Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"divorce" an essay

This essay on divorce was difficult, not emotionally, as you would expect, but intellectually, as I feel I do not understand the topic, and the ideas are ill-formed and will require a decade to fully formulate. All problems are intellectual problems, yet until the emotions are put into their proper circuits, we cannot begin to see what the problem actually is. This is how I feel, and so the essay is a true essay, an attempt, and a failure at that.

Daniel Christopher June




Parting Song


Love at last has sunk my ship

My lips impress on letters dead

I stamp them home to fill my stead

We would not budge on principle

Our love crossed pride invincible

I think I let my weakness slip.


I’m lonely for you

I haven’t a friend

I won’t be consoled

There isn’t an end

I’m eager for you

I’d sacrifice all

Except for dread pride

Invinciply tall

Protector of love

Avenger of gifts

Tender as life

There’s teeth in his lips.


Goodbye goodbye

Hypocrite’s parting

Each time I end you

My heart is restarting.



            Since love implies intimacy, and since intimacy requires control to allow joy rather than destruction, and since control implies possession, since nobody can control what he does not possess – indeed since having control of something is the only true way to possess it – then the deepest of loves implies ownership, and we can rightly say that a “disinterested love” is a contradiction in terms. Love is a weakness, a need we cannot by our own power fulfill, yet the loving relationship implies the sort of mutual submission that unifies two into an interface, a single organism like two trees knit together that must balance and pull from the shared base between them. Love, romance, marriage, and family, are about ownership, ownership and roles. Being a husband or wife means playing a part, means accepting the conventions one has learned his whole life, and creatively working within them to allow his individuality to grow through them. Every man is more than a man when he joins a group: as a manager at the store, he aligns his angers, joys, fears, and hopes to the company’s angers, joys, fears, and hopes, and the outer layers of his heart take on the shape of the business, so that he is finally representative, and becomes more than a man, but also a group-leader. Marriage too is an institution of roles; the men and women who join it develop further layers of being to express the same inner self.

            A relationship requires honesty, and yet love itself is a sort of deception. Falling in love is the first deception, and deceptions characterize love at every turn. Mature love is often a “love at first sight.” Yet how can this be, since strange things are never loved before they become familiar? The new beloved only seems beautiful because the man has been meeting pieces of her his whole life. He takes decades getting to know his mother and father, and what he hates in them he will nevertheless seek in a mate, despite himself, so that he can say with justification to his wife “You are just like your mother,” and imply even more that she reminds him of his own mother. More to the point, the man has spent his whole life getting to know himself, both the real self he is, and the ideal self he wishes to be. Glances of these find face in his new mate. In sum, the new person is taken as if she were a freshly sprung goddess, but the truth is the man has known her his whole life in the analogies and mirros of each of her fragments. If she gives him enough material to work with, he will fashion divine the remainder. And to aid this process, the fresh lovers try to resemble each other. They raise their antennae and hone in on what the other wants to hear. If the woman loves music, but the man has no such interest, he will at least say that he likes this or that song. Whatever they have in common receives special emphasis; what they do not have in common will be ignored. This mutual deception characterizes the dazzling romance: love grows with this deceptions protection, but must finally burst through it, so that the individuals can achieve true intimacy. Disillusionment is the beginning of the actual romance. Perhaps ten years of love before a couple finally falls in love.

            If the personality could be viewed as a spiral drawing, in which the initial shape of the self becomes more exaggerated and contorted at the higher layers, then it could be said that utter intimacy is a miracle meant for few people, and at rare times. The outer layers suffice us. We play along with our roles, making clever variations – I’m this kind of policeman, but still a policeman; I’m that kind of sister, but still a sister. While the proudest people will flaunt their vices and hide their virtues, it is best always to temper pride with humility, which is the love of serving, and let both our vices and virtues educate others. Learn from my strengths as well as my weaknesses. Yes, it is wisdom to keep the inner layers forever hidden from most people, but if I do not shine my inner sun for at least the trusted friend or the intimate lover, then I will be truly abstinent, the worst of conditions, and never feel love’s touch upon my soul.

            The trouble with intimacy is that wisdom allows it only upon proof of commitment. And the trouble with commitment is that it requires trusting somebody who might hurt you. It is the inner self that allows the possiblity of divorce. My internalization of her, my inner wife, the she that I have made into a full inner environment, which I plug into her external reality as often as I can, must come into contact with two things: my innermost self, on proper occasions, and her innermost self, on proper occasions. If we do not grow together, then we grow apart. Despite all the emotional drama, fights, clutter of talk, and the plain noise of both marital disputes and also marital bliss, underneath that, every marriage problem is philosophical. The rest is so much indirection. The real disjunctions in life are between ideas. The outer stuff, the betrayals, lies, accusations, and mistrust, are external layers beyond the basic self. The more cowardly the man and woman, the less obvious the real problem is. Masks and excuses cover the idea. The boldest of men and women quickly pierce the core problem, and so are more likely to resolve it, with grace, poise, and kindness.

