* irony (< Gr. eironea-dissimulation) 1. Simulation of ignorance, chiefly in Socratic irony. 2. A sort of humor, ridicule, or light sarcasm, the intended implication of which is the opposite of the literal sense of the words. 3. A state of affairs or a result opposite to and as if in mockery of the appropriate result; as the irony of fate.
When I attended school at UCSB, I lived in the mountains above Santa Barbara. I had a beautiful cottage-like arrangement at the end of a mile long driveway that wound it's way up through avocado orchards and orange trees. To get to my home, one would drive up a winding mountain road. One day, I was coming home from school, late in the afternoon, and as I came around a bend on the mountain lane, there was a white Lincoln Continental convertible pulled off to the side with it's tail end still sticking out onto the road. I
pulled off ahead of the car to go back and help out. It was then that I saw her. She was the perfect Southern California girl with that unique quality of having a tan as well as blonde hair. I was very glad that I had stopped. "What's wrong?" I asked. Already, I could smell her scent and was enchanted.
"I have a flat tire," she replied, smiling sweetly and somehow silently inquiring at the same time if I would be so kind as to help her. "Well, first let's get your car all the way off the road. Give me the keys, I'll do it."
I took the keys and pulled the car out of the way of any further traffic. Then, as she watched, effortlessly taking the role of the damsel in distress, and me taking the role of the knight in shining armor, I proceeded to jack up the car and replace the flat with her spare.
As I worked we made small talk, and when I was done, we were both enjoying the energy of each other's company. "I wish there was something I could do to thank you", she said.
Jestingly, I replied, "I'm sure there's something you could do . . .” letting the statement hang in the air like a question she knew the answer to.
"I'm a great masseuse," she said, looking me directly in the eye and smiling.
"I'd love one," I responded. "Why don't you come on up to my cottage and we'll have some tea. We can watch the sunset and afterwards you can give me that massage."
We did. What followed was an entry into the underworld of emotions, a passage into shadows and into things that are always hidden and yet revealed at the same time. What followed was an experience of the benign power of darkness, the sweetness of pain and the healing wound of a dilemma of feeling. What followed was a revelation of the world of erotic irony.
Let me tell you the story:
"A warring peace, a sweet wound, a mild evil."
– John Gower/ Confessions of a Lover
After a wonderful Santa Barbara sunset in which a red-orange sky lingered lovingly and the sweet-mountained Santa Ana breezes, coming from the inland deserts and scented with sage, started to blow their evening way down towards the sea; We went inside, where on my bed she gave me a wonderful and sweetly sensual massage that developed into the heat of passionate lovemaking.
Now, I have always greatly enjoyed lovemaking, and, in fact, I have enjoyed it so much, that I have developed the capacity to put off my orgasm, usually for as long as I like. I have learned to prolong the heat of desire itself. So, after almost an hour of enjoying our mutual pleasuring, I began to sound like I was about to have an orgasm. Almost immediately, I felt a leveling off of her excitement, but yet, she began to moan and move and breathe and sigh, as if she was having an orgasm.
I stopped moving still hard and desirous.
"Did you just come?" I asked. "Yes," she replied, "It was wonderful."
I lay there sensing the moment and then gently said; "You faked that orgasm. I know that you did." I waited . . . There was no answer. The silence in the room grew larger. We separated and continued to lay next to one another.
"Would you tell me if I'm right?” I asked delicately. I was way out on a limb here. It was either some kind of breakthrough, or, I could see we would "politely" excuse ourselves from each other's company and go our own private ways. I wasn't upset; on the contrary, I was intrigued; intrigued that she had faked an orgasm.
After a pregnant pause, she said softly, "It's true. I did fake it. I always fake my orgasms with a man. I have never been able to have an orgasm with any man. I can't believe that you could tell. No one has ever sensed this before. You know, I really don't mind. I feel I am a reincarnated Geisha. I identify with the role of bringing happiness, of being of service to a man, and the reason that I faked an orgasm was to make you happy. I thought that you were about to come yourself and I wanted you to feel that you had made me happy as well. I don't mind at all, really, not at all."
