The last few lines have been stuck in my head this week.
I’ve been diligently recording my dreams because lately they’ve been more striking and vivid than normal. I get excited to stay inside of them when I’m writing them down.
But never did Henry, as he thought he did,
end anyone and hacks her body up
and hide the pieces, where they may be found.
He knows: he went over everyone, & nobody’s missing.
Often he reckons, in the dawn, them up.
Nobody is ever missing.
"Yes, indeed, one could not take this author of three novels seriously, because she wore a pretty dress and two shades of eye shadow."
The Empathy Exams: A Medical Actor Writes Her Own Script, Leslie Jamison
Such a great premise and such a stunning essay. In the world of teaching literature it’s easy to just jump to this weird empty worship of “empathy.” like, this is why we read—enough said. I hear it so much I’m forgetting that I had once built my own definition. This essay tears empathy apart and reminds me of other terms that have sort of lost their impact on me. I also appreciate how Jamison interrogates and then implicates herself for wanting others to feel what she feels, and then implicates others for not trying, and then forgives others, and finally herself. Instead of feeling the experience of another, sometimes just believing in it, or witnessing it can be even more supportive. (Seriously: “I believe in intention and I believe in work.”)
"…To say “going through the motions”—this isn’t reduction so much as acknowledgment of the effort—the labor, the motions, the dance—of getting inside another person’s state of heart or mind.
This confession of effort chafes against the notion that empathy should always arise unbidden, that genuine means the same thing as unwilled, that intentionality is the enemy of love. But I believe in intention and I believe in work. I believe in waking up in the middle of the night and packing our bags and leaving our worst selves for our better ones.”
I think it’s the little laugh at around 0:49 that does it for me.
There’s nothing more romantic than characters searching for each other and being pulled apart by some unavoidable force. I’m a sucker for the moment one lover says to another, “I’ll find you!” and the two reach for each other. Then there are the small, even metaphorical attempts to find each other, despite the problems caused by memory, or technology, etc. in their relationships. Clementine whispers to Joe: “Meet me in Montauk.” She hopes this phrase sticks, despite losing every other memory. He’ll remember that Montauk is important but he won’t remember why. (I wonder how many people would really act on simply feeling like something is “important.”) The words turn into a talisman, a guide, like they did in Garcia Marquez’ Eyes of a Blue Dog, in which lovers meet in a dream, and the woman dedicates her life to finding him in their waking days by using this identifying phrase. She wanders the world, and he visits her consistently in her dreams, but he never remembers his. He sees a woman writing Eyes of a Blue Dog on a wall and hardly bats an eye. There is no blue dog in the story. It is just a beautiful code.
The most moving part of Spike Jonze’s Her for me is after Samantha has decided to go live with the other OS’s, and of course Theodore can’t follow her because they experience time and space drastically different. He asks her what it’s like there, and he listens but they can’t share it. She says something like, “I hope you can meet me here someday,” but of course he won’t. He can’t even begin to imagine her version of “here.”
So how can one person really be with another? (When? where? here? now?) Cate Le Bon sings, “are you with me now,” as if she’s celebrating the question itself, and she’s beyond certain her lover will meet her wherever she is. Then there’s Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers in which no one is ever really knowable: “Isn’t that what intimacy so often is?… Supposing you understand, conveying that you do, because you feel in theory that you could…?”
I still tell myself to keep interrogating, chipping away, letting myself be chipped. I can’t stop. You would think I’d get some better armor by now. What else is on my sleepy radar: There’s Joanna Newsom on being good at expressing her feelings, but loving someone who is not: “I regret that I said to you honey just open your heart when I have trouble even opening a honey jar.” There’s the part at the end of Rust and Bone when Marion Cotillard doesn’t hang up the phone. Ali says don’t hang up and of course she should, because he’s been an absolute coward and a dick. Instead she says, “I won’t,” and it just makes me happy to be able to feel anything.