Intimacy as Art
“A way of connecting, on relatively safe middle ground, with another human being”
“that ‘neutral middle ground on which to make a deep connection with another human being’… was what fiction was for. ‘A way out of loneliness’…”
Jonathan Franzen, on David Foster Wallace
“If the novel were able ‘to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves,’ it opens the potential that she might, as a result, feel ‘less alone inside’”
Kathleen Fitzpatrick, on David Foster Wallace
My son and I arguing about the nature of things – is there anything we can agree on? mutually believe? are we similar? – in what began as an attempt (on my part) to soothe obvious hurt and confusion (on his part). He kept pointing to (referencing) his mirror, his bedside table, in an effort at agreement, at a meeting-point that might be solid, be reliable, be “correct,” or “true.” Some relatively stable collection of roving and vibrating molecules we might sharingly recognize, might hold, attend, or unite around – together.
Throughout my life I’ve attempted to comprehend – to make a symbol for myself – what works of art, particular pieces of music, specific phrases or pages of literature, momentary glimpses of nature, dollops of emotional experience DO. How they work. Why they “feel” – move us, take an occasional effect we might call “profound.” Why, even if they shatter us, cause us to weep, provoke in us the enormous courage required to change, we also somehow still feel safe, often empowered, somewhere beyond “okay” (ecstatic? – out of ourselves?)?
Although often evoking experiences I’d describe as most completely, totalizingly personal, I always felt their effectiveness, their possibilities of success and individuated power, came precisely because they were not (personal). That what intimacy they provided – what outlet or spillage, what expression they represented or evinced – was contextually impersonal, through matter and energy uniquely organized, mediated.
In other words, we could throw all of ourselves into, at, toward or away from them (works of art, formal arrangements of world) without the danger or threat, anxiety or fear, of influence. We wouldn’t hurt, harm, embarrass, shame, offend or be misunderstood by a cornflower, a collective of strokes of paint, a recording of sound waves, moving molecules. No direct hits of miscommunication, misinterpretation. Perfect, variable, flexible presentations of world, of other, that we might release ourselves in relation to, without fear.
Existent things, moments, that genuinely represent otherness from ourselves but without direct exposure, without a being’s inquiry, possible scrutiny, judgment or evaluation. Interpretation. Many-sided, borrowed perhaps, but mediated via only one person – me. I could not fail, fall short, be inadequate to, or otherwise mess up a novel, poem, composition or film, and if I experienced myself as any of those things – it was my own judgment, assessment. Mediated.
After years of such exposure, why do I still choose sides, entrench myself in arguments of logic, when I mean to comfort, soften and heal? Alone, later, I sat and asked myself over and over – IF I have changed, grown, matured in any fashion in my 42 years of life, IF I have learned anything to the point of conscious belief, what might it be? – what might I say that I know?
I don’t know.
What I scribbled into the margin of my journal was simply that my fundamental belief about the world and life in it was that – at the core of things – “Everything is essentially messy.” By which I (at least partially) meant (intended) was incomplete, mobile and complex.
Nothing “fixed.” Staid, finished, whole.
Throughout years of journaling, as I’ve grown to understand how deeply I desire “intimacy” (which I suppose I would describe as “shared personhood” or “met experience”? Co-events?) I have repeatedly diagramed what seems to me an only possible means between humans:
Using Wittgenstein’s duck-rabbits to represent whatever we happen to perceive ourselves as, and “Art” on an easel representing anything as a mediated format outside of our “selves” (themselves, I surmise, also likely a constructed medium for experiencing world), to or in which multiple human persons might invest all they experience themselves to be, without necessary personal organism-survival fears, and, possibly, perhaps, occasionally MEET via that medium in toto (or as nearly as possible): experience intimacy, mutuality. No longer isolated as a being, alone, but finding a common, a sharing-realm, co-perceiving, co-experiencing.
If it be so, that, in fact, as human organisms, all of our entity-type experience is, truly, mediated – through various organizations of mobile and voluble matter and energy – never identifiable as a stasis or final form, if we might begin to see it (us) as such – might we become able to experience direct, person-to-person (experientially) intimacy? Co-being? This is where I have turned effort (driven by desire) with my wife, my children. What if we became safe mediums for one another to experience through?
That would be another entry altogether.