Category Archives: emotions

I Love

I love.

I trust, I treasure, I idealise.

I hope, I want, I see a beautiful future.

It dies. I bleed. My heart rips apart. I think I’m gonna die.

Zizek once said he was going to kill himself over a lost love but first, he had a book to write. I have 2 little cats who love me. A family. Friends. I don’t wanna die. But, damn, that dark pull. That voice that whispers, they’ll be better off without YOU.

So, I talk to people. My ex is being wonderful. He forgives despite the unforgivable and wants to be life-long friends. My family gets me. My friends listen, they don’t judge. They understand the feels that made me name this blog Night Gardenia.

I just spent 20 hours in bed. Internal monologue: I wanna die/I don’t wanna die.

I fear people don’t care. Someone can I say “I love you” 1000 times and it doesn’t resonate. I think, I AM HATED. It lingers.

Am I reprehensible? I am not sure. I know I am flawed. I know I am human. Perhaps it is OK?

I came out as bisexual to my mother. Long time coming…20 years. Long time to be a fraud. I’m scared. I know queer people are vilified, despised. But nothing is compared to my internal monologue.

I miss my cats. I miss my books. I hate what I am. I try to accept what is.  Can I? Time will tell.

Ways of Seeing: Phenomenology and Semiotics

Van Gogh crows cornfield

In his 1972 book ‘Ways of Seeing’ (derived from a BBC TV series), John Berger asks us to analyse the above image twice. The first time, we are instructed to view this recognizable Van Gogh painting in its current context of ‘art’. Then, in our second viewing, we are told that this painting was Van Gogh’s last work – before he committed suicide. Berger asks us to reflect on how different the image becomes with this new knowledge. The additional information adds a lingering shadow to the painting and imbues each brushstroke with despair and horror. What was quite simply ‘Crows in Wheatfield’ becomes a semiotic hotbed of intent. Are the crows flying towards darkness an analogy? Do the orbs of light signify afterlife? Or perhaps the crows distract the viewer from the green path that transverses the wheat field – a kind of reverse-Yellow Brick Road to nowhere which dissolves before the horizon. Once we consider that this was Van Gogh’s final work before suicide, we see new things and uncover fresh meaning.

Roland Barthes’ ‘Camera Lucida’ also reflects on the image and its multitudes of meaning. The image has many transmutations. The punctum I feel looking at pictures of my lost father and others who have broken my heart grips me, horrifies. It drives me to want to self-harm, to neutralise the unbearable. People I love are dead. People I love don’t love me. It is a chronic terror, a deep wrenching. An abyss that gazes back, amplifying one’s hideousness, their faults, their inherent unlovable status.  That loneliness that clings like a cold June Melburnian fog, eating at your dignity and self-confidence. You are hated. You are unworthy of love and human affection.

I understand suicidal ideation. I sink to the low all too often. Sometimes, one feels like they have nothing to offer, nothing good within them. Death looms as a definite future possibility and one may feel power in speeding towards this inevitability.  It’s control, right? Something the neoliberal rationalised society values. If one takes things into their own hands, however ghastly, then they’re an ACTOR, they are not acted-upon, a stooge. This illogical and slippery thought pattern shouts at me frequently. I battle it, decrying its nihilism and anti-humanism. I want to Be. I somewhat accept me, however flawed that person is. As an agnostic, I feel death might possibly be the end. Odd experiences I have had suggest otherwise: perhaps the Dead can communicate in a Finnegans Wake-like, or Bobok-esque nonsense-speak. But I am certifiably crazy. I am an unreliable witness.

However, I cannot deny that Western death rituals are sanitised, dehumanised. Phillipe Aries beautifully chronicles this. We love death, yet loathe and hide it. The social constructions of contemporary Western death are odd. To paraphrase (abuse?) Tom Waits, one is ‘dead and lovely’; yet abhorrent, forgettable. The workplace gives us little time to mourn. Get on with life, you lowly scum. How dare you FEEL?

This contradiction is a mind-fuck. As humans, we love, we connect, we mourn and we pine. But corporatism commands a cold rationality: dead is dead, gone is gone, get back to work and move on, motherfucker. Mourning and feeling creates LOSS, ECONOMIC INEFFICIENCY. How dare you be human, with relationships and connections?

This is what leads me to my current emptiness. I lost my beloved father, my closest relationship, mid -2013. I will never heal, I will never get in with it. It defies modern rationalised sanctioned grieving. Yet…I am beginning to give zero fucks about what this awful neoliberalised society wants and needs. It doesn’t feel. It defies my basic empathy and humanity. I want to defy it. I don’t want to create a ‘Crows in Wheatfield’ and then self-destruct as a perfectly human response to the horrific reality of corporatist unfeeling norms. I refuse to be this kind of asshole. I will not conform. It may take me more than 7 years to finish my PhD, which I have continued from a previous failed attempt, but maybe this is OK. Maybe it is contemporary norms that are problematic. I am failing to care. I am beginning to accept myself, as dangerous to patriarchal capitalism as it is. In immortal words of Rage Against the Machine, “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me”. I’m not going to be an anally-bleached hairless pawn with a shiny stretched face full of injected fuck-knows-what who blindly follows dictate. I am a Nasty Woman, somewhat accepting of her gradual corporeal rotting and slow decline into the grave. I want a Green Burial and we cannot be sure whether silicone and other prostheses break down into the dirt seamlessly like flesh, bone and sinew. I want the ravens, the worms, the black and crawly things, to re-purpose me, to consume me, to recycle me, and to resurrect me into a new form. I feel at one with the earth: some kind of deep existential Monism which I want to uphold in the afterlife. Human is human; age, ruin and decay, to me, is good.

