Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Lonely Crowd II

Erica Jong coined the term “zipless fuck,” but the desire for instant intimacy obviously has a storied history, from Catullus to The Canterbury Tales, from Rabelais to Sexus, Nexus, and the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, to Nicholson Baker’ s brilliantly erotic Fermata.  However, the sexual passages from these works can be so stimulating that we forget the more profound desire to connect that lies at the heart of even the most perverse scenarios. It might be worth our while to interject E.M. Forster’s famous words from Howards End“only connect”—into the discussion, though that work is hardly noted for its sexual content. Inevitably, even the most promiscuous fantasy about a hot sexual encounter with an anonymous partner has everything to do with connection. If the orgasm is, as the French have termed it, a little death, then the birth of consciousness, the child’s entry into the world and separation from the womb (and what Freud termed its “oceanic effect”) represents a displacement, an individuation that is purchased at the price of isolation. If ego can be defined as the literal and symbolic boundary of the material self, then that demarcation constitutes a prison. Furtive browsers of Internet porn sites might convince themselves that they are engaging in little acts of rebellion in which they only want to see gonads or sexual practices that would normally be hidden from sight, but ultimately the obsession with intimate acts emanates from a more profound search for intimacy. The wandering ego is an exile from the paradise of oneness with nature. Humans, and indeed all organic matter, even molecules, demonstrate a tendency to differentiation, together with a countervailing tendency to dissolution and finally unification with the whole. Isn’t that what the peasants are after in the famed orgy sequence in Bunuel’s Viridiana? The Lonely Crowd is the name of a classic work of sociology, but the title may have even more universal implications than its authors, concerned with the world of post-war strivers, ever intended.

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