Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Neither Saint Nor Sinner

There are those who sacrifice their desires for others, those who don’t and those who do some sort of a turnaround where they take a vacation from self-sacrifice or from self-indulgence. Nancy Buirski’s documentary Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq documents the sacrifice George Balanchine made when he found out Tanny, the great ballet dancer, who was also his wife, had been stricken with polio. The film shows how he was determined to do everything in his power to return her not only to health, but greatness and it also documents the point at which he plainly gave up in the face of the impossibility of the task. You see people whose whole lives are subsumed to the care of ailing parents and spouses, who, in some cases, aren’t even grateful for the attention they’ve received. Those who are the recipients of such self-sacrifice cannot be rightfully blamed as there is obviously some kind of reward, what analysts call Fehlleistung, or faulty achievement in the self-denial of their benefactors. Self-abnegation can be a goal in itself and in this regard the convalescent is only an enabler. Conversely, the prospect of sickly person being abandoned by their pleasure loving partner can create feelings of righteous indignation. Having acted so unethically and immorally, how can these hedonists look at themselves in the mirror? But what is the subliminal drive, the faulty achievement that comprises the guiltless pursuit of pleasure? Serial adulterers literally run from one lover to the next with little regard for the destruction they may or may not be leaving in their wake. Among the myriad of causes, is it the fear of abandonment that fundamentally drives the pathology?

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