            It can be said that intelligence is in itself neither good nor bad. History’s cruellest people were intelligent, and knew how to psychically destroy others. And yet, an intelligent man bent on improving his beloved can do as much good as the evil man can do bad – no, but even more good, for the badness finally tells on itself and is escaped, whereas goodness is often fortified and further requested.

            But even more important than the implicit philosophical dispute behind every divorce is the psychological impossibility of union when each person comes to stand for those incompatible ideas. The initial roles the man and woman were able and willing to fill could not remain constant: the inner ideas of our being changed, both in regard to our partner, and also in regard to our emerging self. Each self slowly unfolds from pure power, and converts into form as it touches the world. Nevertheless, some powers remain in zygote for years, and only slowly grow out into final worldy layers. Because of what I do in the world, the choices I make, the virtues I cultivate, and the vices I permit, my power grows and diminishes, till I am a different shape, and can no longer fit into the niche I first occupied. If I mindfully match my shape to hers, we will grow together. Then marriage is a dance, and when she retreats I advance. But when one partner deeply redefines his self-image, it shines in all his actions, and he is a better person. In such a case, his spouse may make herself worse, and this from an unconscious sense of unworthiness, and in such a case, she will sabatoge the love in order to flee.

            An idea, when drawn out into implications, and charged with desires, becomes a habit. The growth of the soul is in producing ideas and turning them into habits: this creativity is the purpose of both this life and the next. Ultimately, a marriage must stand for an idea, and the idea of the marriage must hold integrity against life’s trifles and tragedies. Shared goals unite a marriage, as shared goals and shared enemies unite all groups. A couple must also revere marriage as sacred – something essentially foreign to the Christian and Buddhist mindset in the scriptures, but pragmatically at a forefront in their day-to-day lives. Marriage is more sacred than religion and God, possibly more longlasting than either, and with more powerful consequences than both combined. The being created from a marriage, the group soul, which buds and complicates with children, is the primordial group-mind, the unit which produces more human beings, and reproduces the original members of the family as better or worse individuals both in and out of their roles. The worth of a pure Mary, a pure Jason, a pure Daniel, is his worth to himself; the marriage need not concern itself with this, it is not the goal of the marriage, but the goal of the individual who uses the marriage (and everything else) to advance it. Thus marriage is not selfish to the individual, it is selfish to the marriage, seeks to strengthen the marriage and do what is right for the marriage, even at the cost of the individual and the larger society. This is the nature of each layer of being: it wishes to first serve and allow itself, and then to use that self to fit in and beautify the rest. Marriage fights for marriage, nation fights for nation, religion fights for religion: each being must protect and advance itself, first of all, and those beloved of that self, secondly.

            The emergence of a new idea, the philosophical moment of self re-definition, does not seem nor feel like an intellectual moment at all, no, but feels hot and tempered like a virus feels like a fever. The fights, follies, and mutual attacks and betrayals are much fanfare by which the characters of each may well be levelled and forever wounded – it requires much tact to protect your heart from the very person whom you have already given it to! – but such is the necessity and fatal insistance of the personal growth, which wasn’t our own choice to begin with, the emergence of an idea into a full blown habit-sequence: an attitude, a belief, a personality, a character. And like the invisible virus, we wouldn’t even know that such an idea existed were it not for certain microscopic self-evaluations during the strife of couples.

            Whatever can be said for or against a spouse, it is all secondary. The intrusion of a new idea, an aspect of the self the person would not sacrifice, is the real cause of disagreement. The betrayals, lies, and rank vices that accompany it serve to protect it – though they seldom leave once they are evoked. The soul must grow. And though almost all divorces could be avoided in patient and wise spouses who knew how to grow together, how few of us are wise!

            The marriage, the household, the relationship as a whole represents a thick tissue of habits, mutual expectations, consistencies, and regularities that freeze the individual mind, and give it the opium of comfort and security. Habit keeps even the painful unions solid. And this is good. Nobody would resist such a love unless the partner were daily preparing to perjure herself more and more, till audibly she has confessed herself into two people: the apparent and the secret. At this point, the disjunction is real and final – though it may be years until it is apparent.

