Toward an Understanding of Attraction

Toward an understanding of attraction: I am astounded as to the origin of the force that overwhelms my being in the presence of beauty; in particular, beautiful women. For example, at a recent social gathering I spent part of evening seated next to a woman of remarkable beauty during which time an emotion in me was evoked. In that instant she was perfect and divine. It was as if normally intangible metaphysical dilemmas had altered so significantly that all pointless and purposeless wanderings had been irrevocably redirected by, and toward this woman’s disposition. Questions regarding the nature of reality and existence were rendered completely futile and impotent in her presence. In her, and beaming out of her, it seemed, lay all the conceivable answers. I imagined that if I shared the rest of my days with her they would be happy and trouble-free. Yet, nothing that she said or acted was any more extraordinary that anybody else at the gathering. I knew this, but despite that, by virtue of her attractiveness to me, I watched her movements and listened to her words with deep interest. In an attempt to conceal my infatuation I consciously addressed my remarks to anyone but this beautiful woman.

It is from these encounters that I believe questions like the following arise; what is beauty? How is it that in the presence of beauty the atmosphere of suffering is so tangibly transformed into desire? What are the possible elements that enable the manifestation of desire? Is there a harmonious resolution to the apparent disunity between the subject and object in the face of serious philosophical and creative endeavours? I leave these questions directly unanswered in the hope that they are answered through the following discussion.

As a teenager I recall being rather picky about whom I would accept as beautiful. I had a premonition about beauty that was static. Walking down the street and being struck by someone’s overall or even partial beauty was a rare occurrence. In hindsight, that quick-draw negative judgement had a lot to do with not loving myself. As I grew older, and continue to do so, my position is changing to one where I recognise more and more people who I perceive as beautiful and attractive. Discussing this change with a friend once, his retort was that attraction and finding beauty in others is a highly narcissistic phenomenon. The more I find beautiful and attractive in myself, the more I find beautiful and attractive in others. Furthermore, there is, I believe, a sense of empathy and compassion towards other people’s struggles and toils with existence. We may be attracted to how someone approaches life, rather than their physical appearance.

I struggle to comfortably imagine a situation where entering into a long term relationship with such a profoundly beautiful woman would not present issues of jealousy and ownership. Having once been taken by her beauty myself, how can I not distrust other men? The result of which is a disposition of control that would inevitably mean the (hopefully best intentioned) freeing of the other and henceforth terminating our intimacy. At this juncture I am reminded of the scenario where in a crowded place a stranger brushes arms with my partner and I get jealous. However, I could not count exactly how many times we had made love.

I once spoke to a woman who claimed that she had been alienated by her family because of her physical beauty. It was only when, as she described it, she was most “flattened;” that her mother re-embraced her. Only in her weakest moment could the mother pronounce that she was jealous of her daughters’ beauty. The latter may seem a little extreme, but it isn’t hard to imagine reverse- discrimination based on appearance. It is counter-intuitive to consider that jealousy, manipulation, alienation, divisiveness and sorrow can be the consequence of what on the surface should be a positive inertia.

The same woman went on to state that she believed that her physical beauty was/is representational of the comely nature of her inner spirit. If the premise that those physical beauties are a manifestation of an enigmatic spirit how do I reconcile the notion that there are beautiful characters (to put it bluntly) in ugly bodies? Am I attracted to those women in the similar platonic sense that I am attracted to men? I am able to have engaging and meaningful conversations with these people on regular occasions. However, it is with these women, and not with men that a problem arises.

I am watching movies with a woman I am not genuinely attracted to. We are alone, tipple flowing and our interaction digressing wonderfully. Now, for some reason I feel like kissing her. All of a sudden an air of seriousness precipitates. It occurs to me simultaneously that I want to proceed with this act of frivolousness simply because she is of the opposite sex. It could even be stated that we converse so uninhibitedly because none of the overwhelming sense of attraction canvassed earlier is present. Is it undignified to betray our connection through recourse of flippant hormonal impulses? Or is it that the present moment is so pervasive in its provocation that there is nothing reproachful in letting the chips fall where they may. After all, life is short. An analogy, albeit a probably poor one, would be taking interest in a subject that wouldn’t normally interest you; metallurgy for instance.

I didn’t kiss her. Obviously I’m still pondering whether I should have or not. Perhaps I always will. Metaphorically eavesdropping on a fellow bus-catchers magazine one day I read something along the lines of: often it is not what we do that we regret, it is what we don’t do. Still, spontaneity is for chumps, right? Nevertheless, I am resolved to believe that conversation is a greater and more meaningful artform than the hunt, or courtship. I am aware that they are different pastimes which are suitable on different occasions but whenever I reflect and evaluate on what is a more fruitful long-term use of energy, I choose conversation. I can do it with anyone, anytime, anywhere. I feel a need to be genuinely attracted to a woman before having sex with her in order to honour my own convictions regarding intimacy. Even then, before coitus, I feel a need to connect with this person on a subjective level through conversation. In a way I understand the act of physical love as an extension of the interconnection of inner spirits. But here is where my moral inconsistency lies.
If I am undiscriminating with whom I am talking to, and furthermore I regard the act of conversation as a more valuable one over and above sexual intercourse, why am I so reserved about who I sleep with? It seems to me that if I am being honest with myself I would only become physically intimate with the people that I connect with most intimately through conversation. How is it that I can be turned on by someone who I’ve never spoken to? Is it an immature pre-requisite, to be of the disposition where a high level of immediate physical attraction needs to proceed any bridging of a Platonic relationship into a Dionysian relationship? Why do I need a hybrid of both ideological and physical intimacies before I’m comfortable?


4 thoughts on “Toward an Understanding of Attraction

  1. because you’re human, all too human!
    until the beautiful object remains an object, we can only speak of love as desire, and therefore as a self-destructive impulse. italian philosopher bencivenga wrote: ‘desire desires the end of desire’.. just like any impulse like thirst or hunger, it seems that desire for an object, sexual or otherwise, really exists in function of its imminent extinguishment. once the desire is quenched it no longer exists.
    tolstoy said beauty will save the world. it seems that even in the obsessive churning of heart and guts that is our desire to possess beauty (to make it ours, to devour it and incorporate it into our pores and veins), there is a deeply rooted conviction that beauty can only be something qualitatively good to possess, that is, to own, to hold, to devour visually or consume mentally.

    desire (in love) is good if it is the launching pad for something beyond itself. obviously. if it remains desire for possession it will invariably die a quick death. i think the desire to possess beauty is a sign of being alive and desiring life, but if taken as an end in itself it can be so destructive as to annihilate our very ability to see and think and love.

    that is, if love of beauty does not progress from a love of the object to a love of the subject (your hybrid example) there is no hope for its continuity.

    that is why i agree very much with tolstoy, but only in the sense that beauty (natural, human, divine) saves when it functions to bring the perceiver out of hiself and his/her puerile and limited visions of happiness, and towards something akin to the infinite.

    i like how you started blogging again by the way.
    this post reminds me of stan.

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