The more you reveal
the darker the
into which I'm about to fall
No emails or IMs or telephone calls from my sweetpea for nearly three weeks. I’m worried. Is she in the hospital with a terminal illness? Has her father locked her up in another monastery? Is she still alive? I type rapidly, trying out various metaphors of fear, alienation, loneliness, longing, and so on. But they’re empty, and affected.
My favorite ex-wife, Elizabeth, told me once that she married me because she thought she’d be comfortable with someone who loved her madly and truly, as I did, and at the same time she envisioned what she called a “passionless arrangement” in which she’d be left alone so she could brood. Like my mother she was incapable of giving too much of herself. And certainly she was not in the habit of doing things that she didn't really want to do. When I demanded some reciprocity in the love and intimacy department, well, she began the gradual uncoupling process that precedes a permanent breakup.
Fully familiar with abandonment, I could see it coming a mile away.
Now during the past couple of weeks of worrying about Maria I've been pondering what separates genuine love from pathology. Is there any difference between what a normal person feels when dumped, and the stuff that always goes through MY twisted mind? So far I have come up with no clear answer. The truth eludes me, as it does everyone who seriously considers the topic.
As I examine myself I wonder: Did James Joyce ever fear being abandoned? It doesn't seem that he ever really gave a shit, one way or another. His references to his father, mother, sister and brothers and the rest of his extended family seem clinically detached. What’s more he clearly did not fear revealing himself as an overly sensitive, intellectual fop, one obsessed with raunchy sex with Nora, or whatever. He was always absolutely devoid of self-consciousness or shame. Also, this guy just reveled in ambiguity, because in his hands it was a lethal weapon.
Joyce saw ambiguity as the prime driving force of the universe, much superior to existential randomness. Ambiguity is perfect proof of The Supreme Being’s irony. God mocks our self-importance: “Nothing is random!” He says. “There are reasons for your anguish, but I will keep them secret!”
Joyce knew there can never be just one possible outcome to any given problem, but a multitude. And what’s more, there’s nothing new. Ever. In the Ithaca episode of Ulysses he spells it out completely:
“To reflect that each one who enters imagines himself to be the first to enter whereas he is always the last term of a preceding series even if the first term of a succeeding one, each imagining himself to be first, last, only and alone, whereas he is neither first nor last nor only nor alone in a series originating in and repeated to infinity.”
I have always envied Joyce’s ability to see everything clearly, including himself. He never hesitates. He never feels shame or self loathing. Never. He calmly reveals himself exactly as he is, because who he happens to be is no more and no less valuable than anyone else. Bloom (his father figure), Dedalus (himself, in part). No matter. They are who they are. All grist for his mill.
When I was a boy I intended to be the kind of artist who allows nothing to interfere with his art. Certainly not romance! Nor some lingering unresolved conflict with my father. The artist, I knew back then, is a man who doesn’t just make art but lives art and considers everything else of no consequence.
This was parallel to my deep admiration of the objectivity of the scientist. Which is to say I believed emotion should never cloud one's clear view of the material world. I knew emotion was my worst enemy.
Now, I wish I could draw more comfort from being a solitary literary artist, and I wish that I, like a scientist, were immune to the pain that Maria’s silence invariably brings me.
But here I am. All twisted up, worrying about what will happen next.