Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Straightforwardness of Women

Apparently, given at least one private response I have had to even the revised version of the last post, I need to clarify what I have said---or rather, NOT said--- in that post still further. It may be that I made a mistake in quoting Einstein in the title, because it seems that some readers more or less decide at that point what the posting is about, and this colours their reading of what follows. So, in a spirit of experiment, let's try out a different title.

Okay, first of all, what the previous post is NOT about is any real or imagined bafflement about women on my own part. Really and truly, it's not. Nor is it at all about women not being "straightforward" in explaining themselves. In short, this is not an extension of Sigmund Freud's "what does a woman want?" Rather, the post is about the obsessed fascination that leads some people (or some men, at least) to make certain kinds of art---working through the complexity of their own responses, attempting to apprehend or comprehend the essence of why a woman has captured their attention---in a way that is similar to the way other people can get totally absorbed by, for example, trying to solve a Rubik's cube: though, of course, in the case of the artistic representation of women, there is no real solution, because what one is dealing with is not a puzzle per se, but rather an extremely complex reality that eludes straightforward translation. Hence, the idea of spending one's life in its contemplation and in trying to comprehend the complexity in art rather than mathematics. Because, however fascinating and enigmatic we may find Leonardo da Vinci's painting of the Mona Lisa, I'll just bet that he himself felt he had only scratched the surface of all the thoughts and feelings that the real woman evoked in him.

So, again, let me assure you: while I do believe them to be complex, I don't really find women baffling at all, at least in general. Although I will go so far as to admit that I certainly find Condoleeza Rice's loyalty to George Bush extremely baffling. I mean, what IS she thinking, after all this time? And, on a more personal note, if you really must have it, I will admit also that I have found myself at a loss to explain in hindsight how it is that my interest in this or that woman has, on a couple of occasions, so totally trumped my better judgement. But, I guess that's really me being baffled by the complexities of Walker, isn't it?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Complexities of Women

(This is my second attempt at making this post; my first was apparently a little opaque...or, okay, even MORE opaque than this one.)

Many people will have heard that Albert Einstein once quipped: “Some men spend a lifetime in an attempt to comprehend the complexities of women. Others pre-occupy themselves with somewhat simpler tasks, such as understanding the theory of relativity.” I think it’s fair to say that this quotation is received by many people with a smirk (or even a sneer?), as if it were merely a vaguely sexist glib remark rather than a well-considered statement of belief; yet, my own suspicion is that it correctly describes an important aspect of the relationship between biological instinct, evolution and civilization. It seems clear enough, for example, that many male artists have a sort of primordial level of fascination toward women that is probably rooted in biology, and which embraces heterosexual desire, although it also quite clearly extends well beyond that sort of attraction. Now, I could delve here into the whole question of whether or not, and to what degree, this fascination appears to be reciprocated by women for men, or note where it appears to find its equivalent in same sex desire; but, really, trying to navigate all the "essentialist" and "constructionist" aspects of the argument (the Scylla and Charybdis of all contemporary discussions related to gender) would only bore and frustrate both me and you, gentle reader. Instead, I just want to observe that, at least with regard to some male artists, Einstein was right about this (as about so many other things): it is precisely the refusal of this primordial fascination ever to be fully ironed out into two-dimensional rationality or comprehended within an orderly equation that creates a kind of complex tension into which a tremendous amount of creativity often flows. Perhaps we could even think of it as the centripetal expression of the same instinct that, in its centrifugal expression, leads others to ponder the expansion of the universe and the curvature of space-time: the difference being that the intensity of the subject position in the former instance makes a satisfactory objective resolution of the complexities far more elusive than in the latter. In that respect, it’s another kind of “uncertainty principle,” I suppose, though one that can have all the beauty of a Zen koan. And, in the spirit of that thought, I offer you, as a gloss on Einstein’s comment, this film that I found on YouTube: