Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A double bind episode

Double bind : “a psychological predicament in which a person receives from a single source conflicting messages that allow no appropriate response to be made”.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Because she hates the Internet and she avoids writing and receiving emails, she will never know what I have to say about our failed friendship. I could write her a letter but, unfortunately, I do not even know where she lives. If I could talk to her before she leaves to Australia next week I would try to explain the unconfortable situation she has put me in. Maybe she would be able to laugh of herself and of me in the end. I have no illusions however about finding a solution for a situation that seems, thanks to her, without remedy. Here is what happened. I do not like long narratives, so I will make it short. 

We first met at a concert. A renowned pianist came to play at our city (the 32nd Beethoven sonata in C minor Op. 111, the 14th Schubert sonata in A minor, and two Nocturnes by Chopin) and her seat was next to mine. She told me her name: Anna. I told her mine: Joseph. We talked about music and literature before and after the concert and before we separated at the end of the concert she wrote her email address in my copy of the program. I have asked her if she wanted to see me again and she had very kindly said yes.  Her smile and her eyes seemed to confirm that she was sincere. And she were so sweet.

We met one week later at Starbucks downtown one afternoon and we walked to a restaurant nearby for a glass of wine. I was happy and considered myself very lucky to have made the acquaintance of such a wonderful woman. The more we talked the more my surprise kept growing. She was indeed a marvelous person and I could not dream of having met anyone better than her. She was intelligent, she was warm, and she paid a sincere, genuine attention to me. Sometimes she even seemed charmed by what I said. Her smile revealed a simple, natural joy. She had a pleasant sense of humor. She was beautiful and not arrogant. Her exceedingly sophisticated manners impressed me deeply. It was something that given the vulgarity and superficiality that is common in so many girls nowadays could not fail to touch me. When we finally departed – in this country you cannot expect having dinner with a woman before some weeks have passed after you met her - I was amazingly happy with the way things had worked out between us. When I got home I was still excited and surprised for having made her acquaintance and I immediately sent her a message to express my joy and my gratitude. I wrote:

Thank you for existing and for having accepted my invitation! You are such a wonderful woman! I like you very much. I would never imagine that I could meet someone like you in this boring place. You truly are a treasure. I will forever think of you when listening to the Beethoven sonata. 

Half an hour later, I received an astonishingly coarse message from her. She was upset and very mad at me and said that if I could write what I have written without knowing her and after I have spent only some hours talking to her she was very sorry but she could not trust me anymore. In other words: I was not reliable. In an almost rude manner she declared that she was unable to accept my affection and told me that if I were in need of a woman I would better go somewhere else search for her because she was not that woman. She also said that most probably I was just seeking for an opportunity to take advantage of her.

I had purchased Dostoevsky’s Notes of the Underground in a new translation before I went to meet her at Starbucks and when I offered her the book she seemed very happy that I had done so. Now however she was not so happy anymore and told me that if I expected to get something from her with my gifts  - and why would I give her anything except with the hope of getting something from her in return - I should know that I were totally mistaken.

I spent some days thinking about her, trying to understand what had happened.  I hesitated in feeling guilty however. With her surprisingly angry message and her bizarre accusations, she had put me in a very awkward situation. Was she aware of that? Maybe not. Her harsh reaction to my words and to my behavior had certainly more to do with some bad experience she might have gone through with other people than with me.

Now, despite what I just told you, it happened that after I received her so bizarre message I met her occasionally several times downtown and every time she had shown herself as polite, as friendly, as welcoming and seemingly happy to see me as before. I was afraid, when I first saw her after her burst of anger, that she would not talk to me or would keep showing some hostility. I was wrong. Nothing of that happened and she behaved nicely, as if her outburst of irritation had never occurred.

I have to confess that the fact that she did not put me completely aside and kept treating me as kindly as before left me confused. Clearly, the situation where she had put me needed some analysis and clarification. If she was expecting me to retrieve my peace of mind and to find my way out of all that fuss easily she was wrong. How would I make a synthesis of the two contradictory messages? What was I supposed to understand about her and about her feelings regarding a relationship that in fact never really became one? She had drowned what could have been a sincere and truthful friendship, born of intellectual complicity and common interests, in the ocean of common conventionality. I didn’t feel that I had much interest in wasting my time dwelling in trivialities. She was refusing to share with me the most truthful and interesting part of her personality and was treating me as if I were just some simpleminded inferior idiot. I didn’t want that at all.