Emotions, Culture, Sign value and the Asymmetry of Meaning

ring

The engagement ring can be seen as an exemplar of an object or symbol ‘doing work’ as a signifier. When worn on a certain finger; or when given to someone in a particular manner, it’s meaning is clear. However, what I want to explore is how this sign-value can be ‘damaged’  – or altered, through alternative forms of consumption. Let me pose a scenario: married man and woman divorce – she sells her engagement ring to a second-hand shop or another kind of retailer. The ring, once a symbol of the love in the marriage and ’til death do us part, now signifies the destroyed relationship for the woman. She just wants to ‘move on’ – the emotional losses she is suffering are somewhat soothed by re-selling the ring that symbolized her relationship. It gives her a bit of power in a situation where she feels helpless and alone. Now rid of the ring, she can perhaps put this money towards her new life – a deposit for a new home, a piece of jewelry to signify this new period or something else entirely. But what of the ring? Now sold to a second-hand retailer, it has lost it’s original sign-value and it sits in the glass cabinet, in limbo, waiting for someone else to decide what it can mean.

roses

It could be that a new couple purchases the ring to signify their engagement and impending marriage. However, superstition bestows ‘bad karma’ on these kinds of rings. The new couple are more likely to purchase a new ring from a jeweler; a ring without a tarnished torrid past. The new engagement ring is seen as a better signifer; without the dark cloud of where the ring may have been and what it may have meant to another couple. A friend of mine likes to buy diamond engagement-style rings at Cash Converters because she knows that they have been symbolically de-valued and she gets the diamonds re-set into new rings. She doesn’t say it like that and looks at me strangely when I do. She just likes getting diamonds cheap.

wedding dress

The wedding dress is another example of this. Any woman who has been married will tell you that purchasing a new dress is expensive. But buying one second-hand is much cheaper. I bought my wedding dress second-hand. In the shop, the new ones were $5000 – $10,000. My second-hand dress, looking identical to those other dresses, cost $2000. Family and friends still think I’m weird for wearing a dress ‘with a history’ or with ‘mileage’. One asked me, ‘What if the other couple got divorced? A second-hand wedding dress is really unlucky’. My pragmatism could not justify the price difference and I thought the superstition around weddings was illogical. I didn’t enjoy playing the role of ‘bride’. The relationship I had (and still have!) with my partner superseded all this frou-frou and cultural custom. I was a poor sport going through some of the motions; I changed out of my dress after entree at the reception. I was antagonistic towards the sign-value of the bridal dress – I felt objectified and unauthentic. It did not symbolize my relationship and the generic bride culture left little room for uniqueness. I had the traditional wedding in the beautiful old mansion on acres of garden that my mother wanted for herself but couldn’t have due to her father’s ill health. It was a wonderful day with my family and friends; yet my grouchiness at having to ‘be’ something probably dampened the mood at times! My gorgeous sister-in-law just got married – and she was not only a vision of beauty and grace, but a class act. I cried like a baby several times that day, moved by her glorious womanhood and happy relationship. Only now can I see how ‘the bride’ can be conceptualized by loved ones – when someone special is playing the role, the role becomes a prosthesis on top of your warm feelings towards the person. I didn’t see my gorgeous little sis as a generic bride that day; she was The Bride – glorious, elegant and regal. I was in awe of her and I can’t wait to see the wedding pictures in a few days (I was her bridesmaid and didn’t get the chance for happy snaps).

shoes

There could be divergences to my thoughts – such as a beloved family heirloom wedding dress or engagement ring, rich with happy narrative and stories. Vintage objects fascinate me as a material culture researcher and theorist. They are rich with potential stories, symbols and romance. I find it interesting to think on the object – and it’s sign-value, how it can be asymmetrically understood. By this, I mean to address how we can keep secrets from each other. What if your fiance didn’t tell you that he bought you a second-hand ring? Would it change it’s meaning if he told you later about it? And what happens when couples disagree on the use of heirlooms to signify their marriage? I think that this is why the lead-up to weddings can be so emotionally charged; there are multiple worldviews – and familial cultures – colliding. It can be messy – like some awkward weddings I have attended – or it can be so loving and beautiful that it moves one to tears – like the union of my in-laws and my sister-in-law’s new family.The wedding also became a celebration of a widening family. When symbols, shared meaning, love, culture and emotions collide, it can be an incredible human experience.