“REFLECTION: LOVE BETWEEN BODIES
They are two people by mistake. The night corrects that.-Eduardo Galeano
The purpose of the reflection that follows is simple. Starting with what has been considered, it is a matter of noting the unsettled relationship with one’s own body and with other bodies (particularly with those that are objects of desire) imposed by the passing of time, a perspective that for reasons indicated in the chapter, our protagonists didn’t even have the possibility of considering.
In an initial very general overview of the subject, one thing that would immediately be noticed by someone who was questioning the place and the importance of the body in our lives is the fact that over the years the body loses its role of opportunity for pleasure, an attribute that it possesses almost spontaneously during one’s youth, and, in its place, it increasingly and unstoppably acquires the role of obstacle to the peaceable development of one’s very existence. With the passing of time, the body in effect turns precisely into that which resists us, which agitates us and reminds us of its existence through symptoms such as pain, discomfort or, of course, illness. In his book The Arc of Words, Andrés Trapiello has expressed this thought with a brilliant aphorism: “The body is like style: the less noticed it is, the healthier it is”.
In other terms, if we agree to call age that specific time that speaks through the body, one could affirm that the greatest characteristic of youth with regards to the relationship that it maintains with corporal physicality is precisely its fluidity, its immediacy, its transience. In this sense, a young person is someone who can call on his or her body with the knowledge that the body will rapidly return the call. On the other hand in a mature age everything is slow as Coetzee has pointed out, sometimes even extremely slow. So much so that even words end up acquiring this calm and slow rhythm and they take time to reach our lips. As I understand it, it was what an old friend of his commented to the great Fernando Fernán-Gómez, remembering the old times nostalgically: “Do you remember when we spoke rapidly?”.
Nevertheless, if it were only that, one could reassuringly maintain that in the last resort living is finding an accommodation —even if paradoxically it is an uncomfortable accommodation— in one’s own body. The problem, at least with respect to one of the subjects that our society thinks about with greatest difficulty (in this regard I could give as an example any of the novels of Michel Houellebecq), lies in the fact that in addition to that intra-subjective dimension to which I have just referred and which each one of us has to take on, there also exists a specific and particular material inter-subjectivity one of whose most prominent expressions is shown through desire.
I note that the most forceful commentaries these days tend to judge with an attitude that to my taste is frankly hypocritical —somewhere between indifference and paternalism— specifically the older the bodies involved are. It looks as if the maximum threshold which those of us who have definitely left behind the condition of glorious bodies find correct to accept, is that of tenderness barely covered by a gentle pastel color of residual passion. But maybe the body responds to a logic that is totally missed by those commentaries. Maybe just like the word remembers the soul, desire preserves the memory of the body.
Or maybe it is that the body has its own memory and is capable of seeing in the body that lies next to it what it was, even though now it may no longer be; it rescues from obscurity the shine of the past and it brings it with loving delicacy to the present, redeeming it from the ravages of time, the unmerciful punishment of evolution. Those who believe that bodies accept, are resigned, agree with what is handed to them are wrong. No. The body remembers the fulfillment that the other, with whom it is now melding with, had. The body preserves the memory —its own memory— of what it knew, of what once was its own. I am not referring to a dreamlike state or a fantasy. All those who do not know this experience: the feel of the violent stab of lust on recognizing in this body that has changed so radically, that almost in no way resembles that of the past, its contours lost, the fresh scent that identified it gone, the now faded smoothness of the skin, all of them should avoid smiling disdainfully, plentiful in their ignorance. Only from that memory of body which I have been referring to can such a revealing experience be understood. Those who do know it will not only know with perfect exactitude —with total precision— what I have been talking about. They will also enjoy an additional privilege: they will understand the deep significance of what is happening to them and, to a similar extent, maybe they will be able to reconcile with it, discarding in one fell swoop the sense of shame and blame that this society insists on placing on their consciences for committing the crime of desiring freely.
To summarize, I have never been able to understand why people limit themselves to swear eternal love to each other (though they do so less and less; that I do know). They ought to have the courage in certain circumstances to swear eternal desire. With luck and sensibility they might even be able to keep their promise. Certainly the mystics believed that. And, much closer to us, André Gorz expressed it at the beginning of a long letter that he wrote to his wife soon after finding out that she was ill, with some moving words embedded with sensitivity and tenderness:
You have just had your 82nd birthday. You have shrunk 6 cm, you don’t weigh more than 45 kg and you continue to be beautiful, elegant and desirable. We have lived together for 58 years and I love you more than ever. Once again I feel in my breast a consuming emptiness that is only eased by the warmth of your body next to mine.”
From I love, therefore I exist.
Love and the philosophers.
by Manuel Cruz
Translated by Gabriel Baum