Free Love and the Intimacy of Beer
Balthasar says that "subjectivity is intimacy." And what is intimacy? I mean, besides subjectivity? Let's see: L intimus innermost. OL interus inward.
Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but the source of this subjectivity and intimacy can only be in God; you could say that subjectivity arises from the Father, intimacy from the relation between Father and Son. And as Balthasar spells out in volume three of the Theo-logic, the Spirit is both the subjective witness to this intimacy and its objective fruit. Which is why "there is no truth outside the truth of the love between Father and Son."
I will do my best to explain. Or, better yet, just try to stay out of the way.
If man were not thoroughly intersubjective (as is the Trinity), he would starve or asphyxiate in the prison of his own being. Indeed, love is our only "escape hatch," both horizontally and vertically. It is the "way out" of ourselves (and therefore, the way in).
Oops. I'm having a flashback. I remember the first time that Satan's Balm ever crossed my lips in a sufficient quantity to alter my consciousness. Not for nothing is liquor referred to as spirits. In this case it was only beer, but the feeling was of such... liberation. Liberation from what?
Why, from Bob, of course. Mind parasites too, but mainly just me. And then, once liberated from myself, I was "free," at least as long as the illusion lasted. But then, for a number of years, I had difficulty reconciling these two Bobs. Frankly, I didn't have much use for Sober Bob. And in a way, he did eventually die off.
Fortunately, I realized early on that beer -- as wonderful as it is -- was no kind of permanent solution to the problem of Bob and of liberation. And yet, I never forgot the lesson -- that what we call "reality" is very much a state of mind, and that "liberation" is always just a few biochemical microns away.
You could say that my goal was to become "intoxicated" all of the time, but without the intoxicants. And in fact, if any of you have noticed a slightly "drunken" or "careening" quality to these posts, I believe we can trace it back to that first liberating libation. Of course, Jesus makes many references to intoxicating fluids: water, wine, blood, and ultimately spirit, which is obviously quite "fluidic," right? Right.
I don't want to make too much of this, but it is also true that alcohol weakens that annoying membrane between self and world. This is too obvious to even warrant comment. But the point is, the weakening of the membrane enhances the quality of intimacy with the world. Intimacy allows the world in, while simultaneously allowing us out of our neurocage.
Now, one cannot be intimate if one cannot be oneself. In fact, the two are more or less synonymous: intimacy is being oneself in the presence of another who is also being him- or herself. You could say that it is "inner contact," or "touch" between what is most inward in two subjects. Again, I think what really distinguishes the Christian God is that it is always in this state of exquisite intimacy, which must require "one becoming two" and "two becoming one" in Spirit.
(A brief aside: in my book, I may have implied that the idea of an intersubjective God resulted from the unique trimorphic structure of the human family, rather than vice versa. I would just like to make it clear that this intersubjectivity could never have arisen "from the bottom up," but is a radiating "gift" from the top down. I still maintain that the helpless and neurologically incomplete infant is the hinge of cosmic evolution, but that this is the space where God initially "gets in," so to speak, for we preserve this space for the rest of our lives.)
I don't know if this is all too obvious, but in order to have true intimacy, there must be a kind of absolute separateness, or aloneness, that nevertheless has the capacity for union, or oneness.
I've mentioned before that my best teacher in graduate school made the comment that the healthy person wants to go from one to two, whereas the sick person wants to go from two to one. In other words, the healthy person first realizes his identity and his individualism, and therefore his aloneness, which he would then like to share with another, and therefore go from one to two (but which will in turn become a "higher" one).
But the sick person either never develops his identity, or else cannot tolerate his "twoness," or separation. In short, due to either separation anxiety or abandonment depression, he wishes to remain in a state of primitive merger, fusion, or "oneness" with the other -- in the way that the infant is primitively fused with the mother.
Such a relationship might look "intimate," but it is actually parasitic or symbiotic. Almost all unhealthy relationships have features of this (although it is also common for two people who are incapable of intimacy to get together and exist as a couple of wholly autonomous "objects," so to speak; they are together, but never really "together," like children who engage in "parallel play").
As always, to quote Coleridge, "two very different meanings lurk in the word, one." Again, the Christian One is very different from the Buddhist or Muslim one, for in the case of the latter two, the other simply cannot be preserved, at least intrinsically. In the case of Islam, a radical monotheism has no place for trinitarian love as its highest ideal, whereas the radical atheism of Buddhism discovers shunyata, or emptiness, at the heart of the cosmos.
I don't think it is any coincidence whatsoever that the ideal of romantic love and companionate marriage only emerged in the Christian West. If we consider the clash of civilizations between Islam and the West, much of it revolves around entirely irreconcilable attitudes toward women, sexuality, intimacy, and family. In Saudi Arabia, for example, women are not permitted to even be subjects in public. Rather, they are forced to be objects, no doubt because of intense male anxiety around sexual intimacy.
But there is an equally profound abyss between our tradition of conservative liberalism vis-a-vis the radical left on this issue. Is anyone foolish enough to believe that feminism, or the "sexual revolution," or severing the mystical link between sexuality and reproduction have actually increased intimacy? I am quite certain that these postmodern attitudes actually serve to further bury man in the body and to foreclose the space of intimacy and therefore love.
The purpose of a relationship is not to gratify the self. Rather, it is to surrender the self, to escape the oppressive prison of solitary self-sufficiency. It is none other than the kenosis, or self-emptying, that again mirrors the relation between Father and Son, and Son and world. In self-surrendering love, we are truly the image and likeness of the Divine.
I remember back in my moonbat daze, a typical thought might have been something along the lines of, "What can a celibate old priest, of all people, know about love, marriage, and sexuality?" But I have never before encountered anyone who has a more profound and subtle understanding of the microdynamics of love than Balthasar. In fact, it makes whatever I learned of love in my graduate studies in psychology appear rather pathetic in comparison. (Bion excepted, of course. Most of his books acknowledge my debt to my wife without whose support I could not attempt to write at all. You see? Love is the source, the prerequisite, and the end of real truth.)
Just this morning, I woke up with the following thought in my head: how disappointing -- even devastating -- it would be to discover that all of this writing I've been doing over the past four years came only from "me."
As I've mentioned before, it is sometimes difficult to know whether this is humility or grandiosity, but I don't think for one minute that this comes from "me." Rather, it is the objective fruit of a kind of subjective intimacy. Again, in the Trinity, the Spirit is both the "subjective intimacy" between Father and Son and the overflowing "objective fruit" of their intimacy.
So in order to have proximity, there must first be distance; without separation, there can be no union; without self-emptying, there can never be self-filling.
Evidently -- or so we have heard from the wise -- God is in a perpetual state of self-emptying, so that his "weakness" is ultimately his strength, something which the non-Christian cannot grasp. And we haven't even spoken yet of how this is all linked to freedom, for nowhere are we more free than when we abandon the self and reveal the truth of our being to the receptive Other.
[T]he spirit is veiled from itself in order that it might seek and find itself, not in itself, but in the infinite spirit that created it.... Receptivity is thus like a deep, unclosable breach opened up in the closed circle of being-for-itself. Only by welcoming things from the outside and remaining open to them, only by being given over to the service of what is other than itself, can man's spirit lay claim to a being of its own. --Balthasar, Theo-Logic: The Truth of the World
More puppy love: