Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Sensual Experience of Lovers


Pygmalion and Galatea - Jean-Léon Gérôme
This essay at its heart is about knowing and being known. As a younger man I would create distance between myself and those who made gestures of intimacy towards me generally, if not outright sexual advances. "You already have access to the most interesting aspect of my being, my mind", was my defence. As it turns out that was very likely not the case.

Seeing and Being Seen

To undress one with the eyes. Well okay, there is that obvious low hanging fruit. However, I would say sight is the most untrustworthy of the senses when it comes to matters of love. We lie as a matter of course in the visual presentations we offer. How we choose to dress, walk, smile, run our hands through our hair are so often charades, little lies and false constructions that we hope will deceive, often effective because we're all playing the same silly games. Nevertheless, the eyes may very well be the window into the soul. Maintain eye contact with someone for even a relatively brief moment and then extend it. You're likely to initiate a deep connection, to see and be seen. It can be equal parts exhilarating and terrifying, comforting as much as it is unnerving.

Please Listen to Me

Speech is almost as untrustworthy as one's appearance. Certainly we're sensitive to the cant and tone of those we speak with. However, there are other, perhaps more revealing sounds to be heard: swoons, moans, the soft parting of moistened lips. Closer intimacy affords a heartbeat, the breath and the gurgling of the innards. In these respects your lover can begin to know you in ways more intimate then you can know yourself. My personal favourite is the giggle. Laughter can be affected, it's hard to fake a giggle.

I'm Touched

It's one thing to be seen and heard, quite another to be felt. The first touches are electric. Layers of isolation are peeled away like skins of an onion as one maps out every curve, every texture of their lover. The pressing of the soft breast, the roughness of a day old beard. Comfort, warmth, relief. Unlike the visual presentation or the spoken word, touch is less effective at carrying symbolic meaning. What you feel is most often what there is, an approach to intrinsic knowledge of the other and a revelation of yourself in turn. These tactile sensations are visceral, primal and not easily forgotten.

You Taste as Good as You Smell

Full disclosure. Mutual intoxication with only a tether to conscious thought. Smell and taste generate reflexes as unavoidable as striking your knee with a rubber mallet. They are the most intimate form of sharing, a literal transfer of oneself to another. They betray and confess the deeply irrational nature of love itself. We encounter the truth: there is no reason to love.

Mamma Mia

Madonna and Child - Pompeo Batoni
Lest you think the aforementioned is merely an exploration of sexual fantasy, I'll contend that it widely describes the intimacy of all lovers, including that of mother and child, one that most of us have personally experienced at a very profond level. As the intellectually undeveloped infant we drew comfort from being sensually known. The concentrated attention of mother watching over us, staring into our eyes, singing to us, giggling with us, embracing us, holding us dear to her bosom, showering us with kisses, tasting us, smelling us as we breathed her in. Make no mistake mother and child are the deepest of lovers.

The very best of life, the things most human are not be apprehended or understood rationally. They just have to be experienced to be known and that is especially true of love.   

"A loving heart is the beginning of all knowledge." - Thomas Carlyle


Contributed by Patrick Webb

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Sparta Ascendant over Athens

"So it was that Liberty succame to slumber and the whole world fell to ruin..."

The embers of revolution are long extinguished. We have been exchanging liberty for comfort and security for some time now. No longer an active citizenry engaged in all areas of civic life and the struggle for democracy. Rather, we have become languid, passive and dependent; we have become quite literally the gross domesticated product.

Autocracy

I hear people softly complain about "the government", focusing their complaints on the only remaining civic institution that retains a vestige of democracy. Our other institutions: banking, academic and commercial e.g. are unvarnished autocracies and oligarchies. Unapologetic tyrannies under which our will, our youth and our bodily strength are wholly subjugated while they dictate the development of our mind and how we might live. No, you don't get a vote. You don't imagine you even have a right to expect one. This is now it happens, how enlightenment succumbs to darkness, how men cease to be men, perpetually kept in a state of immaturity. 

Athens vs Sparta

This temperament of violence and subjugation that has grabbed onto us by a choke hold be it physical, psychological or economic is what I would describe as Spartan. A hard people like their hard god of war, Ares, all too willing to make the tough decisions. Fear, terror and discord are the progeny of Ares and the values of a Spartan people.

There is another opposing temperament, the Athenian temperament of plurality, democracy and civic engagement. It would appear the Athenian ideal has fallen in retrograde, the Spartan temperament ascends and a former citizenry is reduced to intimidated helots. What is oft forgotten was that Athena too was a goddess of war, if slow to anger, calm, just and wise.

So I say to the hard Spartans that masquerade as citizens among us that when striking out against the goddess one must be sure to land the death blow; otherwise you've only drawn out her anger and roused her people from their slumber. What I am witnessing is an awakened populace, perhaps a citizenry, just perhaps one whose temperament is Athenian whose virtues are culture, solidarity and democracy and whose goddess is also the capable warrior when called upon. Ares is not our patron. As democratic citizens we live in the pivotal moment to drive out this brutish Spartan temperament of autocracy and fear mongering from our institutions whilst reaffirming our commitment to Liberty, to reestablishing the conditions where individual engagement as citizens and true human flourishing for our fellowman are possible.



Contributed by Patrick Webb