Saturday, January 19, 2008

Aspects of Love

Valentine's day is less than a month away. The stores are already arrayed with their assortments of hearts, in diamonds, gold, chocolate... It is a good time to reconsider the subject of "love". I''ll try posting a series of posts from now until Valentine about this highly valued emotion, which often turns out to be overrated. Often, but not always.

Here is George Szirtes , reflecting upon the choreography that leads to the dance:

Seduction

Sexy word 'seduction'. Its association with the word ' love' is practically non-existent. We know about 'going out on the pull'. I think of magnets and iron filings: the more iron filings the more spectacular and marked the pattern. And 'spectacular' is good. Seduction is to be witnessed, if only by one's own internal spectator. It is a performance. You hypnotise. You exert sway. It is a test of your prowess. You pass the test. You are powerful and exciting. It is the best known secret. And it is indeed exciting. A little seductiveness in normal life is an exciting thing. But seductiveness is not quite the same as seduction.

Between men and women (as between gay people no doubt, but my authority can only extend as far as my own experience) the possibility of seduction is part of everyday social life. It is what makes us attractive to each other. It is part of the compliment we pay each other. It is a deeply civilised thing. We charmingly agree to be each other's sex objects up to a determined point. The question, of course, is who does the determining and that is always in doubt. But doubt too is part of the excitement. The control of doubt is civilisation. Flamenco dancing is civilisation. The waltz is civilisation. The jitterbug is civilisation. Civilisation is form.

Charm, vivacity, intelligence, suggestion of depth and, of course, beauty as enhanced by whatever enhancers are currently perceived as enhancements, are all aspects of seductiveness. Seductiveness is something almost everyone aims at. That's fine too. Not is it any use railing against beauty, just as there is no use railing against charm, vivacity, intelligence etc. Beauty too is form, but a much deeper form than we usually think, just as form in a poem is not to be fully counted in syllables or stresses. Beauty has internal proportions too, and they include combinations of charm, vivacity, etc etc etc.

Seduction though is something beyond potential seductiveness. Seduction is a decided act, an exercise of dizzying power that has no end beyond completing itself as power. Love and longer term relationships, are almost incidental extras. Seduction is partly self-admiration: the job of the seduced is to reflect the glory.

The gender war is about power of all kinds, not just about overt political power. Power is the word as well as the fist. It is not only the point of the gun but the precise shape of lip and tongue. Power is attraction and rejection. But then the gender war is not a war as such, more a war game in which we lose our hearts as well as our bodies and minds. To lose your heart is not to be seduced. To win a heart is not to seduce.

'The heart' is romantic vocabulary, of course. But you'll know what I mean. Everybody will know what 'the heart' means. I should add that I have long admired that old saying of the cynic La Rochefoucauld. I quote from memory:

"Whoever would love if they did not know the discourse of love"

That may be so. It may be that we are wafting on clouds sent up seven or eight hundred years ago by the fairy-tale castles of Courtly Love. But of course we know the discourse of love. Like seduction it is dizzying. But the discourse of love leads somewhere else, into a subtler, deeper, more humane contract.

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