit into my preconceived notion of beauty, I thought of her as ugly, unworthy of artistic praise. Traumatic, in a word, which I suppose it should have been.
I immediately thought of a quote of hers that I read in her obituary: paraphrased from memory,”I never heard the voice of God, or felt a calling by Him to my work. I just felt it was the best use of my time on this Earth.” There’s your beauty.
It’s been my experience that physical beauty and spiritual beauty rarely coincide in the same person; the way seems to be easier for the physically gifted and I think that suffering, spiritually or physically, is necessary for spiritual growth. The women that I end up loving the most all have expressed to me that at some point they had a dark time in their lives and I think it’s the residual beauty from that suffering that bonds me to them. The consolation of the suffering is to be made exquisite, seen perfect, eternal in an other’s love.
The tricks the eyes play on the mind and vice-versa. Circles and squares.
It is at this point I must point out my own hypocrisy. Am I going to stand here straight faced and tell you that when I see a beautiful woman I wonder about her soul? That is exactly what this is all about. Though I know what bonds me to people, there is still a knee-jerk reaction to my senses that makes me curious about the beautiful woman. Those senses we are given to gather information from distance, sight and hearing, push our conscious minds aside to make way for smell and taste, and finally the most immediate and strongest sense, touch. My theory is that we are touch dominate beings; all the other senses are just dancing to touch’s tune. What is most pleasing to our minds to experience through touch is what forms the backdrop that the other senses operate in. What is it in the circle of the breasts and hips, the ebb and flow in the shape of a woman, that compels a man other than the thought of touch? This is the insistence of the flesh; that the world is only truly real when it is tactile, under the most basic, non-evolved of our senses. So much of our world is made without thought to whether the product of our labor serves us or is in service of our desire to make what is in our minds, the compilation of all our senses, tactile. The irony is, of course, that our reality, ourselves and every person we encounter, exist only in each individuals mind and that the reason the world is unsatisfying is that each individual is different. Our world is a consensus reality, an amalgamation of thought not sorted by sense awareness, that serves no one perfectly if he looks outside of himself to find the definition of reality. We create our own Heaven and Hell, and as Ricky Lee Jones put it better than I ever could, “The only angels that see us now, look out through each other’s eyes.”
But, still, I can’t wait to touch you, my love.