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Every leave-taking is a reminder that nothing lasts. A romance like ours, in which absence and presence alternate like night and day, allows little opportunity to forget this fact, and that is the most notable difference between an affair of such starkly defined seasons and conventional arrangements, in which the temperature fluctuates less widely and the cadence is harder to detect. Essentially all love is made on the verge of departure. It always has been. Today, however, many more people than ever find themselves in decidedly unconventional arrangements, living under separate roofs, on opposite coasts, with different lovers at various times, and for us the domestic symbol of modern romance is not the marital bed or the kitchen table or the family room but the doorway. Whatever permanence we may find comes by embracing the transient, a paradox that we somehow must make our own. If there is a tragedy in this it is not that we die unto each other, or that we actually die, but that we act as if this were not the way of the world. Nothing is more contrary to romance than the presumption of constancy. …We draw near. Our lips touch, a first kiss, first among many firsts and deepened immeasurably by all of the farewell kisses that have preceded it and resonate within it. Beat after beat after beat. However our partings may have come about, they have given this affair an unusually robust pulse. They have taught me that passionate love endures only if it continually transforms itself, that transformation is achieved through the rapture of arrival, and that there is no arrival without a departure of one sort or another. More than anything, romance is rhythm. We exhale so as to inhale again. We withdraw so as to approach anew.

–Edwin Dobb, “A kiss is still a kiss (even if the sex is postmodern and the romance problematic)

It’s hard for me to believe this was written in 1996. Given the reality, inevitability and opportunity of long distance, nonconventional romances for so many of my friends–in the NGO sector and not–these words feel fresh, albeit fatalistic. Is it possible for us to ever truly ’embrace the transient’? In a globalized world, where things continue to move faster and faster, is romantic intimacy only destined to be felt with departures?

Dobb’s essay title in itself is amazing. A strange, contemporary koan.

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Love is a potentially a equalizing, universalizing and humanizing force:

…And, you know, love is the only subject in front of which we are all in equality. We always say we are equal in front of death, but when you are rich, for example, and you have everybody taking care of you, I think that you suffer much less. It must be much more painful to die when you are poor than when you are rich. But when your heart is broken, you can be rich, poor, whatever—a broken heart, we are all equal in front of it. And I think there is no subject more serious.

–Marjane Satrapi, creator of Persepolis, in response to the question “Do you think our quest for romantic love is futile?”

But also, love isn’t universalizing, equalizing and humanizing because it’s always mired in structural and personal politics:

But no bed, however unexpected, no matter how apparently gratuitous, is free from the de-universalizing facts of real life. We do not go to bed in single pairs; even if we choose not to refer to them, we still drag there with us the cultural impedimenta of our social class, our parents lives, our bank balances, our sexual and emotional expectations, our whole biographies — all the bits and pieces of our unique existences.

–Angela Carter, The Sadien Woman, p. 9

Personal meet political. Yowch.

More seriously, I hate when I read unrelated things that probably could have a nice conversation with one another but instead feel like they are in a shouting match in my mind. And man, they both make some solid, albeit conflicting, points.

Thanks for the headache heartache.