"And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With odd old ends stol'n forth of holy writ
And seem a saint when most I play a devil"
-Shakespeare/Richard III – (Act I, Scene 3)
As I lay there, listening to this, I knew she was still lying to me. I knew she was lying to herself. I saw that, for her, the role of a Geisha, was an escape of her own true feelings, an avoidance of her own life. A Sadhu, an Indian holy man, had once written to me, "You cannot wake a person who is pretending to be sleeping." If a person is not naturally confessed to their own feeling, their own experience, then they have lost the thread of their life. By pretending to be someone else, by the fundamental denial of who they are, they are cut off from their growth and learning. They go round and round in their difficulties and do not benefit from them.
Just so, a person in such denial, someone impersonating his or her own life, someone only pretending to be sleeping, cannot be woken up. Within the sphere of our play together, she was performing her Geisha role, her service role. She appeared full of kind sweetness. She had taken on the outer form of submission to another. She had identified with the role of a Geisha . . . and yet, here she was, unable to abandon or give herself truly.
And what of myself? . . . I felt exactly the same condition. As I lay there beside her, I became aware something as if deep within me, an old-new way of feeling, something long forgotten, ignored, discarded and shut-up. It was still alive and seemed a miracle just occurring. All around it arose my own compassion, caring, listening and understanding, like a prison cell, one that I had been living in, unawares, all my life. Seeing her mummery had made me aware of my own.
My own identification with the role of a good person, a caring person, a compassionate person, my own sympathy with women and the special and unique form of difficulties they face in our society, all these things suddenly revealed themselves as now hiding and obscuring exactly the seed of feeling, and emotion of heart I now needed to express. In fact, each of us had become the mimics of precisely the very state we were unable to truly feel! By identification with the roles we had idealized, we had lost touch with ourselves, the genuine thing itself.
Here, was a simulation of ignorance; Here, was an outcome, opposite to, and as if in mockery of, the appropriate result; Here, was irony. And somehow, in this confusion of things, my own eroticism, my own desiring, seemed to hold the key to the prison door.
"One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,
but by making the darkness conscious.
– Carl Jung
As she went on about her pleasure in being a Geisha, her identification with the role of pleasing men, I felt a strange new voice welling up inside me: 'Take her, Take her with force. "Rape" her, . . . . My feeling sense cried out to me; "This woman wants to be taken. She wants to be "raped". . . . But, how could this be? Surely I was wrong. This must be some 'Devil' talking? I couldn't do this! This was not the kind or compassionate way to be. But now, seeing her dilemma and my own, I began to realize I had been sleeping. A fearful mediocrity had been hiding a dark and magical garden
behind the walled answer of my pleasant personality.
It seemed, the only way to break through the superficial ice of hers (and mine) pleasant exterior was to celebrate a "rape". . . But, how could I do that? Immediately it came to me. . . Perform a rape as a conscious, intentionally benign ritual. It was a paradoxical picture, both painful and ecstatic.
I was reminded of ancient ceremony. . . The public scourging of highly honored youths in ancient Greece, before the temples of Aphrodite or Artemis. I was reminded of the Dionysian frenzies of the Mediterranean, rituals that were an integral part of life and living, ritual where the gods went deep in the body, and truths were revealed. I saw an act clothed in the costume of a dark force, and yet, I also felt it filled with sweetness and caring. Enveloped by a sacred cloud, I tasted sweet moisture within. I was nearly brought to tears and wanted to cry, but yet, this was no time for tears. . . I had to act and immediately! It was a maddening paradox of feeling.
She was crying out to be forcibly taken, but didn't even know it. My own heart was urging me to ravish her forcefully, but I was afraid. I was scared and paralyzed by my own feelings. I did not want to enact or share them with her. I too, wanted to lie . . . I wanted to talk about it. It was all too strong, too forceful, too dangerous, to act out; and yet, on the other hand, I knew it totally worthless to both of us, to discuss, or to engage it, especially now, as a mere verbal consideration. I knew that to discuss it, would deprive this moment of it's special gifting. It was something that I had to either do, or not do. If I discussed it with her, it would only continue the same avoidance, the same flight from ourselves, the same feelingless exercise of 'politeness' and 'compassion' that had led us to just this conundrum.