I think I can understand her however. She is very young. She is learning how to deal with reality and with people. I am the old man in this story and I should know that not everybody has lived as long as I did and learned as much about the world and about the truth of life as I did. It takes time, you know. I should try to correct my error and be more careful and more tolerant when I deal with young people. Is it not true that she barely knew me? She was just protecting herself from being taken for what she is not. All the bad stories we read in the newspapers and hear about everyday in television surely force us all to be on guard.

Besides, I remember now, she also made me feel that more than anything else she feared being loved. She said that she is always concerned by the emotions she may provoke in others. And that she does not feel that she is strong enough at this point in her life to deal with complicated feelings or dramas. She wants to be left in peace. She wants to enjoy life and other people’s friendship and love without having to face all the inconveniences of a deep, intimate and always disturbing relationship. 
As long as I was unable to understand what I just mentioned, knowing that I was innocent of her accusations and suspicions did not help me much. In fact it did not help me at all. At her eyes I had suddenly become some sort of opportunist who enjoys exploiting women’s good faith in order to achieve his vicious instincts, his thirst for love or his wild lust. Whatever. Because of that, everything I could still do, or say, or write to her would inevitably end by being interpreted as a suspicious intent or trick from my side to take advantage of her. Take advantage of what exactly? She silenced me. 

If I cannot talk or write to someone who is accusing me of acting wrongly, I cannot defend myself. And all the sympathy that I may still feel for her has no chance of being uttered. My offended dignity and my inability to go beyond the barriers that her accusations placed between her and me keep me quiet. She deprived me of speech. In some way she castrated me. Not being allowed any action to correct what I consider a big and regrettable misunderstanding made me for a while very unhappy. Who does she think she is to think and say all the things she thought and said about me? The people we love and admire and who love us make life better and the world a better place for us. I really enjoyed her company. She made me feel good, intelligent and not ashamed of being myself for a brief moment. Then all that hope of a true affectionate relationship faded. I really and sincerely liked her, I swear to God, and I never intended to take advantage of anybody or of anything (her body was at that moment, as such, the less important part of my interest in her). I truly think, despite her harsh reaction to my kind words, that she is a lovely person, one of the most pure and interesting girls I ever had the chance of meeting in this stupid country. A great person, indeed. But in writing all these words I am afraid that I am putting an end myself to something that never existed except in my imagination. I will try to be more careful next time so I will not be disappointed. Just one question before I leave: is there any relationship which is not based on giving and receiving, is it possible for a relationship not to rely on good faith and acceptance? Take the risk and you will have time to see later what’s really going on.

