Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Pornosophy: Love is a Four Letter Word

Love is a word that has almost no meaning. There's so-called romantic love which is the subject of Denis De Rougement’s Love in the Western World. Romantic love also includes the passion, or love that’s fueled by ephemerality, the love of Romeo and Julietof Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. The German word for passion is Leidenschaft whose root “leiden” means suffering. Carnal appetites  which occupy the other end of the spectrum are also a form of love. You love fried chicken and good pizza and Chinese food along with certain kinds of sexual positions and behaviors like cunnilingus and fellatio, the cocktail of which is lovingly abbreviated as 69 by aficionados. Bringing these two notions of love together is a little like trying to find a middle ground between the Democrats and Republicans in today’s deeply divided society. It’s hard to imagine Shakespeare writing a scene in which Juliet goes down on Romeo. Their passion is almost too fleeting to accommodate even such a fleeting act. And on the other side of the fence, it’s difficult to imagine a scene of a couple purchasing strap-ons and handcuffs in a downtown sex shop turning into a scene from Eric Segal’s Love Story, the eponymous tale which is the contemporary model for love as pain and loss and in fact anything but sex. Are there scenes in Dr. Zhivago during which Lara (Julie Christie) and Pasternak’s daring lead (played by Omar Sharif in David Lean’s movie) actually negotiate sex, the way couples do? Does Lara offer Zhivago a blow job when she's having her period? The answer is no. In a novel like Zhivago, which is all about human sacrifice, it’s as if sex didn’t exist. Similarly it’s unlikely you’ll find characters in the work of Henry Miller and Charles Bukowski, who sacrifice their lives for others and push their desires to the wayside. Hubert Selby and Genet are exceptions since they camouflage their spiritual searches with hedonism, just as Nabokov meliorates his erotic obsessions with aestheticism. Maybe the answer is to find a new four letter word for love, something simple which is a mixture of the physical and the spiritual, though not “fuck.”

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