But, could I just tie up this beautiful blonde-haired girl that I had just met? Would I just proceed to take her, regardless of her outer protestations? Would she trust me? Would she yield to me, feeling some similar need for release? Or, would she cry out? Would she resist? What would I do if she did? If once I started, could I carry it through? Would she run screaming from the cottage? Or, perhaps, we would both finally awaken, released into a world of true ecstatic participation. The vision and voice that spoke within me was unmistakable. It was my intuition, my voice, my desiring, and my destiny, shouting out to be heard.
"I am that force that would do evil, yet forever works for the good."
- Mephistopheles/ Goethe's Faust
When I look back, I see how easily I wall up and shut out any powerful, negative, or heavily charged emotions. They almost always seem inappropriate, and, I try to deny them and give them no place in my expression. I fear their calling; I have doubt of their goodness, and certainly no appreciation of their sacredness. Who has heeded these strange, impersonal desires and voices? What became of them? What is their story? It seemed like the night sea journey, referred to in the language of mythology. It was a descent into Hades, into the underworld . . . And, it was frightening and repugnant to a soul accustomed and preferring this 'seeming' world of light. . . But, it was happening . . . Here in my own bed, on a serene Southern California evening, with a beautiful woman I had just met. The issues of men and women, of dominance and submission, of power, of right and wrong, evil and goodness, of hearing and following the promptings of one's own conscience; All these were folded back elaborately, like Origami, into the mysterious network and needful necessity of the moment. The call and consequences of performing what I felt to be true and even auspicious, stood like a solid brick wall, four feet thick . . . The erotic nature of being, urged me to walk right through.
"The only morality adequate to the complexities of life is one that has been sculpted in the presence of the shadow."
- Dark Eros, Thomas Moore
Carl Jung never talked about it directly. In fact, one of the only things that disappointed me about Jung was that he never discussed his seeming violation of the traditional mores of marriage, regarding his now widely known relationship with Toni Wolfe. How powerful that must of been in his life! It is a similar thing that disturbed me about Martin Luther King and the hiding of his affairs with many women. I am not bothered as much by the fact that these men took vows of marriage and then seemingly violated them. The hiding of their own emotional-sexual dilemma and character bothers me, as if that held no valuable light to cast on the rest of their thinking, acting and teaching. I am not bothered that both of these men had affairs . . . I am disturbed that they hid the fact. I am saddened and frustrated, that I could not learn from them about this- especially from those who I regard so highly for their courage and commitment and insight.
I can understand that Martin Luther King had to put the Civil Rights Movement first, or, in Jung's case, the cause of Psychoanalysis. I can understand that other people’s lives were involved and they sought to protect their privacy. I can understand that the revelation of their emotional-sexual encounters outside of marriage might only detract from something that meant so much more and to so many; I can understand this. But, the root of so many issues that concern myself, my friends and ultimately all mankind, are held in a dilemmatic embrace, which no doubt clasped these men to it's bosom- an embrace, in which we are called beyond the customary politeness of social intercourse, an embrace, in which the soul of desire voices reasons and shows often-uncomfortable means. An embrace in which one acts, and thus chooses, and thus betrays what one calls sacred. An embrace which these men opened their arms to, heeding some calling, following the voice of their own desire; An embrace in which they transgressed the social values with which they were surrounded. Did they ever find some higher truth, some hitherto unknown star, to guide their ship in this trackless ocean of feeling and desire?
Or, conceivably they felt they had wandered off course, thinking they had sinned in some Christian sense. Or then again, perhaps they had found some paradoxical passage to the East. But, why did they not tell of the difficult personal journey they had experienced? Surely they realized that many, even all, would eventually have to pass this way. It is sad that they, of all people, did not record this 'darker' aspect of their voyaging. Their omission has helped form part of the forgotten foundation for a society of errors, and laid part of the quiet keel for a ship of fools. It is some of the forgotten leaven, which now raises the bread of our lives.
