Saturday, February 14, 2004

Loving Cross-Eyed Serendipity

St. Valentine’s Day is up on us yet again and I find myself brooding about Love. What is it about that fleeting moment when two lives come together which suddenly and so magically transforms a dreary, bleak, and comfortless shadow of existence into one animated by hope, tenderness and beauty. It is almost as if in a curious sort of way Love engenders that instant flash of lightening that allows for the differentiation of a world enveloped by the darkness of night.

Our experiences of the erotic dimension of life in Iran, as you probably suspect, are rather odd. Think Old Testament. Recall that the Almighty’s invisible presence becomes visible to us only through various ways he issues threats and alters and mutilates our bodies for our supposed transgressions. Then, out of nowhere, so and so gets to “know” such and such and they beget this and that. Yahweh’s partner Allah and his acolytes around here have left their indelible mark on our existence.

Rarely is there a reference to the ecstasy of touching a flower, a fabric or for that matter the delight of touching a lover’s hair, or the bliss of feeling the warmth of another’s body. There is a long list of “thou shall not or else,” and then suddenly one day there is a lavish wedding. A brat is born shortly afterwards. And no, I don’t think the less than open interaction between the sexes is the determining factor in the way this absurdity is being perpetuated.

Even a closed society could allow for the enchanting possibilities of the erotic experience. Think a universe in which one becomes aware of the presence of others through one’s senses--the perfumed body, the graceful walk, and the coquettish movement of the arms, the flirtatious signals of expressive brows and the suggestive glances of amorous eyes—eyes that astound. Think the enchanting sounds of a recited poem.

Think a universe in which, given the mediated presence of others, the erotic moment may be conceived in terms of the creative act of thinking a story through which these various disjointed elements of sense data are integrated into a unified whole, thus allowing for a permanent incorporation of another into one’s universe. Consider the following narrative to get a better sense for what I mean.

Suppose two people come to interact with one another over a long period of time in a setting that does not immediately avail itself to the development of amorous intentions. For our purposes, each might be very much unaware of the other as possible subject of desire. Now one of these--let us say, Serendipity--is charming and intelligent, though harboring a dislike for her own mildly crossed eyes, which in her more fragile moments, she considers to be ugly. Suppose that at some point in time, for whatever reason, the initial aloofness withers away and one becomes smitten with Serendipity precisely because of the beauty of those eyes. Suppose that the gentility of her spirit and the grace of her presence send one scrambling to find words that may do justice to the splendor of her being. Then one day by accident one encounters the story of Adelgunda:

Many hundreds of years ago there lived a young maiden who was famous in several kingdoms. Adelgunda was indeed a remarkable young woman. She was slight, delicate and pale as a lily, but it was not so much her beauty that people spoke of. Nor was it her good sense, though one and all could see intelligence shining on her brow. No, what Adelgunda was renowned for were her two wonderful eyes, which could speak much more plainly than her lips. Her eyes could also see better than anyone else's; they saw what people were thinking and things that lay hidden deep in their souls. Yet no one was afraid of Adelgunda's eyes which saw and expressed so much; rather, anyone who looked at them was glad. Adelgunda's gaze rested long on good and beautiful things, and when her eyes saw something ugly and evil, they said so, not with hatred and contempt but with sorrow and compassion. Adelgunda's eyes spoke a language that everyone understood

Serendipity’s eyes are now Adelgunda’s. Adelgunda’s eyes now become inseparable from those of Serendipity. Here is when erotic creation becomes artistic. We may get a better sense for this creative process by delineating three distinct moments. First, one has become slightly more than he was by tapping into the emotions one did not suspect existed in order to appropriate a narrative that allows him to incorporate Serendipity into his cosmos. One thus grows to find adorable precisely that which is considered by many to be Serendipity’s “weakness.” It is exactly those eyes themselves that can now be regarded as the incomparable attribute of our beloved Serendipity.

In doing so, one suddenly becomes aware of the beauty that surrounds him simply by virtue of having become open to perceiving the (hidden) beauty of Serendipity’s eyes. But from this moment on, despite the fact that one might very well encounter an infinite number of other awe-inspiringly beautiful eyes, none will have the radiance of Serendipity’s because one is unwilling to think stories about them. One, through the moment of connection with Serendipity, has become more whole than when he started.

Second: Serendipity, if she were to have any sense at all, would find herself slightly more attuned to the nature of her gift and its possible transformational affect on the lives of others. By encountering a reflection of herself in the gaze and the story of her admirer, Serendipity becomes slightly more than she had been when she felt awkward about her eyes. Third, both our characters, through their bond via the story--and by having become part of each other’s lives-- experience an endearing expansion of being.

But of course, we know that in the less than ideal universe --that is, any where outside of the pages of some fine fairy tale--Serendipity will move on with a new sense of confidence to fall for some reputed Prince Charming who ends up being a cold-hearted insensitive jack ass and all three will live miserably ever after. Or, alternately, our would be lover becomes so enamored of his new found appreciation for beauty that he will lose all sense of proportion and moves on to create many new stories thus losing his chance of finding true happiness.

This incidentally, I suspect, is how our planet became populated by so many infuriatingly desperate and lonely people obsessing about making such a dreadful production out of a silly day that remains like any other. We thus continue with our nauseating, meaningless ritualized gestures, our relentless, ostentatious shopping, and our gluttonous consumption of dead, charcoaled flesh and alcohol

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