[First part, written at Toronto Airport on Feb. 13, waiting for flight to Montreal to see my beloved Canadian for Valentine's Day:]
If you'd told me even a few months ago that certain philosophical ideas from a turn of the last century philosopher would give me insight/guidance into matters of intimacy and love, I probably would have been skeptical. As a matter of fact, if you'd told me anything that's happened in my life since December 6, I would have been skeptical.
So why not drag Henri Bergson into this blog along with his ideas about intuition?
Because here's the thing, when you fall in love - especially if you fall in love mid-life - with someone else in mid-life - you bring a lot of stuff with you to the party. Bergson's whole deal (and he was good friends with Proust, who was best man at his wedding, which makes sense when you put his ideas next to In Search of Lost Time) has to do with memory, recollection, the past in the present and how intuition is the moment when (to oversimplify and with all due apologies therefor) you basically can see outside of your own blinkered view of an event to the fact of it having various levels - which include impressions from the past as much as the present moment.
So, like, when you are looking at this person who you love now more than anything and loves you the same way but realize - wow, I'm treating him/her like ______ [add person from your past - could be former love, could be family, could be any number of things] and feeling as if I am with _______ [same] - you have a choice - what I will hereinafter refer to as the Bergsonian choice - of moving outside of your own compulsions and habitual frameworks, to see the person in front of you with as much vulnerability and uncertainty as possible….uncertainty being in reality the only place intimacy - true intimacy can happen…Uncertainty not as a negative but as a positive stance, as in "Actually, I don't know what happens next." I don't know because I am surrendering all the habitual frameworks.
Which doesn't mean you can just junk them or pretend they aren't there. Bergson would definitely not agree to that and neither would I for that matter. You have to find a way to befriend these parts of yourself, these reactivity masks, recognize them, name them, somehow give them milk and cookies and let them be, but not let them have their way if at all possible.
Gilles Deleuze cut his philosophical teeth in part on renovating Bergson - below is an excerpt from his take on Bergsonian intuition (on p. 27 of Bergsonism for anyone wanting to sing along with the sheet music):
"Intuition leads us to go beyond the state of experience toward the conditions of experience. But these conditions are neither general or abstract. They are no broader than the conditioned: they are the conditions of real experience. Bergson speaks of going "to seek experience at its source, or rather above that decisive turn, where, taking a bias in the direction of our utility, it becomes properly human experience."…..But on the other hand we push each line beyond the turn, to the point where it goes beyond our experience, an extraordinary broadening out that forces us to think a pure perception identical to the whole of matter, a pure memory identical to the totality of the past…"
So what does that have to do with intimacy? To my mind, a lot, because this implies an oscillation between acknowledging one's own biases and how memory works in actuality, but knowing that intuition, which to Bergson is a precise move, allows us to see outside of our own experience…which links these particulars to the broader movements of the "whole of matter" and the "totality of the past." We are both in particular and part of this whole. Our particulars are both real and masks. The totality is both virtual and yet we have access to it via intuition, as Bergson defines it.
In other words, when in moments of intimacy (vulnerability, uncertainty) we can see [boarding call interrupted this sentence....involuntary caesura as they call it in the academic biz - sorry one too many academic conferences...]
Feb. 20 - NYC
All of the above still applies...and the broken sentence...I believe was talking about moments of vulnerability and uncertainty wherein we can see what we do and don't know...have a kind of humility in the face of that...I'm not really sure that's what Bergson meant at all to be honest, but it's what I get out of it anyway...the moment when I can see outside of my small self POV into my Self POV, which is somehow both me but also encompasses the larger picture in which this event is occurring. I am both me and not me...That kinda thing. But this is a human experience I am discussing...
Something I'm obsessed with is the idea of immanent transcendence or transcendent immanence... wherein through a kind of radical presence one touches what perhaps could be considered divine in that there is no boundary of space and time to the experience, though it is happening on a very human level.
I have always understood this in terms of two kinds of events in my life: a spiritual experience I have described a number of times and in my play Word To Your Mama and in the theater - in rehearsals and sometimes, extraordinary moments, in performance. What I have never experienced until now is this immanent transcendence in a relationship with another human being.
So, please excuse my attempt to drag philosophy into this, but it's an attempt to describe something, which defies easy description, perhaps more for me than most because it is so far outside any past experience.
I could also say simply: I am deeply in love with John or I love John more than anything and in a way I've never experienced. But the reason that doesn't do it for me is that I could have used the word love in the past, have used the word love in the past, but it was not referring to what I am referring now. That is of course the funny thing about words always, especially loaded words like love.
We can think we know what we're talking about, but each be bringing a wholly different experience to the table. To borrow from Bergson again (which I'm reading thanks to John - so like blame him/Canada) the love I am experiencing with John with its lack of boundaries of space or time is a difference in kind rather than a difference in degree...so I'm impelled to attempt to describe its specificity.
But back to what can be described: Valentine's Day in Montreal at the Botanical Gardens was pure magic, because it was the opening day of their exhibit Butterflies Go Free (or, as listed: Papillon en Liberté!) wherein there were hundreds of butterflies in a space with gorgeous flowers and fruit. We spent many hours there, watching the butterflies and taking photos. I shot video mostly, which I want to review before posting...but a nice gentleman took a photo of John and I that we both like very much, so here it is:
Sadly no butterflies in this photo, but they were there, promise!
Here's one of John's photos from the day that I think looks a bit like a portrait of this butterfly more than "a butterfly":
I have written a lot about butterflies, especially my experience of witnessing a caterpillar turning into a Monarch when I was little in Maine. It is quite lovely to share a passion for butterflies with your beloved, especially on Valentine's Day!
The transformation of a butterfly is quite extraordinary, especially the fact that when in the cocoon the caterpillar to butterfly transition includes a liquid state. This is a warning to any and all that try to wrench off other peoples' protective covers. If someone tried to "help" a butterfly get free of its cocoon rather than waiting for it to break open its own shell, that could kill it.
Or: I don't know what anyone/thing needs, not really. Plus, as with the butterfly, nature takes care of itself without my 'assistance.' Many transitions happen wherein I don't know the timing nor need to know (note to self: remember this).
Welcome to my blog..
"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty
When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.
I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.
As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. So blessed for the opportunity and hope to find a more permanent job doing same.
I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with having written a rough draft of a new book and some other projects.
Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.
For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani
Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now.