Anais Nin is a person who experienced this feeling dilemma and made it part of the celebration of her art and writing. I am grateful to her for that. Like a stone cairn on rocky scree above tree line, she left notice of her passing. Anais Nin explored and wrote about this question, not only as a moral problem of behavior or restraint, but also as a psychological consideration. In her notebooks, she writes:
"Psychology tries to reestablish the basis of life not on ideals but on sincerity with one's self."
This is one of the best descriptions I have ever heard of what psychology is and attempts to accomplish for the 'normal' man or woman. Anais Nin found her need for Psychology when she became involved in an affair with Henry Miller and Henry Miller's woman, June, while at the same time married to Hugo, a French banker. She loved each of them and was torn between a yearning for harmony and normalcy, the desire for adventure, passion and romance and a need for wholeness and fullness of the heart. And, she found, this issue was not merely about the moral-societal values involved in a married woman having two affairs, but it was a crisis of the soul, of "Psyche". It was a crisis of her own being, her own feelings, and her own life. It was about what it meant to be a human being. Anais wrote at what has become the very end of the book, Henry and June:
"Last night I wept. I wept because the process by which I have become woman was painful. I wept because I was no longer a child with a child's blind faith. I wept because my eyes were opened to reality. . . To Henry's selfishness, June's love of power, my insatiable creativity which must concern itself with others and cannot be sufficient to itself. I wept because I could not believe anymore and I love to believe. I can still love passionately without believing. That means I love humanly. I wept because from now on I will weep less. I wept because I have lost my pain and I am not yet accustomed to its absence. So Henry is coming this afternoon, and tomorrow I am going out with June."
"Because my eyes were opened to reality". . . Whatever I did now, was a choice, an action, a decision, a commitment, and, like any of these, there were consequences only dimly understood. Just like in the storybooks, the ground opened up beneath my feet and I fell. . .
"The great epochs of our lives are at the points when we gain courage to re-baptize our badness as the best in us."
– Friederich Nietzsche
I got up from my bed and went to the closet. She did not move or question me. I was afraid and full of purpose; I was going to do it. I took down several ties from my tie rack, the soft silk ones, and walked back to the bed. My breathing had changed. My voice was commanding and decisive. "Roll over on your stomach and put your hands behind your back."
She subconsciously knew what was happening. As if she had been waiting for this, she immediately rolled over, put her arms behind her and then, asked me, rhetorically, "What are you doing?"
I was nearly unable to speak, my heart was pounding. I was scared. I brusquely took her arms and began to bind them with the ties, wrapping upwards from the wrists so that each hand was bound against the opposing elbow.
She began giggling and laughing and again asked me: "What are you doing?” "I'm not going to hurt you. I'm going to tie you up and fuck you.” I replied. "I'm going to gag you." "Wait a minute," she said, "I don't know if I want to do this."
Her arms were already tied behind her. I rolled up one of the ties into a ball and held it before her mouth. "Put the gag in your mouth if you want to go through with this." I gave us both one last chance to exit the play.
She hesitated and then opened her mouth like an invitation. I knew she knew, and yet, we both didn't know what was about to happen. I stuffed the tie into her mouth and placed another tie over that one, pulled it around her head and tied it in back of her neck. Her arms were now tied behind her back and she was gagged. I pulled her ass up off the bed, admiring and caressing it gently, and then, slipping my hand between her legs, and noticing her wet and even dripping; I abandoned my gentility and roughly slid into her from behind and began to fuck her. I handled her carefully and yet severely, purposefully, disguised in my caring.
I felt my way along as a blind man knows his way around his own house. . . He is blind, but it is his house. I spanked her again and again, increasing the force and power of my blows. Her ass began to redden from my blows and she began to moan in pleasure. I spoke to her coarsely, calling her a whore, a little bitch, a cunt. I slapped her hard on the ass, watching her cheeks color even more. Reaching up, I caressed and squeezed her breasts, teasing them, and then forcefully, pinched her nipples between my thumb and forefinger, making her gasp and moan again and again in a painful pleasure. In the sweaty heat of excitement, I turned her over, and spreading her legs, entered her again, full of desire. She began to groan in a sort of delirium. We were sweating, both our bodies glistening with perspiration.
