Posts Tagged With: art

Love is a Beautiful Fiction

I. Why “Love”?

Her soft voice had me falling over her every word. My eyes were transfixed on her smile, my ears tuned into her story. She apologized for talking so much. I told her I love to listen. It’s how we get to know one another, I said.

Something was happening. Not any something, something exceptional. I was not going to censor how I felt. I was going away soon and had been too long bound to fear. Excited and curious, she encouraged me to speak. I said I had never felt this way in a long time. My knees were shaking. I wanted to lunge over the table and kiss her. I had never felt so connected to someone for years, so attracted to who they were. She said she was feeling something special, too. She smiled.

She asked me what I liked about her so much. I didn’t know, but I felt obliged to respond, so I foolishly tried to capture my feelings in words. It was a beautiful story if I ever heard one. A sincere and seductive fiction. She said I was sweet.

Moments later we were making out on Michigan Avenue right outside the thrift store she worked at. She said I was beautiful, that someone should paint a portrait of me. Near the end of our date, she said she didn’t feel the same about me. In the minute I had taken to use the restroom, she lost confidence in her desire. She may have been afraid of being in a long-term relationship, but she was also afraid of feeling used and of growing close to someone who was leaving so soon. She said she needed more time to assess her feelings and that we should get together again another night.

When I returned home, I did what every internet junkie does. I logged onto Facebook and “updated my status:”

 Mutually “falling in love” (or whatever the fuck you want to call knee-shaking intense attraction) with someone you just met is super amazing

Why had I chosen those words, “falling in love”? Yes, I had put them in scare quotes to emphasize my suspicion, but I had never thought the word “love” during the entire experience. Only after it was over did I choose those words. Why?


II. Who Loves Who?

By morning, the previous night seemed relatively uneventful. What had just happened? Why had such a powerful event been diluted with a few hour holiday from conscious thought? Was I protecting myself from being hurt, or had I ever really felt those feelings in the first place? Had I interpreted my attraction to her, my shaky knees, and her attraction to me as “love” for the sake of security after heart aching reflection, indecision over a car purchase, intoxication, and anticipation for sexual commencement?

A thought darkened my image of myself: had I only said what I said in order to fuck her? Was I one of those douche bag guys who would say anything to get in a girl’s pants? I was concerned the previous night that that’s what she was afraid of. I reassured myself and her that I was being sincere and I sincerely believed that! But I can be a manipulative person with plans below the surface, acting and desiring to be considerate but not without a more primal underlying desire. Was I unaware of my subterranian agenda? Had I fooled myself the night before that I wasn’t one of those guys? I wanted to believe I was better, but the question presented itself to me: was I?

But that sketchy story is also a fiction, a story just as much as the previous one about falling in love. Just as there is no one ultimate meaning to life and the cosmos, there is no intrinsic meaning to our affect and actions. Whether I narrate myself as sincere and sweet or stealthy and seductive, when it comes down to it, I am both and neither, for all “I” am is a fiction with no author. “I” am but a translator of actions and affect of the practices of my-self-formation. To translate oneself to oneself is perhaps our most fundamental responsibility. Who is self? Not “I,” but self-conscious autopoesis–life becoming conscious of itself, naming itself as such, and narrating itself into existence through its bastard child be call language.

It’s a scary thing not knowing who we are. And that’s why we write. More fundamental than being sincere, sweet, stealthy, and seductive, I am a sorcerer conjuring new identities and worlds to inhabit. These are not my creations, for I do not simply precede them as a cause to an effect. For the very “I” who has crafted these narrative dolls is itself a doll woven by yet a doll before it and the one before it and is contingent upon whatever string and instruments those dolls have been enlightened to use. We are driven to translate our affect and actions to others in conversation, to share our-self-formation and to be recognized as such. So “I” can never be sufficient. There must always be an other who precedes, exceeds, and lives amongst my presence.