            While marriages will continue to be common and expected, and divorces nearly as common and expected, to do either well, to stay married well, or to divorce well, would require exceptional human beings. Being exceptional, they would need no advice on the matter, and therefore, there is no need to speak of it. For the rest of us, who at times do not know how to overcome our insecurities and weaknesses, marriage is a platform for exhibiting and intensifying those same insecurities and weaknesses, for pledging our protection over our spouse’s weaknesses, kissing the gimpy heart, accepting the person in their poverty and often enough using it to at times torture them. Cruelty is a mode of power, and marriage is as much a contract of power as it is of love. The partnership is not only about love, for love balances herself against power, and the fears that make it necessary. As even the business relationship, which empahsizes power, is also about love; so the marriage which emphasizes love is about dominion, rights, control, advantage, and leverage. In fact, such a dual twist isn’t lacking even in the innocent prattle of five-year-olds. Power and love are the fabric of social interaction, and so we must not let pretty ideals deceive us: marriage wouldn’t be half as interesting if it were merely a union of love. Since love is about intimacy, tenderness, openness, and touch, we must know what to expect from another, what to predict: and to be able to predict a person is to in part own them, for ownership is in control, and what can be predicted can be planned around, anticipated, and controlled.

            The highest control of others requires forming a theory about their tendencies, about having an implicit philosophy of their being. Philosophy is the art of defining. It is concerned with the forms of ideas, the forms of processes and systems, of structure in its most abstract. This is why philosophy is not only the trunk from which every branch of science grows – and science would be possible without it – but also the world tree which springs to the heavens of human experience, the inner world of the assumptions. And heaven is a prepatory world which the hellish desires must intermingle to make the habits of desires that motivate all human action. Marriage comes into contact not in the heavenly realms of pure philosophy, just as warfare between countries does not come into contact between political theorists – and yet it is the innocuous philosophical ideas that leaden each bullet. Ideas move the world, ideas set the tone, and desire, the heart, the mind, come afterwords to justify and allow them. Almost all the philosophy of the world is performed unconsciously in the heaven of the mind. Only perverts philosophize externally.


            When any two forces reach a deadlock, they require the determining third to deliver them. The impasse implicit in any duality, the seeming incompatiblity between them, requires the mediating third to triangulate a balance between them. In a marriage, the marriage counselor, the mutual friends, and the children can each of these serve this function, an element that is partly made up of both of them, partly different than either. And this is what we expect of a third: it is in part an aspect of both of us, in part different than both of us. Yes the heaven of concepts breaks down into neat dualities, yet we can complicate those dualities, not to deconstruct bianaries, but to reinforce them.

            The larger system can help us. We can plug into work, church, circles of friends, or world-literature to anchor and sway us. The larger world exists for our benefit, and our greatest glory is to become great enough to add to the larger world. The pride of all great men is intensified by their humility to serve what they adore. Humility and pride intensify each other: their opposites of recalcitrance and guilt should be shaken off and avoided.

            Yet though many can advise you on a difficult matter, only one can advise your will: the soul uncertain, wrestling with itself for its own truth. Only this delicious uncertainty and profound self-doubt can earn a man true trust in the greatest being he can ever know: his own will. Therefore, we out to doubt ourselves and not seek the advice of others. Though that wonderful muse speaks music to us, and we cry out “I need the nectar of your words!” we must give her silence and let her be silent in turn.

Silence is the wisest word.

To hold your strength,

You must hold your peace.

Settle disputes with a grace of hush.

            What is all this talk, talk, talk, talk? We simply must talk to think as a couple. The brain of the family is the language between the members. A family more than anything else is a group of stories about characters who can’t leave each other. You are stuck in a family. The entire savoir of the family unit is to make divorce as difficult and ignoble as possible – and that is the true kindness and mercy to society, and the sacrifice of the individual. The family knows itself as the family, and its stories build around us the immovable units.

            We tell stories to structure experience into a preferred form. Memories are no good. They are too exact, too literal. We need to falsify our memories to make them useful. This falsification is not by malicious intent, but by poetic license, the poetic license built into the neuronal system. We tell ourselves stories continually to process the form of our history, and so raw experience tilts in the rock tumbler till our life is a set of gems we can spread before anybody who cares to know us.

