Thoughts on intimacy from one who appreciates it a great deal.

Monday, August 26, 2013

In LOVE, Where's the Distinction Between Art and Life?

How can one distinguish between the love an actor portrays onstage for the character he confronts
and the love he has for the actress behind that character? Or between the dancer and the dance? When the artist paints a beautiful woman how do we know his love is not inappropriate? In my heart I cannot find the boundary. That is why my personal boundaries sometimes appear so wiggly to others. It is not that I do not want real life relationships or that I can't make a solid commitment (I do and can) but that if those divisions come into question there is no way I or anyone else can separate one from the other- except perhaps in their own head. 

I am not suggesting that a real relationship is an art project. If it had ever been questioned how could I have separated my deep love for Fitz (my former manager) from anything that might threaten my spouse? It depends entirely on what my spouse is threatened by. If I share on such a deep level with one other than my wife, who is to say what kind of love that is? The distinction lies solely in the heart of the one who is observing (self or other). Obviously if love is ever put on trial it can always be disproved while it can never ever be defended definitively. So when it IS taken to court there is only ever one outcome!

Check out a book I've put together about the search for intimacy called Quest for the Numinous One.


  1. "In LOVE, Where's the Fence Between Art and Life?"
    In Intimacy, ..."How much of ourselves does that includee?..."

    Fences Prevent Intimacy
    Fences separate, and deny access.
    Intimacy requires Acceptance - the opposite of denial and separation.

    A quid pro quo is Implicit in the Intimacy Contract:
    Acceptance - and the expectation of being accepted
    in return for Vulnerability - divulging all to one’s intimate and denying access to nothing, thus
    burning the fences which otherwise DO separate intimates and prevent their intimacy.

    Intimacy requires acceptance of the other as a whole
    no part hidden or denied, but not necessarily agreed.
    Distinguishing between the Artist's loves differentiates,
    to separate
    his inter-necessary parts
    to select which selves to deny
    his intimate,
    to assure her acceptance...of at least a part of him.
    But accepting the Artist must be a package deal;
    including all his kinds of love as every other bit of him
    necessary to intimacy, trust and vulnerability.

    Intimacy and threat cannot co-exist,
    because threat destroys vulnerability
    and the trust it depends on.

    If the Artist’s intimate is threatened,
    their intimacy cannot survive
    her inability to accept
    a part of him which loves any other.
    She has lost her trust to fear
    she’ll not receive the love she needs.

    If the Artist’s intimate is threatened,
    his art cannot survive
    his remedy for partial acceptance
    to separate and divide himself,
    to offer some and deny the rest.

    Disowning selected desires is dishonest
    and rips the Artist from the foundations of his Art:
    his integrated self, and all the loves and desires which animate.
    Denying himself, whole, to his intimate
    assures his fear:
    she cannot accept what’s never known.

    Any peace gained
    from acceptance born of denial
    is but destructive illusion which
    requires the Artist dissolve the bonds which define himself
    and separate the parts his Art requires cooperate.
    Deceit based, it defaults intimacy’s contract;
    no partial acceptance can support trust adequate for vulnerability.

    If the Artist cannot trust he will be accepted
    he builds fences which separate

    Desire for intimacy
    compels seeking even partial acceptance,
    so the Artist differentiates among his loves
    and separates himself
    to select from his pieces
    only the acceptable parts and passions
    to offer to his intimate.

    The Artist's fences also separate him
    from his intimate
    and deny her access to his entire self.
    No longer able to know all of him, she cannot fully accept him;
    the intimacy sought, destroyed by his own hand.

    Intimacy requires a vulnerability which cannot be partial.
    Selecting what to reveal is denial
    of intimacy
    and of one's entire self.

    Vulnerability requires honesty, complete and undivided by denial
    plus either self-acceptance or willingness to change
    that which the intimate will not accept.

    Vulnerability cannot be armored
    with offerings selected for acceptance;
    the very fear of rejection assures itself
    with fences to separate selves
    denied or offered up for intimacy.

    Intimacy requires the whole package:
    Vulnerability and Acceptance
    each undivided, to unite.

    1. Nadia, The first line, "In LOVE, Where's the Fence Between Art and Life?" is mine.
      The second, "In Intimacy, ..."How much of ourselves does that include?..." seems to be yours.

      I maybe should have used "difference" instead of "fence" in the title as I don't advocate denial of vulnerability. But this brings up a very interesting question about intimacy: which can be seen in two very different ways:
      1) Is intimacy like eye contact, which can be shared with only one person at a time? OR
      2) Is intimacy a sharing of hearts equal to the need, as one can successfully share intimacy with each of one's children?

      Ultimately, one can only ever judge one's own level of intimacy, not that of another. How genuine the partner's intimacy seems is always a subjective call, not an objective reality.

      Thanks for the poem!

  2. The second quote is from page 7 of Quest for the Numinous One, your book linked to your post above.

    For context, I prefaced the direct quote with my abbreviated summary (In Intimacy - without quotation marks)of the text immediately before the direct quote, which reads: "What's intimacy? We share as we feel comfortable but how much of ourselves does that include?"

