Posts tagged love
Posts tagged love
One of the few memories I have connected to my grandfather is collecting fossilized cephalopod shells at his rural Texas ranch. His family had owned it for generations, splitting it up for the subsuquent sons, daughters, and grandchildren. My mom, aunts, and uncle will own it someday.
The shells meant nothing to me then except as a way to pursue my dream of becoming the world’s first archaeologist astronaut. Jurassic Park and Apollo 13 were huge influences on my early years. I’m sure now that for my grandfather they were a way to make us happy in a way that he understood. A consummate science fiction fan himself, he always encouraged the naturalist impulse in his children and grandchildren.
2 years later and I realize that I’ll never really know who he was except by hearsay. I saw him a few dozen times in my life, although he was constantly in the thoughts, actions, and words of my family. Somehow I loved that man even while not knowing him. He was able to impact my life tangentially and in ways no one could expect — from him, through my mother, I also have a penchant for science fiction, the outdoors, news media, and space.
Filling the gaps between the unmovable presence of our world and irresistible force of our destiny is affect. Love in particular fills our lives with significance and optimism. It is/was by no means perfect — I still remember the uneasiness of my father in the presence of my grandfather, as my patriarch passively deferred to the other. Or also when Grandpa was harsh, reclusive, or, well, Presbyterian. It’s just unusual that this time I experience the structure of love in a way that is pure because intention is absent. There were no motives, only the time spent between someone too young to know anything but how to enjoy oneself, and another too old to care.
Recently I’ve been feeling lost and adrift in the limbo of transition from undergrad to grad student. I always find it fascinating that affective orientations like anticipation carry their own temporalities that extend into the past and the future. I can trace a story from my first anthro class, meeting my mentor, and digging deeper into anthropological theory, to taking graduate courses, writing a thesis, and presenting my own research at a national conference. Now I see ahead of me a multiplicity of possible futures. The anticipation has produced noticeable changes. Similar to what Elaine described to me once, I feel like a pendulum swinging in and out of social attachments or situations at bars, coffee shops, bedrooms, restaurants, and cars.
People are trying to spin webs around me before I leave. It is suffocating. I am not used to this attention and its positive intentions, so it feels uncomfortable; almost inauthentic. The closest I can fathom to a reason why that is would be that my family — diasporic and unrooted — attuned me to a material pedagogy of loving attachment. It was always passive, at best implicit, that we cared for each other through gifts: the presents of our presence at local league soccer games, extravagant things we would use but would not get ourselves, and last but not least financing a college education. These are powerful forms of love. They provoke reciprocity in kind and in sync with capitalist modes of commodified consumption. Which is also it’s limitation. That’s my small baggage. Positive attention is a demand for reciprocity and a coded tyranny that quickly overwhelms an individual when the tally is recorded. It’s a contradictory form of love.
It makes sense then that I think about love in relation to roots and rootedness. How does one put them down in the country’s most crowded and diverse city? An unknown unknown 3000 miles away from a home I love. My generation was so attuned to commodification that the presence of commodities becomes a stand in for other forms of love that would show me how to put down roots. Genres of love that I can sometimes feel or see remain ultimately foreign without a competing pedagogy of attachment. It seems I’ve taken myself out of one affective world while being unable to find my way to another. Agape idealism aside, material WASPish love seems to be the overwhelming bond between my mom, dad, sister, and brother. It shows in our successes and failures.
If all that reads pessimistically (which it isn’t, because attachments are inherently optimistic, if misguided and sometimes cruel), there’s a more obvious silver lining. There are always ways in which it could be otherwise; yet I want to account for the very small ways in which choosing a destiny is an act of agency. I know what I want well enough to make serious moves toward it. I’m going to a school where I have options if Anthropology no longer suits my chosen path. More than that, there are new socialities to explore. Friends, significant others, advisers, peers, and colleagues! It’s a time to plant seeds, sow attachments, and collect that harvest in the fullness of time. I know I am working up to a position to make serious political impact on the lives of students in this country. I feel it calling to me, and as it’s located outside myself, I can let it take hold even if my life falls to pieces. Destiny doesn’t get any more clear than that. Always-already in a process of becoming, a potential me is continuously being called into being.
All journeys are an admixture of trepidation and necessity. Between the immovable object and irresistible force lie all our tiny personal decisions, and their day-to-day accumulation. In that gap is the potential of love to change our lives and worlds, somehow some way. Because it’s a journey, that world consists of a separation of home and field which always needs to exist or be created. At the same time, travel is a way to collect new lenses through which to glimpse the heterotopias of home/field. So I’m packing my bags with love.