“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Love is the end of ends of world history, the amen of the universe – Novalis

The first time I went to Mexico, it was with my roommate, H. I was 27. H. was a militant in a Trotskyist party in Monterrey, product of a middle class household, ironist, rock climber, and drinker. He was learning English by watching Red Dawn, Rambo II, and, in particular, Blue Velvet, over and over again. There was nothing he enjoyed more than repeating Dennis Hopper’s immortal words, Heinecken! Fuck that shit! Pabst blue ribbon! And of course saluting the tv with a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Irony was a lot cheaper back in those distant days.

So we were talking about this and that on the drive down to Mexico. We stopped to take photos of wild blue bonnets. And at one point, he told me, quite seriously, that he thought the most important thing in life was love.

This, for some reason, astonished me – which is why I can even remember it to this day. I think H. might have been the first male ever to express this sentiment to me. Well, except for Jesus, but it was hard to tell what Jesus was talking about when I was a tot and by this time I was past the point of going to churches.

Looking back on H.’s remark today, I can’t say I disagree so much about the love part as about the ‘most important’ part – my perpetual inner émigré has a hard time believing that lives happen in such a way that there is a most important part to them. This might be either the wisdom of the Dhammapada, or cheap nihilism, or a little of both.

Still, H.’s idea has been a pretty powerful one – it has provided the single biggest rival to the modernist cult of happiness. The idea that love is the foundation of the truly human community is perhaps central to the counter-traditions I’ve pointed out before – the three alienations, so to speak: the liberal, reactionary and radical. And the critical viewpoint on happiness is drawn back to love by the force of historical things. Of course, from the liberal point of view, there is a strong critique of the notion that love is the foundation of community. The word for that is totalitarianism. It is, perhaps, no coincidence that Hannah Arendt went from doing dissertation work on love to writing her massive opus, The Origins of Totalitarianism. When Calasso speaks of how the ancien regime sweetness of life turned sour – how Wormwood fell to earth and turned the waters bitter – he is touching on the fact that what volupte loaned the incipient happiness culture – a more and more simple tie between pleasure and happiness – produced, as it were, a cultural vacuum which the literature of sentiments, that quasi-institutionalisation of romantic love, filled. A dangerous void.

So, now that we’ve discovered the carte d’amour among the demographic statistics, it is time to talk about Romanticism and we’ll begin with the chapter in Ricarda Huch’s book, the Blooming of Romanticism, on romantic love.


northanger said...

hey, britney wins international bambi

roger said...

I saw that - and the speech by Langerfeld when he presented her the reward. I think Britney is benefiting from a new era of goodfeelings, and who knows, maybe she will get out of her present court imposed dilemma.

There's a clip of her somewhere doing womanizer in a smashing red dress. I must put up a link on Britday, December 2nd.