III. A String Theory of Love:

The compulsion to feel complete and connected is a human one as  is the suffering produced by it. In an impermanent world in which we are all by natural law unraveling, the concept of “love” as that which binds is very securing. But love is not the stitches, nor the stitching. Love is the gravitational force that spins the soft string so that it contacts and caresses other string. It pulls us closer to others while not binding one to the other so that me may slip in and out of our identities, unraveling into and out of one another. There is no inherent meaning to the string of love beyond the pleasure, desire, and joy of love’s contact; and whatever meaning there is, is woven and rewoven.

Love is a craft out of our control. To bind ourselves to ourselves and to those we care about is not always an affirmation of love, but more often an act to protect ourselves from it.  To love self and other is to allow slippage into and out of one another, reducing friction. At times, the discomfort of friction and puncturing is necessary to free others who have been tied up by the hands of others in the cat’s cradle of oppression. To love, then, is not to secure and design, but to ride along the sensual flows of soft fabric that rips, tears, is punctured, and patched up. This is the life of string.

So-called “love” is a beautiful fabrication. It’s not something that exists prior to linguistic craftmanship of the materials and instruments we’ve inherited from past experiences and techniques. It’s an art form of the deceit of security. When I say “I love you,” I am translating my affect and self into existence, weaving the strings that pre-exist me into a doll in relationship to another doll to make myself whole, to complete “me.” So it is true that “love” makes one complete, but only true as a fabrication. The reality that underlies it, however, is that “love” is not love. It is us who does the stitching and the knotting for love is always in motion, not stasis. It is an unnameable excess through which “we” come into existence.

Categories: Essay, Original Writing, Social Conciousness | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Epic Game Music (part 1)


I hated listening to the radio and had little interest in listening to music in general until I was twelve. It was the year Napster had made it big. Napster provided me an opportunity to listen to a song I liked without having to listen to or pay for eight songs I didn’t like. It also was an excellent resource for reliving some of the most joyous experiences of my life, which were for the better or worse, playing video games.

Video games gave me an alternative reality to inhabit every night as my parents and sister went through screaming fits. All the screaming I dealt with on a daily basis had turned me away from music and people and towards my imagination, things, and the more-than-human world. I was so present during games. There was no one else I owed recognition to, not even myself.  So I withdrew into the basement where I could become absorbed in a challenge of wit and skill and the elation of adventure accomplishment.

While many hardcore gamers are most impressed with a game’s graphics (like photorealism and gore) and storyline, I’ve tended to enjoy most unencumbered play control and music. Play control and music allows one to enter into the world of the game, no matter how simple the graphics and the story. Lose play control and atmospheric music and there is too much distance between gamer and game world, no matter how great the graphics and plot. Play a game of flash Tetris with and without listening to the Korobeiniki and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Even today, fifteen years after the birth of Napster, I am enamored by game music and their remixes. Outsiders judge game music as something unsuitable to listen to outside of gaming. It is stigmatized bu its role in what society deems as a lower art (or something that is no art at all). Even film and television music are not popularly listened to outside of their original context. The same could also be said about the classical music genre which is considered very “high art.” The general public, it seems, are not interested so much in complex and deeply emotional scores. They are attracted to rhythmic beats that put one in a mood to party through an adrenaline rush and those that produce a nameable affect such as sadness, anger, and passion (most emphatically about human relationships). These are the songs that reach top 40. They are instantly familiar and require little contemplation to understand in body and mind the truth of what is being said.

Most video game music, however, has not a single lyric, nor do they have a beat. Game music is usually melodic, short,  and repetitive (for the sake of looping while in levels). In that last ten or more years, video game music has become more orchestral, leaving behind short earlier pieces for more cinematic scores, sometimes played now by symphonies. Regardless of which generation of games a song comes from, it can always be remixed and covered, enhancing and adding to what existed originally. The following is the first group in a series of epic game music that pulls me out of melancholy and despair by launching me into triumphant hope.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Final Showdown with Bowser (0:50 – 1:18)
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Somebody that I Used to Know

Earlier this week I came across this music video of Gotye’s 2011 top single “Somebody that I Used to Know (feat. Kimbra).” I wasn’t too impressed with it at first, but as I listened to the lyrics again and focused on the performances of the two singers, I became captured by the song.

