Thursday, July 12, 2007

Things that make no sense

OK, so I know the world is full of those, but here's one that needs some comments.

Today's topic of choice: philandering. A term usually applied to men, but let's include women here as well, if for no other reason but that there isn't a special term for a female misbehaving in this manner.

Let's suppose this is a story, or maybe some idle thoughts on what might or might not be a story, and has been the subject of stories forever—for all practical purposes anyway. Meaning it's almost a given among humans. Its reasons are manifold, but here are a couple of things that philanderers and those being philandered upon might wish to consider.

Suppose then that John cheats on his spouse, Jane, with another woman, Liz. Suppose John and Liz are actually infatuated with each other, and that this really isn't all about—as John might claim, and probably will—something that could well be partially attributed to Jane's flaws/behavior/whatever. Suppose that John intends on ditching Jane and, right now anyway, hitching up permanently with Liz in the near to medium term future.

How, I ask myself, can John, excepting if he's a retard, expect this to be workable? I mean, right now John and Liz are in the throes of sexual and otherwise bonding. Both know that John is cheating on Jane, and Liz might well be cheating on a current spouse of her own. Both are cheating, lying, sneaking around. Secret meetings under the cover of lies. But to John and Liz it seems unimportant and fades into insignificance in comparison to whatever they derive from their affair.

But John surely must realize—again, unless he's a pathetic retard in the 'human relationships' area—that one of the reasons why he is cheating, given that he once had similar hots for Jane, is that said hots have become 'warms' at best, and probably have reached fridge-temperature levels. That's what happens in human relationships. Sexual 'hotness' is as much subject to habituation as any other psychological factor. Therefore it is highly likely that, in due course, sexual habituation will also appear in his relationship with Liz.

John probably tells himself that that won't be a problem—because he's a retard, as I may have suggested before, and also living in paroxysms of denial of the obvious—but even a retard, and especially a retard with a significant university education and degree, should be able to consider what will happen in the inside of Liz's head once she has undergone habituation; as she must, because she is, after all, human. And even someone living in denial might be expected, in occasional moments of lucidity, that in order for the pair-bonding to continue after habituation has set in, something else needs to take the place of the initial-stages-bonding mechanisms—and that something probably is a little thing called 'trust'.

But John isn't thinking of that, because if you think with the little head you don't think of things like that. And so, one day—and many more days following—Liz is going to wake up in the middle of the night, woken up by John's snoring, and she won't be able to get back to sleep again for a while. And, as people do, she will end up thinking about stuff—and on that night she's going to ruminate over the landscape of the relationship she's in, and suddenly she'll understand the full import of what had happened, back there, when she and John first got together. What it actually means that, with her complicity, John betrayed the trust of a person who deserved said trust, who was faithful in turn to him, who bore him two children, who shared a bed night after night just as Liz is doing now, whom John once probably had loved...

So, I ask you: how much denial does John think—if 'think' he does—Liz is capable of...lying there, in the dark, beside his snoring self, thinking...

Second thing; and this is an 'existentialist' one, if you will.

People make a lot about all the 'deception' that happens when these things go on. 'Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive,' and all that. But it's pointless and distracting from what really matters, if one expends energy and effort bemoaning said 'deception'; if for no other reason but that deception is not only common, but a basic element of human existence. The kind you find in the furtive sneaking around of philanderers is just one version of something that is a built-in. Without deceiving ourselves about what's 'truly' going on—through denial, ignoring, or outright inversion of the 'truth'—we could not function in everyday life; and without social deception, 'society' as we know it would be impossible.

So, no, 'deception' is not the issue at all, but it's purpose is. And that purpose becomes established through the decision of the philanderer preceding all these 'deceptions' and 'lies' and 'pretenses': to betray the trust of someone who trusts him and to whom he has vowed that he would be 'faithful'.

Said decision is a prime example of the 100%-responsibility thing I discussed here. And we also have to understand where the 'responsibility' issues actually lies. For, let's face it, there are things outside our control. John, to go back to our example, has no control over any purely biological 'attraction' factors relating to Liz. That includes everything from appearance to smell. There are physiological reactions that just 'are'. Many things labeled 'psychological' are really purely physiological, with the 'mental' or 'emotional' dimensions, just being expressions of underlying physical processes that must be seen as causative. I'm avoiding being graphic about it here, but I'm sure you get the drift.

There may be more definitely 'psychological' factors. Common activities, interests, social context, taste. The possible connections are myriad. Over these as well one has no control. Things are as they are. There's also the distinct possibility that John and Liz simply just genuinely like each other and that no matter what happens, there's no way they could be made—unless it is through some fatidic contrivance—to dislike each other. Some things you can't turn off and on. You can sublimate them, or dismiss them to a locked corner of your mind, but that doesn't mean they are not any less real.

Blaming someone for feeling attractions he or she has no control over is not only unfair: it is utterly pointless; especially since, for example, John really liking Liz need not preclude John truly and completely loving Jane—though Jane would probably be suspicious, and in John's case, rightly so. Indeed, the two attractions qualify as 'orthogonal', in a psychological sense; though I may be stretching the applicability of the term here. But I think I can usefully apply this to a screenplay I have sitting somewhere as a first draft, and which would be the ideal vessel for a discussion of these issues. Everything's grist for the mill and all that.

Back to John. What he can be blamed for—and should, pathetic creep that he is—is any decision of his, deriving from his attraction to Liz, that destroys his relationship with Jane; or, just as bad and maybe even worse, negates and/or abrogates his responsibility to their children; who will be—not 'might', but 'will'!—psychologically screwed up by what their father has done. That is where things are done that may rightly be judged 'wrong'. It's not about facts that simply 'are' and cannot be changed and are of no actual 'value' in and of themselves—but about the things one does and decides given that these facts are what they are.

It is never about the loaded gun, but about what the person holding it chooses to do with it. He might try to rob a convenience store and kill the owner—or me might save said owner from someone else doing the same.

For the philanderer it is not about being 'attracted' to another person, but about using that as a rationale for betrayal.

As far as 'John' is concerned, I sincerely hope that one day not only will the Law of Cosmic Equipoise catch up with him, but that he will reap repayment with compound interest.

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