            William James had a knack for textbook simplifications. He learned this from writing his textbook on psychology, a painful experience for him, but essential for granting him the power to reduce complex problems to a short list of essentials. In this way, the philosopher is the instructer of man and marriage, because he can reduce the complex to a few simple ideas. He tells stories about our stories, and fishes from them the essential features by which to build an ideal man, an archetypcal self, a basic myth-memory to organize us. What is our family about? What is it we are here for? Are we like so many couples who discuss the family and our family endlessly for the mere sake of family? Or are family values again to promote a higher value – does our family serve a philosophy? Few families will. And of those who do, most will serve prefabricated religions. Better to define the family according to a personal philosophy and an individual value. Each family develops its own rituals – and as rituals are the enactment of fantasy, the family shares its own fantasized purpose. We each become expressions of the family idea. Why would such a unit ever disintegrate?

            Sometimes a small particle of impossibility grows out of the souls of partners, and they build between them a contradiction. Their love becomes impossible. As the essense of their love disintegrates, they will praise love more, praise each other more, for praise is the mask of opposition. If their love were true, they would not need to praise love.  Sometimes it takes great courage to leave somebody you love. Ignore praise and blame – they deceive. Do the courageous thing and estrange your lover, if this is the kindest love. Just as a great book or work of art only becomes so when it is assumed out of its context, survives its century, and speaks to the catholicity of mankind, so too does a romance become immortal when it survives its immediate cause, escapes the mortality of having a history, a reason for being, and becomes always and ever. Extract your romance from its environment, and like the great book, it becomes part of the Bible, the Great Books of the World. The scholar is friends to the best men in history. The lover is kin to the great lovers in history: their poems are his poems, and their experience are his. Metaphors are the savoirs of man, and the greatest gifts of all the world religions combined are only a few sturdy tropes. In the same way, the idea of a relationship, the shape of its tropes, are few and simple, but translatable to any circumstance. The more particular and ideosyncratic the couple, the more qualifiers on their love, the less flexible it will be, till it grows cramped in its own armor, and sinks.

            It is unjust to love a man who doesn’t love himself, or respect a man who doesn’t respect himself. You must take his own self-evaluation as valid, and not overstep it. Let a man judge himself, for he is most intimate with himself. You can only insult a man who is insultable, and offend a man who is offensible. When your heart is hurt, hide it up and let it heal. Now is the time to work on your power; let love hide away. Anything else would be a humiliation. Do not seek friends when you are lonely, but when you are friendly.

            Win your own admiration, and then you are admirable. Love as you think best, and you will be worthy of the same love. Speak to truth, but the full truth. Adolescents mistake rudeness for honesty, but truth is not full when it merely rips away the fineries of politeness. The full truth is gentle and beautiful, and possible only for the most powerful man who could psychologically destroy his friends and enemies. True tenderness is only possible for thick arms. It has been said that the one who loves less in a relationship controls more: care more and you can do less. And so love appears the opposite of freedom. But if true love is willing to lose what it loves – that is, if true love is willing to be equal to true hate – then that love is more than love, but, mingled with power, has become passion. And passion itself, the child of love and power, must again mingle with her opposite, the absense of love and power, cold dismissal. Only when passion is willing to cease all passion is it in contol of itself, and then passion self-overcomes, and thus allowed itself to take or leave what she loves the most. Only when you do not need something can you fully own it. Jung said that patients don’t get cured, they simply move on. Sometimes the greatest and deepest loves must be willing to move on, and let go. Perhaps the deepest passion in the world sets aside the beloved unworthy: she would be happier in the arms of a lover her equal, less passionate, less intense, less intimate, less tender. For love must match love, mind must match mind, true lovers are twin born from the dawn of time, and come to the earth maybe to find each other in this body, maybe not. Such utter intimacy, to find your other and take her into the centermost of your soul, is the work of many lives. Let us not trouble ourselves if our marriage fails this goal.

            The mind is either wide or narrow, the actions are either impulsive or inhibited. The mind narrow thinks of less but knows it better; the actions inhibited at least give the mind its power. If the action is impulsive, the action is strong, but the man isn’t. This is how passion must join with its opposite, so that in all things, the muscles of the passions are balanced and peacefully working against each other. If one passion dominated a man, twelve lesser ones must grow up to put it in check. Monopolies are odious, and a love without the skin of hate would be death. Intelligence has a greater capacity for boredom; passion has a greater capacity for impatience. The democracy of the soul is a set of passions where all men are created equal, and some are more equal than others. Aristocracy is the rule of all progress: some passions must rule the others. And in the same way, the family dynamic is one in which one spouse has certain powers over the other, and the other spouse has also her certain powers over him.

