Tuesday, June 24, 2008

passion vs. pathos

All of our interactions with others and with the world around us seem detached. We are rational now to the point of being robotic. Our identities and desires are now purely conceptual and nothing visceral remains. Just look at the amount of time people will invest in creating pseudo-selves that exist only in cyberspace. The cultivation and maintenance of a virtual self and the solicitation of interactions with virtual others cannot yield anything tactile. The only time that virtual interactions beget physical interaction of any kind is when the hapless “users” confuse their pseudo and their actual selves.

We go through life with a layer of haze separating us from what is around us. Occasionally the veil will be ripped aside by terror or ecstasy. For the vast majority of our days, however, we live in an abstracted fog where the chatter in our heads and our concerns over symbolic gains, losses, allies, and foes keep our feet from ever touching the earth. Sometimes a walk in the park with our bare feet on the grass will remind us of what we are missing. But we distort the message and feel as though we are being carefree and connected. How far from equilibrium are we when walking in grass suffices for tactile and connected experience?

Bloom says that we even approach sex passionlessly. We intermingle passionlessly in the workplace, at school, and in coffee shops. We pair off for some passionless copulation and then meld back into the herd. Bloom says we have misplaced what civilizations of the past employed in lieu of heat. We are a herd where no one ever goes into heat. We choose our time and place of copulation as rationally as we choose when and where to play Frisbee (preferably in a park on a nice day). Bloom’s assertion would provide me with a poignant answer to my question regarding the constant conjunction of alcohol and sex. We now employ alcohol to induce a sloppy sort of intoxicated heat.

Alcohol leads me to my next point – the one that provided the title for this little exercise. I am not saying that we live without drama. I am sure that many individuals would argue that they have visceral experiences all too often. But we should not confuse pathos with passion. My thesis here is that we have all too much of the former and a tragic dearth of the latter. Or maybe the proper term is pathology: extreme attachment and codependence that generate unfounded resentment and oppression. We have all of that in spades. Drunken fits of anger, melancholy, jealousy and the like. None of these things relate to the passion that is missing in our relationships. There is a remarkable absence of joie de vivre. There is little animalism left in the animal. Unable to relate to the body we no longer celebrate it. Instead we are thinkers who shun our bodies and the inevitable complications that bodies bring.

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