TITHONUS' DIARY!!


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intimacy
2003-10-22 - 11:01 p.m.

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Actually, this time it's more like hand-wringing about whether or not I deserve to live. ;) Um, I wrote this stuff a couple of hours ago on my computer downstairs, not sure how wise it is to post it, anymore, but, hey, let's be reckless for once, right? :)

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I’ve just finished reading “Intimacy” by Hanif Kureishi. It’s an extraordinary book, a frightening book for someone like me. It’s the story of a man who has decided to leave his wife and children, to desert, turn rat. If you want to understand why men do it, what the rat-man thinks and feels, this is the book to read.

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But it’s frightening and disturbing because I want to be young and innocent and in-love, I want to enjoy the deliciously slow unfolding of possibility that new love brings, but now I am reminded that I am a rat-man. I feel as though I have a terrible contagious disease, some evil thing inside me, and the only way I can be attractive to someone is to keep it hidden. Then, if they fall for me, I stay, stay a while, and then I leave. And now they have the disease too. Cynicism. Or some hard, cold and calculative attitude to life, full of desire for things wanted but with no hope for the future.

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See, in order to love someone else, in order to trust myself enough to love another person, to let myself love them and let them love me, I have to be free of the burden of this little cancer. Either I have to lie to myself, or it’s genuinely possible to be cured of it.

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Argh, you see, this is so complicated, I don’t know how to spell it out. If fatalism is the ultimate truth, if the only reality is that to… have, to control, to be a winner is to be happy, and to be a loser is to be unhappy, then… No, let me start again. If the cynic inside is right, then everyone is bound to end up being cynics anyway, even though they might be happy until they learn to be cynics. It’s a matter of innocence and despoliation, see? The cynic enjoys temporary respite from being a cynic, but the price is paid by the other, by the person who has helped them out of their cynicism, because that person is in turn turned into a cynic. That’s one view.

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The other view is that the cynic is wrong. Or rather, that the cynical view is only right when we are talking about life without love, and that love changes the way the world works, and makes the impossible possible. Life can be a daily grind, and endless succession of new entertainments that ultimately blend into each other, depressingly the same, so that life is a wasteland… or it can be brought to life, sing, be beautiful, magical, wondrous and transcendant… made swo by the power of love. Not just romantic love but any love, the love of life, the love of the sun, the love of music that can be found in so much music.

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There’s this thing that Jesus says, I can’t remember the exact words, but it’s something along the lines of “Many of you don’t follow me because you’re scared that the burden will be heavy, that the way will be hard. But, follow me, and you will discover that my way is easy, and my burden is light”. See, this makes perfect sense to me as a theory about love, if we think that what Jesus is talking about is a metaphor, for living a life with love. To the person who does not love, it seems that being asked to love is yet another imposition, on top of all the other impositions, and it’s as though… you feel jealous of those who do love, but you think, they’re the lucky ones. They’re the ones who are strong enough to do this. I am weak, I am barely able to cope with what I’m doing now, now you want me to do even more, to try to love my life as well as cope with it!” And so it appears from their perspective. But then, to those who actually live with love, it’s easy. The love actually does the work for them. The way is easy and the burden is light.

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I am torn up, though, I am so unsure… there’s something that Kureishi says about one of the characters… “Victor was able to give hope, but not satsifaction”. Something like that. See, that could be me. But that presumes that other people are stupid, doesn’t it? Other people aren’t blocks of wood. It’s up to them to take their own risks. If I appear to offer hope, then it may be that other, better than I can myself, are able to see that the hope I offer is genuine, if not certain. What is certain? Only death. To be absolutely confident in oneself as a perfectly moral being, one only has to be dead. That was meant to be a joke, but somehow I doubt anyone’s laughing at it. Too morbid. But it’s a serious point, too; I feel anxious about the harm I might do to others, because I’m afraid of being guilty, of being the bad one, a rat-man, but the thing is, we’re all guilty. Even those guys who walk along with the brooms, to make sure they don’t tread on any ants. Even they do damage. The only way to make certain that one doesn’t do any more damage is to die. But if we love and do damage… so long as there is love. It’s… such a fragile thing, though, there’s no certainty of it. That’s part of what scares me. When I’m in pain, the pain stays, the pain is inescapable, the pain is insistent. Love tugs at the edge of my vision, like something I vaguely feel must be there, but wouldn’t bet money on. I wouldn’t bet money on it. So what right have I got to gamble with someone else’s happiness? I am a rat-man. That is my destiny. I walked out on her, and though I thought I’d gotten over it, this new thing with Carla, which has proceeded such a vanishingly tiny distance that it might disappear at any moment, has awakened in me enough tenderness and sensitivity to suddenly feel it all over again. I will always be a rat. So long as I live, I will be thinking of new justifications, very clever justifications but false nonetheless, to think that I have escaped my destiny, and then it will be there again. I will walk out on wife, children… I must never have children. I think I would be a great father. A dreadful father. The best ever. The worst ever. I want to be a father someday. I want never to be a father. I don’t even understand what the word means. I saw my father sleeping on the couch, briefly on my way out of the house this morning. I woke him by accident; as he opened his eyes, they were unfocused and tired. He is short-sighted, like me. I saw that he is old now. He’s worked like a slave all his life, and been a father to four children, yet I can remember perhaps one or two moments of genuine… connection. He was absent for most of the important years, building a career. Now he has retired. He spent seven years working like a slave for a company that has now gone bankrupt, and lost hundreds of millions of dollars of investor’s money. He is naturally hard-working where I am inclined to be lazy, yet I feel I would make a better father… how arrogant of me. I don’t know what I think. He’s getting old, he is like a stranger in his own house. I can think of more than two moments of genuine closeness to him. He was not a rat; I think he could only have married my mother out of terrible, unspeakable loneliness. I imagine him being pathetically grateful that someone would take him. I imagine him having no idea what a dreadful harridan she was, what a shrew, a castrator. I imagine him deciding to just look away when the violence against the children started. Unable to reconcile his mental of picture of his wife with the reality, deciding not to face the reality. Deciding he liked work better. Work, where he could simply follow his natural inclination, which was to accept responsibility and spend long hours, and in return he could receive praise, admiration, respect, and money. And power. He was a coward. He should have stopped her. He should have admitted that his image of her was a fantasy, confronted the reality, confronted her. I am a better human being than he is. What rot. I do not want to end up like him, but it’s easy to imagine. I feel sorry for him. I felt some love for him, seeing him old and frail on the couch today. Now they are old and weak and I am young and strong and powerful and able to do virtually anything I like. And yet, surprise surprise, I find that being able to do whatever one likes is a very feeble sort of freedom. Only love is freedom. I use that word too often, I am afraid it will be cheapened, but then, it is cheapened every day in our culture and nothing very terrible seems to have happened to it. Love cannot be willed into being. My cynicism has to admit, the best things in life are those things that cannot be willed into being, and it’s domain is what can be willed.

