My house is a mess. I’m shaky from not feeling well and not eating enough today and. I’m supposed to be writing my final essay for Critical Thinking and. And I’m supposed to be studying for my World Lit. final. And. And I’m floundering. The question of the essay: “How do you understand who you are?” Wow, I’ve asked that one for over three decades now. It has shaped my life. This should be a breeze! But answering the question in an essay that also asks me to articulate my plans for the future with a timeline…argh. It’s doable but I feel caged by it. There are so many possible twists in the road of my life, so many restrictions too. I have choices and yet their consequences, gulp. So, I’m wallowing in the first part of it ‘though it’s the easiest bit for me. How do I understand who I am? Love is how I understand who I am.
Attachment issues and damnation stories wrap up their ribbons of love and hint only at the capacity, the untapped depths of immeasurable wealth waiting the conjuring of hope. Hope beyond the History and Shitory. Did you know that if you accidentally type too fast, you get “shitory” when trying to type about your personal history? It puts the howl in serious reflection. It caricatures the somber perspective and turns the world upside down. I love it. It is the divine enlightened nonsense of whimsical devotion turning dedicated plan-making into a derisive jaunt down memory lane. It is the contradiction to what is truly historically serious and precious but would not be known as deeply without the satire of yes…shit. Shitory. Yes, I typed “shitory” today for history. Oddly, there are no definitions for this word. I’m considering creating one. In the meantime, I see it all as a work of growth, of life speaking to me and molding something within me, from the typos to the final essay to the dishes in the sink. But how? How do I understand who I am? Love.
This brings me to Fromm and reminds me of leg-clenching quandaries and blessings, the use of “objects” and the soil of character itself:
“Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not toward one “object” of love. If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbiotic attachment, or an enlarged egotism. Yet, most people believe that love is constituted by the object, not by the faculty. In fact, they even believe that it is a proof of the intensity of their love when they do not love anybody except the “loved” person…Because one does not see that love is an activity, a power of the soul, one believes that all that is necessary to find is the right object–and that everything goes by itself afterward. This attitude can be compared to that of a man who wants to paint but who, instead of learning the art, claims that he has just to wait for the right object, and that he will paint beautifully when he finds it. If I truly love one person I love all persons, I love the world, I love life. If I can say to somebody else, ‘I love you,’ I must be able to say, ‘I love in you everybody, I love through you the world, I love in you also myself.'” Erich Fromm – The Art of Loving
Fromm goes on to distinguish that we do channel our love towards specific individuals for specific purposes (eros,
brotherly, etc.). I can’t read this and not go on to say that this is a process, that we are opened up to love ourselves, to love life and all of humanity by opening up sometimes more exclusively to one person or group and then it expands. And the whole world is open, alive in our hearts. We can still grab our “object” and find greater resonance with one as opposed to another because the capacity to love between two unique people may surpass the capacity elsewhere, than with a different combination. So many possibilities, so many potential “object” fixations but love is beyond even this, is the “power of the soul.” I love this definition. It is action. It is the stuff that feeds faith and puts one foot in front of the other. (To write an essay when everything in me is screaming “Do NOT make me write this.” Get to work, woman.)
I feel my life changing. That is why I shy away from writing about it. I feel 2010 as a big leap out of some moldy cocoons. And I should be excited, right? What if my wings fail me? What if…what if…what if I get slammed back down again? WHY(?!) did that happen to me? What if…
love happens. It’s happening now and somewhere past the crash of reflection on history. I can make a plan and adjust as I need to. I don’t know why I had to write this except that it feels like a layer coming off of me, a work of acceptance of the risks and resilience of love beyond any object distortions, “objective” history or…even the shitory. I can plan again. And again.
It’s all good.
10 thoughts on “Love’s Objects? Or Love’s Conscious Orientation?”
I struggled with that one myself for a decade or three and I came to the conclusion that I understand who I am primarily and irrevocably through the experience of being me. Jean Paul Sartre might say it is through the reflection of ourselves in the “other.”
In other words we are as others perceive us and reflect that back unto us. I see myself over the past few years as a reflection in the eye of the Gryphon which is the dual nature of the One who is both God and Man. (Dante Purgatorio). I have a carnal side which is constantly at war with a spiritual side and I take sides (most times) with the spiritual.
anyway, that’s my take on it.
Amen bro…sometimes we don’t know even how to be. Takes some stripping realities to show us what part of our “being” is more like reacting/being. Some of those teaching reflections BITE bigtime. But thank god for ’em!
I think we are as we perceive ourselves…and others show us how we perceive ourselves. As my fear of ME has died, the reflections have gotten kinder. Love melts the uglies, it seems.
Thanks for sharing, sir…
Are we on some kind of synchronistic mind meld pattern here? Or, more possible, are we the same damn person…?! Here’s to 2010, and wherever the hell it leads us. One thing’s for certain, if you fall on your ass, I’ll be right behind you. We’ll pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and say, “Well shitory! That was fun! Better luck next time!” Because that’s what life is all about, and that’s why we love it. 😉
my cheeks hurt from grinning here. i’ve had quite a bit of cathartic and hysterical laughter lately. when life hands you…erm…you call it what it is. and you keep moving. my daughter and i had an adventure tonight that can only go in the annals of shitory but we laughed our way home. methinks this business of resilience is the stuff of love. here’s to mind melds and big hugs…
OH BEAUTIFUL JRUTH!!!!!! I’m going to be selfish here and say You had to write this so that I could read it!!!! If You knew what was going on in my life You would gigggle and howl with laughter that You gifted me thusly! And ‘Shitory’??? I was laughing my ass off! THANK YOU for taking the time to write this post. And reminding me that LOVE is ever smiling and ever present. We make the unimaginably infinite SO tiny with our fear. Biggest hugs to You and Good Luck on Your papers and Namaste. 🙂
fun!! i seem to be in “sync” on some things anyway! i love that spin on history. i’m typing along and oooops….i howled. it just FIT how i felt about some things. too good, some accidents just nail it. and some things just aren’t worth fretting about. (i must say this 50 times a day)
My father has a “can’t spare a square” (thank you Seinfeld) outlook on love. Talk about unhappy. It makes me sad that I can’t get through to him that abundance breeds abundance. Love seems to search for fertile soil and multiply when it lands there.
it hurts when our loved ones are stuck like that, doesn’t it? fear closes the door but that fertile soil awaits regardless. thanks for sharing, jaymie.
Without any pressure, “How do you understand who you are?” sounds like a great essay topic. With it, ugh! I’m sure you have ideas. Just thought I’d throw a few at you: ethnicity; by how one deterimines relationships to family, friends, etc.; by our interests and dreams; by our moral compass. That’s probably enough, maybe too much. Best wishes on all that stuff. Makes me wish I were back in school . . . really, it does.
oh ho ho! yes, i wished for such and here i am after over 20 years, back in school! the charm is gone but i’m still really glad to be in it. y’know, i’m not that hung up on this, it was just stirring things in me and a really off day overall. i kept spinning my wheels. i’m with you on how one determines relationships to family, friends… then there are those interests and dreams. it all works together in love (the stuff that moves with an impassioned vision facilitating personhood and growth). thanks for the encouragement! (hey, get yourself signed up for some classes…it’s good stuff)