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: