Something that is not a lot like oxygen
I’ve been thinking a bit about love recently.
Mainly because recently I am chokingly, distractingly, giddily in love for maybe only the second time ever. Though I am prone to exaggeration and wild, childish fits of over-enthusiasm.
Seems to me Love is a totally incomprehensible cocktail of chemicals, memories and emotions desperately in search of a good metaphor.
There are literally thousands of bad ones.
Love is not like oxygen.
Love is not like a drug
Love is not like heaven
Heaven is not a place on Earth
A little while ago I saw a show by Neil Callaghan and Simone Kenyon that probably had the best attempt I’d seen in a while at making sense of things. The show is a beautiful collection of images and ideas and metaphors collected on the stage in a valiant attempt at explaining love and longing and a bunch of other things. Their hit rate was pretty good but there was one moment where it felt to me like the kind of love that I knew of had found a shape. A new way to describe itself.
It’s a little while since I saw the show but in my mind the two unwind a ball of fishing wire and tie it through the piercings in Neil’s ear and Simone’s tongue. And there they stand, at opposite sides of the stage, held together so delicately, so tenderly, so dangerously. They are both so precarious, so reliant on the other. They have this marvellous absurd connection between the two of them that at any moment could be broken in about the most painful way possible. More than that, it is the potential for this incredible pain that makes the connection between the two of them so wonderfully meaningful.
That carefully taught wire twinkling threateningly in the theatre lights reminds me also of Phillipe Petit’s impossible tightropes in the film Man on Wire. Petit himself comes across as a faintly sad figure in the film; almost ridiculously theatrical and self-mythologising. The quiet tears of his stage-manager/fixer/friend at the memory of the beautiful thing they created are in the end a lot more powerful than Petit’s well-rehearsed anecdotes. He sees himself as a lover (maybe even The Lover) but mainly he’s just a bit of a prick. And yet, when he shuts up and gets on the wire, it is undeniably beautiful. A tiny thread, barely visible between the twin towers of the world trade centre and a small dark spot in the middle of that wire almost swallowed by clouds.
Petit doesn’t just walk across the wire. He plays on it. The wire is not something to conquered, to be crossed. It is not about getting to the safety of the other side. He sits on the wire, he lies down on it. For him the wire is not a dangerous challenge. It is a place of meaning, of beauty; it is a resonating chamber, an amplifier, a stage. Being on the wire, being so precarious, makes ordinary things beautiful. That is the reason for being on the wire.
Being in love, being so precarious, makes ordinary things beautiful.
I’m away at the moment. I sit here with the fishing wire through my tongue, the line disappears out of the window, across Dublin and I lose track of it somewhere over the Irish Sea. So I wait, tongue out, wondering what’s happening at the other end.