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This is getting to be very long. Probably too long. Who will bother to read something that is so long?

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I wanted to say something about breasts, prompted by something I read in fides’ diary. It doesn’t really seem appropriate, after all that. But so what!

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It shames me to say it, but I love looking at breasts. Ashamed because it makes me like every other man, every other pervert, every other sleaze. Everyone likes breasts, and therefore, I want to be different, unlike the commoners, unlike the muck. But I am not. I look furtively as I walk down the street, flicking my eyes low, hoping no-one notices I am looking, ashamed. I like the variety. I have a compulsive interest. It doesn’t matter at all if they fit the conventional ideal. I do my best to avoid looking when the woman in question is a friend, a colleague, a student, somone who will notice and know and think less of me. Sometimes I look anyway. I don’t really understand it. I don’t want to grab them, or suck them, or undress them, or possess them or anything like that. But I want to look. I think this is one of my fantasies, something I’ve never done. Just to look, openly, without shame, without disguising what I’m doing. I believe I’ve never or almost never done this. Even with girlfriends. I might take a look, a longer and less disguised look, during sex, but even that is accompanied by a certain degree of guilt, of self-consciousness. There’s a time limit, a sense that I can look for a certain period of time and no longer. But when she’s clothed, and we’re doing the shopping, or talking, riding the bus together… no. I feel that it would be wrong to look.

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I know that women hate men like me, or I suspect it, and I also know that nearly all men are like me. Women in low-cut dresses terrify me. I end up staring into their eyes for too long, or over the shoulder, because I know that if I start looking I will be caught looking, I will look too long, it will be noticed, I will be exposed… that’s a funny thought, isn’t it? Because you’d think it would be the woman who’s cleavage is exposed who would be feeling exposed. Maybe she does. But how does she feel, about the man who’s standing in front of her, obviously struggling not to look? How obvious is it? How obvious am I?

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I think I am too secretive. I am too good at holding secret things inside. I think perhaps part of my obsession with sex, with the world of sexual desire, is that it’s all about… providing a context in which secrecy fails. Nakedness, not just of the body but of everything. Imagine this; when I was with her, the last one, the one I deserted, then all I felt when saying the words “I love you”, for over a year, was self-disgust at my deceitfulness. But I said them, she believed them, the deception was kept. Perhaps I am wrong to blame myself, to imagine my secretiveness was so successful. Perhaps she knew, she knew I was lying, but didn’t want to believe it, and so just as I said it in bad faith, she heard it in bad faith.

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It’s awful. Is it too awful? I feel a lot better for having written it. I don’t know what to say to Carla. It’s much too soon to say anything of this kind to her. Or is it? Maybe one shouldn’t put a timetable on honesty, but be honest from the start. Dishonesty comes to me so naturally, I don’t know how to… I was going to say I don’t know how to be honest, but I must, after all, or else how else am I writing this? Perhaps the problem is that I know how to speak honestly, but I don’t know how to be honest, if that distinction makes sense. It’s a whatchamacallit, an ontological distinction.

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But I don’t know “how” to speak honestly, even. I just sometimes find that I am. Here I am, speaking honestly.

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My last girlfriend’s breasts were large, the largest I’ve ever seen in the flesh, as it were. I loved them. Carla’s chest is, as far as I can tell, entirely flat. Yet I am dying to see it. My lust isn’t hierarchical but curious. That doesn’t quite express it. What I mean is, I don’t believe that some breasts are better than others, but I am interested in all of them. This promiscuity of sexual curiousity is a worry. I think it is part of what makes me a rat. I don’t want to be a rat. I want to be the sort of person who can love one person and spend a lifetime with them, but not the way my father did it. He was able to stay because he was never really there to begin with, he was able to retreat when things got ugly, and return when they weren’t so bad. To have stayed when things were ugly seems like an impossible ask. This is why I keep talking about love, and Jesus, and the possibility of making the impossible possible. Because if it just stays impossible, the way that perpetual motion is impossible, then I really am bound to be a rat-man, to live a rat-man’s life, and to cause the kind of pain that rat-men cause. I don’t want to do that.

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“I hand you my ball and chain

You just hand me that same old refrain

I’m walking on a wire

I’m walking on a wire

And I’m falling” – Richard Thompson


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