J. E. Soice

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Not about love

W. - Stop talking about love. It’s boring. I don’t love you the way you want to be loved and never will.
M. - I know.
W. - Can’t you enjoy my friendship and be happy?
M. - I guess I can. Who said I don’t?
W.- But you always want more. You never get enough.
M. - True. But so am I. There is nothing I can do to change myself and become someone else.
W. - Bla bla ba. Do you know the difference between good and bad poetry? You sometimes write very good poems. When you avoid getting sentimental and indulge in cheap romanticism.
M. - Thank you. You are flattering me. Well, you are also saying that some of my poems are bad.
W. - I didn’t say that. What I mean is that you could in your relationship with me avoid those cheap expectations that do not fit a man as intelligent and lucid as yourself. Am I clear now?
M.- Sure. Everything you say is easy to understand. I do not complain.
W.- In fact, what could I give you that I am not giving you already?
M.- Indeed. You are so generous. What else could you give me, beyond your warm and always forgiving friendship.?
W.- You know that I cannot be only yours. You also know that in some deep sense - and not just in the language of cheap novels and bad poems - I love you.
M. - I know all that, yes. You declare it frequently enough. I do not complain.
W. - It’s not true. You are always complaining. You want more.
M. - Is it such a bad thing that we want more than what we got or already have? I don’t think so.
W.- Bla bla bla again. I know that you are good at manipulating language. Just do not abuse of your talent. You tend to digress.
M.- Will you sleep at my home tonight?
W.- I can’t. You know that.
M.- You can if you want. You just do not want to be with me tonight.
W. - How can you be so boring? I will stay with you tomorrow. Didn’t I already promised you that I will? Isn’t that good enough?
M.- You know that I am always deeply and sincerely grateful when you decide to give me something. I will wait for tomorrow.
W.- Are you trying to be ironic?
M.- No. You cannot give me everything. But neither does God give people everything they ask for and dream of.
W.- What an intelligent remark. I will not forget it.
M. - You are like a God in the end. And knowing it, you see, I accept everything you give me with an humble joy and pride. I may protest and ask for more, but isn’t it the logic of our relationship? If I didn’t ask for more you would feel depreciated.
W.-Oh, what a subtle statement about my divine power and about your humble human condition. Should I go now? Can I? You are not going to complain?
M.- I haven’t seen you for almost one week.
W. - Here we go again. You know how difficult it is for me sometimes to get away from my other life.
M.- Yes, I know. Nobody is as much aware of it as I do.
W.- If I loved you as you want me to love you, our relationship would not last long. Don’t you think? Try at least to understand why I prefer to keep you as a good friend first of all.
M. - Yes, I understand what you mean. You are saying that contrary to love, that does not last forever, friendship resists being worn out.
W.- You make me laugh. You are stubborn and unbearable, but there is always a way of getting along with you. You have a good nature. At least when you believe that you are in love. Can I go now?
M.- Is the simpleminded motherfucker waiting for you?
W.- I didn’t hear what you said. Bye. Give me a kiss. See you tomorrow. And don’t call me or send me messages to my phone, please. I hate it and will not answer. Don't make my life more difficult than it already is. Give me time, I need time, don't be impatient.

Erik Satie, Gnossienne nº 1, Reinbert de Leeuw

Friday, July 17, 2015


 A man may sing a song with expression and without expression. Then why not leave out the song - could you have the expression then?


L’amour ne commence d’une façon sérieuse que lorsque les motivations sexuelles s’effacent. Jusqu’à là il ne s’agit pas d’amour. On peut même dire que jusqu’à là tout se réduit à la fatalité - ou devrais-je dire malédiction? - biologique, à un commerce d’apparences, à un échange d’illusions et d’espoirs, d’enfantillages et de curiosités. C’est, au fond, un agréable et naïve carnage, tout au plus. Parfois plein de maladresses.

C’est ce que je pense parfois. Et puis je n’en suis pas si sûr, j’en doute. Mais je sais qu’aucun mot n’a jamais deux fois la même signification, moins encore la même importance, ça je le sais. Les sentiments ne se répètent pas. Jamais deux fois. Nous manquons de vocabulaire. Peut-être manquons-nous aussi de sentiments ou de sensibilité, notre capacité de sentir et de comprendre ne s'exerce qu'à l'intérieur de frontières trop restreintes. Peut-être, je ne sais pas vraiment.

Les mots sont des êtres malléables, cependant, aux contours fluides, imprécis. Élastiques, ils s’adaptent et se conforment aux sentiments et aux sensations. En apparence, au moins. D’ailleurs nous nous en servons des mots sans trop réfléchir, la plupart des fois, à l'ambiguïté de nos propos, au manque de rigueur de nos impressions e de nos jugements. Et la vie suit son cours comme si tout était à sa place, comme si nous étions sur la bonne voie, comme si en fait il n’y avait pas devant nous un problème à résoudre.

Il se peut que nous sachions que par rapport à l’expérience elle-même, par rapport à la réalité qu’ils sont censés vouloir nommer et rendre claire, les mots n’aient qu’une valeur secondaire. N'est-ce pas que souvent on dit une chose alors qu'en agissant on fait tout le contraire?

Je me disais cet après-midi que je ne me souviens pas d’avoir jamais aimé ni d’avoir jamais été aimé. Mais qu’entendais-je par amour lorsque cette idée est venue déranger ma tranquillité?

