Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Logic at the Edges

"Words do have edges. So do you." Eros the Bittersweet by Anne Carson

Continuing her thoughts into Sappho's poem, fragment 31, author Anne Carson writes, "When I desire you, a part of me is gone. Your lack is my lack..." In this classical view, then, Eros is expropriation. Robbed of vital senses, limbs even, the lovers are left with essentially less. This attitude is grounded in the oldest of western mythology, it lies well within the classical Greek world; lovers are losers, or so they reckon. "But this reckoning proves a quick and artful shift. " Reaching, striving for someone, something that is outside the immediate self provokes a lover to observe that they have limits, they have "edges." From this vantage point, one might call it "consciousness," he sees in himself a hole. His desire then is for something that previously he "never knew he lacked; it is defined by a distance, a shift towards a necessary part of himself..." It is not a new acquisition, but something that "was always, always, properly his."

But the apparent geometry of the relationship "is a trick," Carson writes. And his next move is likely to collapse the trigonomic dimensions into a circle; all desire is longing for that which properly belongs to the one who desires, but has been taken away or lost..." Socrates writes, "so if you two are loving friends of one another, then you quite naturally belong to one another." Carson protests this reckoning, "it is profoundly unjust... to recognize a kindred soul and to claim possession as if the blurring in love with distinction between self and other is acceptable."

Yet desire, it seems, does indeed change the lover. It brings a newness, an expanded sense of possibility; a view of a newly formed self, enlarged. As with the Greek poets, the new self, the 'sweet-bitter' of eros brings the experiences of both utility and painfulness. Why? The ancients would say that pain arises at the edges which have been adulterated; bitter verging suddenly on the sweet. "Eros' ambivalence unfolds directly from this power to mix up the self. A lover helplessly admits that it feels both good and bad to be mixed up. And once mixed, asks the question, 'who am I?' Change gives him a glimpse of himself that he never knew before. This gives rise to a powerful insight into the importance of what Carson calls, Eros the Bitter-sweet, or love that alters the edges, and therefore the sense of the previously known self.

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