11 June 2003
Where do we begin, and where does the other leave off? Can we answer this question, or do we sometimes feel like love is joining flesh into seamless flesh at points of contact like joined twins? In the beginning, this union is exhilarating. Later it's stifling as you find yourself trapped in another's skin, in another's desires, inside another's flesh and expectations, and the only way to escape is to chop off the other like you would your own arm. (The metaphor extends: later after the amputation of the other, the remainder can feel less like the phantom itch on the hand that no longer exists than the urge to reach or gesture with a limb that isn't there, that is no longer attached, no longer a part but apart.)
But this metaphor covers over another: the union of the dyad is how it feels to the organism, on the other hand how the relation functions is another matter entirely. What is this metaphor that gets lost under the satisfactions and frustrations and loathings and self-loathings of loving and hating? The metaphor is one of reflection. We see ourselves in the mirror of the other without recognizing who we are looking at--and that indeterminate who is left open, because the me or I we misrecognize covers over the other's "me," and we never see him because we see what we want to see, which is further complicated by the fact that we almost never have conscious awareness of what we want to see in an other in the first place. This is best illustrated in the way we loathe another person because he has traits that we loathe in ourselves, yet we never recognize him as being like us, as being akin; as we do when we see ourselves in a mirror looking unflattering, we turn away with a pained look of disgust. We turn away from ourselves. And so we never see. This dynamic lays bare the dynamic of Love.