You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness
Like resignation to the end
Always the end
So when we found that we could not make sense
Well you said that we would still be friends
But I’ll admit that I was glad that it was over

But you didn’t have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened
And that we were nothing
And I don’t even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger
And that feels so rough
You didn’t have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records
And then change your number
I guess that I don’t need that though
Now you’re just somebody that I used to know

Just a year ago, these lyrics wouldn’t have meant all that much to me. I recall when I was dating the first person I’d fallen in love with, I suddenly began appreciating songs about relationships. Songs that once were dumb became profound. It isn’t until one has a certain experience, I’ve learned, that songs become more available to our tastes, and perhaps others become stale.

“You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness” and “But I’ll admit that I was glad that it was over” ring with a certain truth after last Fall. This truth however isn’t something that can be understood outside of embodied experience. At least certain “truths” must be felt (or lived) to be understood. And it was this truth about truth that made it difficult for most of my friends to understand what I was going through.

I was offered cliche condolences such as “You’ll find some one better next time.” Were these any more healing than the shallow delusional reassurances one receives when a loved one dies like “I know she’s smiling at you in heaven now”? These responses abstract from one’s experience and make a false promise of a future in order to distract one from the reality of the present and one’s coping with the difficulty of that reality. They are performed to close off one’s thinking and feeling the present to relieve the emotional burden from both parties. Distracting one from reality does not lead to the personal, emotional, and spiritual growth that one will need in and outside of one’s next relationship. Healthier than drinking away one’s sorrow, yes, but not healthy overall.

The power of the lyric  “Now you’re just somebody that I used to know” is that it is dishonest. It too is an escape from reality, or at least a conscious attempt at it nuanced by such an attempt’s futility. If one repeats this lyric enough, perhaps one too can come to believe a false reality. It represents a defense mechanism against trauma. Rather than signifying the convalescence of a wound, it is as if a thick Ace bandage that does not heal wounds so much as makes the surface of the flesh callous, but thin enough that it may be painfully reopned.

I’m no fan of pop music as a genre. Often pop music is bare entertainment that creates rhythms that capture a wide audience. The near-universality of the appeal of pop music is what makes it so “popular.” A refined appreciation of technique and sophisticated song writing isn’t necessary. The cognitive level of appreciation that is necessary for appreciating “fine arts” isn’t necessary because the shared affect is enough to herd people into a pack. However, songs like “Somebody that I used to Know” is no less profound just because it doesn’t have superior performance and technique. It’s profound because it touches upon a near-universal experience of emotional trauma people experience in certain breakups. The lived knowledge of this truth is what creates the pack of pop culture. (Hence the Australian video’s 113 million hits in just six months)

– – – – – –

“But you didn’t have to cut me off / Make out like it never happened / And that we were nothing / And I don’t even need your love / But you treat me like a stranger / And that feels so rough”

I think this is where the song hits on a more interesting difficulty: the difficulty of self-annihilation, not simply the breakup. A lot of misunderstanding I experienced when sharing my story with friends was the tendency for them to focus on the heartbreak, as if the trauma was from losing the emotional possession of another person. Yes, that part was a difficult reality to face, but genuine love transcends heartbreak. If  one really loves another, they will accept their desires and aspirations (within a reasonable limit… however that might be defined…). However, when someone you genuinely love desires to “cut me off”  like “we were nothing” is crushingly difficult. This is the affect of the implosion of the security genuine love creates from acceptance of one’s vulnerability. Love is a bridge over nothing that secures two (or more) vulnerable beings. When one side removes their support, the otherside is left to carry all the weight, goes under from the burden, and is submerged into nothing. It’s this helplessness that is the trauma.

Categories: Youtube Shares | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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