En fait je crois que j’ai aimé et que j’ai été aimé. Je m’en souviens parfois. Je peux douter, bien entendu : était-ce de l’amour, vraiment ? Mais je déteste les complications, j'ai horreur de gaspiller mon temps à philosopher. Bien sûr que j’ai aimé. Bien sûr que l’on m’a aimé.

C’est quoi l’amour, en tout cas ? Une forme d’attachement physique à une autre personne ?  Probablement. Certainement. Il est difficile d’imaginer que l’amour ne soit pas l’amour d’un corps. Mais le corps n’est que la forme matérielle de la personne, une preuve visible de son existence. Il faut donc croire que l’amour n’est pas seulement ou exactement l’amour d’un corps, l’attachement à un corps. Je le crois sincèrement. Ce que l’on aime dans le corps n’est que la personne invisible qui l’habite. C’est pour cette raison que l’amour peut subsister – et subsiste parfois, il le semble -  malgré le vieillissement du corps, malgré les changements intervenus dans la forme ou l’apparence du corps, malgré la disparition du corps.

Combien de fois n’ai-je pas senti l’amour naître en moi de l’admiration que je ressentais devant l’intelligence, la joie de vivre, la ténacité, d’autres qualités morales d’une personne ? Il n’est pas difficile de comprendre ce qui se passait : les yeux, la bouche, le visage, les mains, les jambes, le corps dans sa totalité n’étaient que la forme matérielle que prenait l’être par ailleurs invisible de la femme qui était assise en face de moi ou à mes côtés. L’esprit et le corps ne faisaient qu’un et dans le corps de la femme que je regardais et que je touchais j’aimais en fait sa personne.

Une question se pose maintenant, inévitable : si ma perception des qualités morales de la personne se modifie, est-ce que ma perception de son corps, ma relation avec son corps, subiront aussi un changement ? Je veux le croire. Je dois préciser, cependant, que ce n’est pas exactement parce que le corps - ses manières, sa façon de se comporter - aura en quelque sorte confirmé, matériellement, mon changement d’opinion sur les qualités morales de la personne que ma relation avec lui peut changer. Je suis convaincu, en effet, que le corps et les qualités morales de la personne sont des êtres indépendants qui, quoi qu’en disent les psychologues, entretiennent entre eux des relations difficiles à saisir. Si le rapport de cause à effet – à tout changement moral correspondrait un changement adéquat dans le comportement du corps - est impossible à détecter, alors je peux aimer le corps seul ou la personne seule sans établir des rapports de signification entre eux et entre mes deux façons de les aimer.

Et pourtant j’ai bien affirmé à un certain moment que la manifestation visible de la personne morale se faisait dans le corps. Je n’ai pas changé d’avis, mais je ne crois pas nécessaire de revenir sur ce sujet pour éliminer la contradiction (qui peut être réelle ou seulement apparente).

J. E. Soice

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

SERGE REGGIANI- Mon petit garcon

Olhamos à volta

Elas falam, as jovens raparigas, e eu
não sei já que dizer-te para impedir
o fim do amor. O amor não existe,
é uma palavra simplesmente. Não
me preocupei o bastante em entrar
na casa comum da significação,
sempre tive ideias estranhas sobre
o sentido do que me diziam, do
que eu próprio ia dizendo enquanto
me esforçava por ter uma vida
semelhante à de toda a gente.
De que me serviu a originalidade,
viver nas margens do sucesso e da
derrota, concentrado em mim?
Vem tudo a dar no mesmo quando
uma tarde nos encontramos sós à
mesa de um café. Olhamos à volta,
ouvimos, escutamos a música banal
da rádio. Que importa isso ou outra
coisa, estar em casa ou na rua, ter
destino ou não saber para onde
nos leva o barco da paixão? E só
sofrem aqueles que ainda não
entenderam que morrer um dia
ilumina todos os caminhos
por onde íamos ao encontro
da existência verdadeira.

Santa Barbara, 20 de Janeiro de 1994

Red Army Choir: Bella Ciao.