“Love, in relation to ambivalence, has its own vicissitudes. Our recognition that these are inevitable – and indeed an internal part of love – allows them to seem less a reason to give up. And, of course, the same point applies in our sense of those we love.”
John Armstrong, Conditions of Love; The philosophy of intimacy.
Clipped in, I drive home. Snow dusts itself around the windscreen-wipers and a low sun feels to be piercing. I am in pain. The return home from the cancer centre is a little complicated, no direct bus route and a bit too far for me to ride a bike. Especially in the snow.
I’m thinking of love here in my machine ~ those spiral stairs that go up and come down in our one, material timeline of life, orienting our sense of place and worth in the commonality of life. The steering wheel turns almost by itself to the left and I can see without the piercing. I feel a huge sense of relief.
There’s no bannister on this spiral stairway of love, and steadying oneself that way is impossible. Light is more important, the darkest downstairs to the brightest up on top. One has to use the eyes to negotiate, and it isn’t easy when emerging into brightness, as is the ability to be ambivalent; love, with all its illumination, good and bad. To accept the revelations of and to oneself, the hurt wrapped up inside the other, that comes at you sometimes in silence, and leaps from you as anger. Yet it is in the fuel of ambivalence where love remains constant, and not to be thrown away at the first fall. Nor the second, nor third. Like what we do for this Earth, and having cancer or not.
Am I to be ambivalent about the scan I just lay down so still for? I will try. The results may be good or bad, yet both are part of the same self. What I have to be is present. And my presence is needed here on Earth, countering the forces of the machines. Presence in love too.
My one material timeline needs presence to serve ambivalence. No good hiding, no good denying. Just as love is not all good, but good and bad. People you love hurt you. You hurt them. Even silence can do it. Or shelving, prioritising. Duty-bound-pain in caring for others, like the Earth.
The weight is huge, but we cannot give up on it at the first fall, nor the second, nor third. Because that is the love that will survive, despite the blinding pain or the scans.
Because it is like the metal that spins around as one lays inside the machine, being told by that machine to lay still, to hold one’s breath and breathe out again. Iodine floods the body and I feel it warm around my neck and in the groin; brain blood and sex. And then it is time to drive home and wait at the lights, thinking of a spiral stairway ten thousand steps high, with no grip, just a line going deep into my arm, tube pinned around my thumb and index finger, and the whir of the parts going around me fast.
I can see them through a slit, those metal bits, with my open eyes, whilst laying powerless, pin-sharp still. The green and red lights on the plastic cover tell me to hold my breath, or breathe. Isn’t that what life is? They have little pacmen printed, with mouths shut and open. Red. Green. And there is also a machine voice, “Hold your breath”. “Breathe normally”.
So back to the right with the steering wheel, and I pull the visor down. Changing gear for more power, and I observe the others in the city, tight in their machines and on this dying planet, and all the pain. And the beams of light are low into the soul. This drive home is hard. I’m just so tired.
A red light, and I stop breathing to wait for the flashing amber, and then to green. I look around at all the other lovers. Mouths open, shut. Everything held in suspension here until the lights change, whilst the planet tries to breathe.
My arm stings, as do my eyes, but what warmth there is in that sunlight. I arrive home. Downstairs, back where the pacman is quiet, I’m down to the darkness. Years of struggle pushed back down into the downstairs. And just when I am just so tired, I climb two flights of stairs, cancer or not ~ ambivalent.
To my love, to the Earth that is hitting back at the machines, good and bad, and those busted DNA chains of my own body that multiplied to a relentless green light, and could once more proliferate in invisible turmoil ~ and my stinging arm, and eyes ~ I do wait, in that cold snow dust, or the brightest light, or the pitch black, trying for ambivalence. And events of this Earth Crisis go on, over which I feel seemingly powerless. Until my arm stops stinging, and my eyes rest, I must leave all in the hands of my radiologist, Earth’s own fierce rebellion, and my earnest love ten thousand spiral steps high.
Some may find no need for explanations, as art is a reciprocation of free feeling. But just in case anyone is curious, here are my notes.