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Obsession, Metaphor & D.H. Lawrence

24/08/2013

I could spend a lifetime analysing the appropriateness of metaphor. I think, however, it stands to become a threat when I start using my analogies and metaphors to extrapolate some sort of essential, all-encompassing truth. Take my obsession with song obsession for example.

You know that feeling you get when you become obsessed with a song? Maybe it was upon the first hearing, maybe it took you two years, maybe it was completely unexpected, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe you heard it first in a coffee shop, a friend’s car, on random shuffle. You go through great lengths to find it once it’s entered your consciousness because the melody is resilient – you can hear it in your sleep.

Then, as soon as it’s yours, you can’t resist listening to it everyday, but you have to pace yourself, you give yourself a maximum of three plays per day (but sometimes you play it to the half mark twenty times so it doesn’t count toward the quota). That song becomes the Platonic ideal of a song, or at least it should be. There’s nothing you’d change about it because it’s mere perfection.

But then, one late evening, you browse through your music library and you see the ghosts of past song obsessions. Songs that have been months or years forgotten, or perhaps the antithesis, perhaps there are songs you can’t escape from – they become your distraction, your default when there’s nothing else to listen to (out of safety, comfort, laziness, an ossification of taste).

These were songs that so deeply resonated with you at one point, so encapsulated your very being. But today you play them again and again, and experience immense guilt when you don’t cry anymore, or that you get impatient with the saccharine instrumental intro you once found not only tolerable, but orgasmic in each cadence. You can’t admit to yourself that your song has become irrelevant, you cannot admit this just yet, because doing so would imply something much more serious.

Then there’s the nostalgic element: saudade. The temperature of a summer night, an illegitimate message, fingers through a lover’s hair, their lips on yours, that particular brand of Parisian isolation – these are things, when you’ve become distanced enough, that an old song can elicit ever so forcefully. Like a 54 year-old trying to describe to you the transcendental element of The Smiths or Bob Dylan, you just have to chalk it up to time and place. It’s all about time and place.

I don’t know, call it cynical, or blame it on my schooling / relationships but permanence has always seemed like such an impossibility. I wonder if anyone’s ever had that one favourite song they never tired of. It would bring me a lot of peace if I met someone like that. You see, I’ve always believed that singing brings joy and revitalises our being. I think that song is the highest achievement of our collective culture. But I fear that my love for song is a reflection of my emotional transience.

Enter Lawrence.

Following is my favorite poem by D.H. Lawrence. He didn’t believe that transience should be a disqualification for love (or a song obsession, or any sort of fleeting passion). Like him I believe that when things don’t quite last forever, the anxiety we feel may be real, but the guilt is artificial. I take solace in that.

The Mess of Love – By D.H. Lawrence (1929)

We’ve made a great mess of love

Since we made an ideal out of it.

The moment I swear to love a woman, a certain woman, all my life

That moment I begin to hate her.

The moment I even say to a woman: I love you! –

My love dies down considerably.

The moment love is an understood thing between us, we are sure of it,

It’s a cold egg, it isn’t love any more.

Love is like a flower, it must flower and fade;

If it doesn’t fade, it is not a flower,

It’s either an artificial rag blossom, or an immortelle, for the cemetery.

The moment the mind interferes with love, or the will fixes on it,

Or the personality assumes it as an attribute, or the ego takes possession of it,

It is not love any more, it’s just a mess.

And we’ve made a great mess of love, mind-perverted, will-perverted, ego-perverted love.

Then again, just because something is finite doesn’t make it is any more untrue, false, shallow, or less beautiful.

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