    While responding primarily to the issues you raise in this essay, my comments also refer to issues of intimacy raised in the linked book and other essays in this intimacy blog.

    I tried to convey my conviction that separating how we experience life and art - whether with fences or by emphasizing their differences - can be quite detrimental to both making art and achieving intimacy.

    When art and life/reality are interwoven to create the fabric of each individual's entire being, the effort to differentiate or separate one from the other necessarily requires unraveling the individual's constituent parts.

    If an artist's creativity is fueled with the synergy of melding her/his experiences of life and art to create something new:original art, efforts to identify differences among those experiences inevitably result in dividing what was previously experienced as an integrated whole. Any such separation risks compromising the alchemical process.

    Differentiating how art and life are experienced in an effort to protect love by sorting them (by degree and kind of love or effect of engagement) similarly relies on dividing the individual's previously unified experiences.

    Efforts to reduce the threat perceived by an intimate partner (from an artist's love and engagement with his/her art experiences) by withholding knowledge of some of them will also limit intimacy, if it depends on acceptance and vulnerability.

    Revealing only those experiences likely to be accepted replaces the need for the artist's trust with his certainty that his partner will accept him. But the cost of demoting trust to certainty dramatically devalues the power of vulnerability in establishing and sustaining intimacy. If deprived of the totality of an artist's personality (absent the censored art love), his/her partner can never gift the artist with the total acceptance which underpins vulnerability and intimacy.

  3. The question of the exclusivity of intimacy IS a good one! I do wonder how the discussion of fences and differentiation which similarly require division inspired it.

    Of course we humans are capable of multiple intimacies!
    As you so correctly note, the simultaneous intimacies of a family are a biological imperative for successful reproduction. Many studies have shown the value of intimate connections to health and longevity; interestingly it is frequency of connection and not family ties or depth of intimacy which most correlates.

    As to your specific question: The answer is yes!

    I refer back to your page 7 quote to postulate the issue is one of DEGREE of intimacy, defined not only by the amount of ourselves we share, but also by the frequency, its importance (to both teller and listener) and the provenance or depth of what is revealed.

    While multiple intimacies are clearly beneficial for physical and emotional health, I think the investment in establishing intimacy and the continuing high quality attention necessary to its maintenance accelerate with the depth and importance of the knowledge, vulnerability and acceptance shared.

    While possible to sustain very deep intimacies with multiple intimates simultaneously (a family with a newborn, for example), it would seem to me that the emotional energy required would preclude almost all other human connection and effort, and thus could not be sustainable. Further, it is difficult for me to believe such very strong and deep intimate connections could simultaneously exchange the same content. So no, I don't believe question #2 is possible: "intimacy a sharing of hearts equal to the need", if those parallel needs include the commitment to vulnerability and acceptance necessary for intimacy with the entire individual and to extend further to the deeper levels of the repressed and unconscious.

    Ultimately, I see no utility in judging anything where individual perceptions and circumstances so alter response. Add entropy, and there goes ALL objective reality!

    Thanks for the excellent questions!

  4. Your very very deep replies leave me with two thoughts, Nadia:

    Where is there room for growth? If one leaves undivided one's "previously unified experiences" (as in a completed artwork) one certainly honors that moment, but where then is acknowledgement of the place of transformation of old into new? What was once unified was the old "me". It seems that dividing that doesn't so much compromise the alchemical process as open the individual to change.

    Also, is not the very concept of vulnerability leaning against the desire to protect something precious and at risk? In an intimate relationship there is always something unwilling to be revealed that we expose at risk. It is not a one-time event but an ongoing process. Love is the act of giving up more than one wants to lose. Even with a baby– who can reciprocate little– one builds up a tower of blocks of love that one day will tumble in grief.

    All this deep thinking makes my brain hurt...

  5. exercise makes you better

    I wrote of concerns differentiating between how a person experiences art (or another creative experience) and life/reality, particularly in the context of your original post: assigning hierarchical values to them, and/or selecting only some to reveal to an intimate partner. As described, I believe both practices are detrimental to creating art AND to building and maintaining a truly intimate relationship; for many of the same same reasons I also believe personal growth and development would be stunted.

    However, I agree that differentiating between the "old" and the "new" IS valuable in evaluating both the desire and/or need for personal growth, and it's acheivement, measured by whichever criteria and milestones are defined as goals; I see this as quitte different from dividing and assigning different values to how a person experiences various parts of her/his life, or hiding them.

    One important goal for personal growth is to become transformed in a way which better includes and integrates the parts of ourselves which were previously repressed or inadequately explored/expressed. That's another place where sorting - and assigning hierarchical values - would be useful in prioritizing our attention towards what's needed to grow.

    Either I don't understand the question in your second paragraph, or I did not convey my thoughts about vulnerability adequately; I agree with each of your statements above. I was exploring how and expecially why we persist in revealing that which we fear won't be accepted (the risk)... the mechanics of vulnerability, if you will.

    "Love is the act of giving up more than one wants to lose"... and intimacy's promise is the synergy of creating more than it takes.