Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Evolution of Attraction/Epistemology

It may seem odd that my first crush object ever was the cartoon mouse Speedy Gonzales, but that is a fact. I believe I was five when I developed this vague attachment, and it is difficult to discern what it was I found so appealing in a Mexican mouse. Perhaps it was because he was excitable, shouting "Andales andales arriba!", and therefore exciting.

I am clearer on the attractions of my second crush object ever, whom I spotted from afar at some school assembly or other when I was six or seven. Richie was a grade above me, an England immigrant, and had thick, long eyelashes. He was also very short. Maybe there was a progression from mouseness to shortness in my psyche. Who can say? I have a vague memory that Richie did't like me very much, alas. Well, he was only 8.

It is odd how much time my classmates seemed to spend in romantic dalliance from about the ages of 10 to 14, when we graduated. There was rudimentary dating, called "going around with", and experimental snogging behind the school buildings, in a disused playground. Rumours were rife about who liked who and who had broken up. (There was, unfortunately, also an undercurrent of sexual violence against some of the "popular girls", which (I hope) was confined to a gang of boys knocking one over in a sort of rugby scrum and lying on top of her and also some groping. This was, incidentally, before the internet and in the very earliest days of MTV, so I don't know what to blame.)

But I digress.

In elementary school, I fixated on this boy or that because I liked his looks, which were usually blond and blue-eyed. How very Alfred Hitchcock of me. In high school, I started to like boys because of their personalities although I must say my romantic ideas about their personalities soon blinded me to their personalities. If one was a talented musician, I fixated on him as a Talented Musician, A Tortured Genius, An Unreachable Star. If another was a Keen Football Player, I fixated on him as a Rough Diamond, a Man's Man, A---. Goodness, it's all very embarrassing now.

More embarrassing, however, was when I decided that I was keen on Intellectuals, and to me at 19 anyone who was in university must be an Intellectual. (Ha ha ha!) When I discovered my mistake, I fixated on graduate students for it must be they who were the real Intellectuals. Somehow I didn't get a crush on a professor, which is just as well.

I spent my 20s having crushes on either Artists or Intellectuals and fixating on the more attractive parts of their personality which I could mistake for the whole. Really, I was not rooted in reality. But then I had a strange shift of perspective: I began to be attracted to men who were Good.

As I soon went to theology school after this shift, it appeared to be a bit of a problem. Many of the Good men near my age were priests and religious, so they were off-limits. Frustrated, I had a psycho-drama with an Artist but got out of it when I realized how not-Good he was. But then I toddled down to the USA for graduate studies and met Volker, who was very Good indeed although Just Not, ultimately, That Into Me.

The most important shifts, I think, were becoming attracted to men principally because they were objectively, morally Good and learning to live in reality, which came only with post-divorce psychotherapy and three years of studying the work of Bernard Lonergan, S.J.

Dear me, from Speedy Gonzales to Lonergan's Insight. You couldn't make it up. And it may surprise owners of my slim volume Seraphic Singles to know that I consider it a work in the school of Lonerganian philosophy. The most obvious clue is on the dedication page, but the candid tone throughout is the fruit of Lonergan's transcendental precepts: Be Attentive, Be Intelligent, Be Reasonable, Be Responsible.

These precepts are linked to Lonergan's epistemological (how knowledge works) schema of Experiencing, Understanding, Judging and Deciding. Skip any of the first three steps, and you do not authentically know. Meanwhile, attention EUJD (as Lonerganians call it) is the discipline that keeps me from mistaking my fondest wishes and imaginings for reality.

Attention to Experiencing gives rise to the question "What is it?"

Understanding gives an answer--although as yet this is not THE answer, but a hypothesis.

Judging looks suspiciously at Understanding's hypothesis, asks "Is it so?"

Deciding says "Yes" or "No" , which leads to the question "That being so, what do I do?"

Judging implies the question, "Do I have all the data necessary to decide?" and I have to say that this is the most important question of my highly imaginative daily life. If I did not frequently stop myself and ask "Do I have all the data necessary to decide?" before doing or saying this or that, I would probably get into social difficulties.

I can't imagine what Lonergan would think of his work being offered as a way to negotiate dating and courtship. I simply do not have enough data to decide.

1 comment:

Alisha said...

I like the idea of "What is it?" being the first question in front of someone of the opposite sex :)