Unhinging Theory: Eros

October 27, 2010 Culture, Feature, Philosophy 2 Comments

Studies in Desire, by Dawn Kaczmar

I’ve been hesitant to write a piece here that includes any personal details. My goal has been to break down the concept of eros at a theoretical level, to dissect its limbs, vital organs, and quiet shivers and distill them into a shifting lens of perception and, hopefully, insight.

My study of the erotic, however, is obviously informed by my own experiences of it. The observer, the scientist, the writer is found within the object of study; as Heisenberg says, “method and object can no longer be separated.” It is a necessary humility for the scientist, or, in my case, the writer, to admit to his or her subjectivity. … Continue Reading

The Erotic Temporal Arc: Decay, Return, and Eternity

September 29, 2010 Culture, Feature, Philosophy 1 Comment

Studies in Desire, by Dawn Kaczmar

Time Tends Toward Not-Being

If nothing passed there would be no past time; if nothing were approaching, there would be no future time; if nothing were, there would be no present time. But the two times, past and future, how can they be, since the past is no more and the future is not yet? On the other hand, if the present were always present and never flowed into the past, it would not be time at all, but eternity. But if the present is only time, because it flows away into the past, how can we say that it is? For it is, only because it will cease to be. Thus we can affirm that time is only in that it tends toward not-being.

– Saint Augustine in Confessions

… Continue Reading

Erotic Obstructions

August 16, 2010 Culture, Philosophy 6 Comments

Studies in Desire, by Dawn Kaczmar

Although I touched on the idea briefly in my first article here at Sex and the 405, I’d like to expand more on the idea of obstruction as it relates to the erotic.

As mentioned, in some ways, obstruction is necessary for any erotic element to exist. Eros, by definition, logically requires a lack: the erotic is a desire for possession; if possession has already been established, there is nothing left to desire. “Possession”, in this sense, can refer to a lot of things, and not simply a jealous lover’s excessive grip on the beloved, but a desire to possess someone’s presence, attention, interest, or longing. It can simply mean that you desire to continue desiring them. … Continue Reading

Beauty, Eros, and the Particular

Studies in Desire, by Dawn Kaczmar

“Beauty always takes place in the particular, and if there are no particulars, the chances of seeing it go down.” — Elaine Scarry

I have been mulling over the idea that beauty is, in essence, a particular trait over the past few weeks in considering my own conceptions and occasions of beauty. And it is true: ubiquity renders beauty meaningless. Prolonged and repeated exposure to the same instance mutes its vibrancy and reduces its intensity to marginality. Moreover, beauty, in the absence of a particular, in the absence of an object in which to attach itself, is merely an abstract, intangible idea, rather than a visceral experience that causes aesthetic arrest and curiosity. It is in the application of beauty to a particular object or event that reveals its form and intensity.

If beauty always takes place in the particular, the same seems true for the erotic. For instance, I have noticed that through the mass production and sale of orchids, the flower, once a symbol of eroticism, has become dead and neutral to me. Or, I may have an idea of an erotic concept, but without embodiment and experience, without knowledge of the particular way in which my beloved’s skin responds under my fingers, for instance, the desire remains dormant. … Continue Reading

Eros: An Introduction

Studies in Desire, by Dawn Kaczmar

In Greek mythology, Eros is a primordial god of sexual love, beauty, and fertility distilled from the chaos that created our universe. Although contemporary conceptions of eros focus on harmony and unity, in classical Greek culture eros was thought of as an agent of madness as well as a creative influence: it overwhelms and seemingly derides both sense and sensibility. It has seemingly addictive properties: it delivers intoxicating pleasure for as long one is immersed in it, enforced by withdrawal symptoms of mind-numbing pain.

Here I will tackle the erotic from an analytical and intellectual position, examining the ways in which eros permeates our interactions. From Socrates, Freud, to Bataille, sacred to profane, nothing is beyond inquiry.

The Role of Absence and Longing in Eros

In order to sustain eros, the object of desire must remain in a state of non- or only semi-possession. To desire something logically requires its absence: you cannot desire something you already completely possess. Desire is the result of feeling unsatisfied or sensing some potential lack which the object of desire will then fulfill, even if that lack is simply of the object of desire itself.

In Plato’s Symposium, Socrates finds fulfillment in the very absence of his object of desire: wisdom. In claiming ignorance, he subsequently increases his capacity for deficiency and desire to be a lover of wisdom, a chase that he understood as unending. For Socrates, eros embraced both carnal and intellectual longing.

Moreover, the natures of truth and of possession are inherently temporal and fleeting. Although Socrates conceded to an absolute and overarching truth, he theorized that man can only ever glimpse a shadow of that blinding, brilliant light– a shadow that is, by nature, transient. This temporal aspect of knowledge informed his courtship with it: the allure of both knowledge and its pursuit is that it is always in flux, seemingly within reach but too slippery to hold.

I believe Socrates’s relationship with knowledge can be transcribed to human romantic and erotic relationships. People, like truth, are not static entities. The rate at which people evolve (and occasionally devolve) in their own individual ways may vary from the explosiveness and unpredictability of a supernova to the slow, constant shifts of subterranean tectonic plates, but even the most obstinate responds and shifts in the naturally fluctuating environment of our world.

Even in the theoretical absence of change, every individual carries with them an abyssal well imperceptibly flooding with primordial and subconscious dreams and desires. There is a fertile chaos embedded in each individual from which to pluck and create. There is never a point at which we have concluded in knowing, and thus in desiring, another person. Moreover, if we follow Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, the mere act of interacting with that individual changes, modifies, and informs their state. The relationship is interactive; the moment of ostensible conquer changes the object in question.

The tragedy, of course, is that we often assume we have arrived at our erotic destination. We cease to regard our lovers in awe, and take them for granted. We lose our sense of wonder. Our fearless Editrix commented on this very topic in a recent Formspring post:

The greatest mistake anyone can make is to assume that they are finished showing how much they desire someone. You’re never finished. People think that progressing a relationship is to commit to their desire. It isn’t. Marriage, for example, which is often seen as the ultimate commitment, doesn’t make you feel eternally desired.

Desire a thing to be shown daily. And to enable it to retain the intensity, you have to engage in a dance. You have to give passion space to simmer, then pull them close to stoke the flames again. It should never end.

Understanding the impossibility of truly obtaining or possessing one’s desire reveals the destructive and life-affirming nature of eros: nothing is beyond inquiry. Desire is something to continuously return to, re-examine, and inculcate each day. The burgeoning of desire requires cultivation, curiosity, and wonder. In recognizing its absence and our longing, we enact a creative and fulfilling dance with both our own desire and that of our beloved.

MORE ON EROS
Beauty, Eros, and the Particular
Erotic Obstructions

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Editrix-in-Command:
AV Flox

In-House Theologian:
Robert Fischer

Eros and Desire Scholar:
Dawn Kaczmar

Scientific Consultant:
Jason Goldman

East Coast Liaison:
Jackie Summers

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Sex and the 405 is what your newspaper would look like if it had a sex section.

Here you’ll find news about the latest research being conducted to figure out what drives desire, passion, and other sex habits; reviews of sex toys, porn and other sexy things; coverage of the latest sex-related news that have our mainstream media's panties up in a bunch; human interest pieces about sex and desire; interviews with people who love sex, or hate sex, or work in sex, or work to enable you to have better sex; opinion pieces that relate to sex and society; and the sex-related side of celebrity gossip. More...