She was driven out of her Geisha role. I abandoned my knight in shining armor. I took her like a slave-whore. She was in an ecstasy. She yielded to me like a Barbarian. I drove into her coarsely. She moaned, louder and louder, panting through the gag. And then, she seemed to pause and freeze up, her head arched back, and her pelvis began to buck spasmodically, pressing up to meet me, her arms tied, straining behind her, grunting through the gag and breathing heavily, pushing her crotch against me as best she could, moaning in ecstatic release. She had an orgasm for the first time with a man. She began to sob. We collapsed on the bed and I smothered her with kisses, stroking her gently and firmly, all over her body, whispering love and affection in her ears, cooing her down like a race horse, fresh in from the winning. I released her gag and unbound her arms. I held her close. We were both crying, our faces wet with tears of joy.
"In the thirteenth century Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach,
It was only when the young Grail Knight let his reins lie slack on
his powerful chargers neck that he was carried on his proper course."
– Joseph Campbell
Joseph Campbell was telling the story of Parsifal, the only knight of King Arthur's court that found the Holy Grail. He is referring to a point in the story where no matter which way Parsifal tried to guide his horse, it was wrong. Parsifal was truly lost. But, when he finally allowed the horse to go whichever way it wanted, when he let the reins lie slack on his horses neck, he was then, at last, led, on the proper course of his Holy quest. In some ways, what we did together, this woman and I, was to let the reins lie slack on our horse’s neck. It is not a part of any moral code to do what we did. It is not right. It is not wrong. Indeed, it is fraught with danger and full of potential disasters . . . And, it was wonderful, it was graceful and it was marvelous. By letting our reins lie slack we made room for the miraculous. Two paths diverged in the snowy woods; this was not one of them. This path is not an alternative. This path is neither straight, nor crooked, nor narrow, nor wide. You know it when you feel it, or you don't. It is a path, great and simple. It is a path that appears when we are lost in the dark wood of dilemma and our maps all reveal themselves as paradoxes.
I am reminded of something Jung wrote:
"When two decisions or ways of acting, both affirmed to be moral and therefore regarded as "duties" collide with one another . . . a judgment is required which cannot properly be called "moral" or in accord with custom. Here the decision has no custom at its disposal on which it could rely. The deciding factor appears to be something else: it proceeds not from the traditional moral code but from the unconscious foundation of the personality. The decision is drawn from dark and deep waters. It is true that these conflicts of duty are solved very often and very conveniently by a decision in accordance with custom, that is, by suppressing the opposites. But this is not always so. If one is sufficiently conscientious the conflict is endured to the end, and a creative solution emerges which is produced by the constellated archetype and possesses that compelling authority not unjustly characterized as the voice of God. The nature of the solution is in accord with the deepest foundations of the personality as well as with its wholeness; it embraces conscious and unconscious and therefore transcends the ego.
-– C.G. Jung, A Psychological View of Conscience
It is well known that in many fairy tales, there is a great amount of physical violence and yet the fairy tale is not about violence, per se, but merely uses violence to illustrate a more complex, intimate and far-reaching truth of life. I have told here a story that is erotic, but I did not tell the tale only to amuse or pleasurize. I have told a story that is ironic, but I did not intend to be contradictory or sarcastic. I have told a story that takes both the actors within it, the cultural values we live in and our own judgments as readers, to provide the tension of opposing ideals, to give form to the irony, to gift the paradox. I have tried to provide a structure, that like a fairy tale, is not about what is in it, is not just about sex or irony, but has used these as found and appropriate stones in an attempt to build a Cathedral, a house for what I call God. I have tried to build a temple of consideration, a place to explode the occasion of everyday living to a greater infinity.
The ironic holds it's unique meaning in a directly polarized relation to a linearly stated, straightforward proposition.
The ironic is the opposite of the literal sense of the proposition
But, if the proposition, the meaning or intent, the situation
paradoxical and dilemmatic
the rhythm of life must fall
to the erotic
the elemental foundation of the personality
the emotional-sexual character and nature of life
This is the root of laughter and tears
of sweat and semen
of wounds and vulnerability
of the moist body of lovers
and the oceans of feeling
These are the alchemical waters of life
This is the domain of erotic irony
the land in which we always already live