            How quickly we resurrect the structures we learned from our parents’ marriage, and the structures of our childhood friendships, imposed on the beloved flunky. Certain basic structures become reflexive templates, to fill in the ambiguity. Just as any group of men slowly fade into the template of the lecture hall when they assemble within a building, and just as their children must be threatened and cajoled to sit and be quiet while the speaker has the floor, so too do the archetypes of marriage impress on the minds of youth at every turn within our society, so that staunch individualists that they are, they exude the template of marriage upon  their spouses. What I expect from you needs not be said: we both know what we are supposed to expect from each other. The entire world is umpire to our faults and follies.

            Each process and each organization is like a complex machine, or a great single celled life form, in which modules are added and grow spontaneously to balance it during its travels, system against system. I am my individual self, but I am my group self, and the roles I play in the marriage must balance against the roles I place elsewhere. Browbeat me here and I will balance with a bit of browbeating of my own at work.

            Or again like a great spinning top, the figure of marrriage sits upon the fewest points and must balance itself with habits that will let that one union hold in place.

            Each marriage requires a metaphysics: why marry? What does it do for reality? Imagining a larger structure within which to fit our experience is the needed metaphysics to make sense of any world. The metaphorical whole gives a spin on all these concrete realities. The dishes in my sink are help in place by dreams and dragons. Metaphysics is art – false yet necesssary. The greater purpose of our lives cannot be proved or disproves: but we must posit it in order to live.

            We must hope for our marriage, that it will all work out. Optimism requires a silent knowledge of life’s miseries. Nobody could be optimistic unless he had a propensity to depression.



            When one is told he is being divorced, served the papers, and rejected despite his love, it might affect his mood. For me it feels like boulders beneath my ribs: emotions too strong to express. My only recourse is too sleep and let them dissolve into my blood.

            With such a wound, how does one react? I am deeply gestating: my creativity is curled like a kitten in the tender of my heart, while the walls thicken and calcify.

            With any grief or trouble, there comes the moment of insight when a man sees through to the reason, deeper than mere circumstances. At this point there need be no pleads or accusations agianst providence of fate, because something subtler and finer has revealed itself – necessity. Then his heartstorms are finished and he finds himself grateful even for his sufferings, grateful to himself and the universe as a whole (the two beings essential to philosophy). The moment of clarity lasts as long as it needs to. After that, he can return to living life.

            Whatever we may wish to present to the world, whatever we may fancy a truth of our soul, nevertheless the inner truth shines through. Fate emerges from the innermost.

            A failed marriage seeks to hang itself upon a mutual gratitude. When I can kiss you goodbye with thanks, I will have finally left you.

            Christianity praises the widow for giving away her last cent. I would prefer each man and woman to give from his or her abudnance, to respect this woman for what she had in abundance – not the useless cent, but her cooking, or sewing, or advice, or whatever creative, natural and beautiful thing she had to give. I don’t want a god to give me his corpse on a cross,  but to give me his attention and loving patience as I write a poem or sing a song. Let him take from me, if he is so generous. In the same way, the marriage is truly failed, indeed never should have been, when the abundance of a husband’s or wife’s soul is not to the taste of the spouse. If I am to write, and you can’t stand to read, what are we doing here? If I sing songs, but you are deaf, let us part ways. Genius is strange and rich. If you don’t have a strange taste for my strange fruit, then let us not harass each other. Unity is conversation in presense. Let me speak my soul’s language. If we are soul knit to soul, it will be your language too. Perhaps it may take ten years for you to internalize the structure of my soul. Perhaps a true love takes ten years to master. Perhaps you must be patient with me for a very long time, and learn to love me. But I must give what I love to give, and not what I hate to give. Don’t ask me money, don’t ask bravado. Ask for what my soul loves to give. I am a writer, and so I will write stories for our children. I am a singer, and so I will sing you songs. Let us eat the fruit of each other’s lips. This alone is love of growth, soul to soul, so you eat my soul and I eat yours. Then there can still be a marriage. But as it is, you cringe at my passion. Do not think I will hate you for it. You must be my friend.

            A person can only give from what he has. If my mother was cold, and never gave me affection, still I can be gratetful for what she did give me, because she gave me from what she had, not from what she lacked. I can be grateful to world scriptures for what they gave me, and yet not call them sufficient literature, being all to aware at what they lacked. Being naturally grateful, I will praise them for how they made me better, and seek elsewhere what they lacked. Those writers, those people, those friends, who stayed with me through all my moods, through all my problems, those are dear to me; they transcend their immediate contexts: I internalize them; they become the populace of my heart. And so I am grateful for you, though I never could figure out why you loved me, and now cannot figure out why you stopped.










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