5.28.2018

Grasping

Most nights, I find myself sitting alone in my house. Often — too often, I'm embarrassed to say — I feel something missing. I want something, most notably, I want some woman to give me the sense that she wants me. In today's world, this usually takes the form of a text. When my phone inevitably remains quiet, there is a whiff of rejection. So, much to my shame, I'll send digital missives into the ether. And regardless of what I write, what I'm actually saying is: Do you like me? 

Needless to say, this is not the way to attract a woman's attentions. It doesn't come from a state of calm desire; it comes from a state of desperate need. It's not a romantic or sexual gesture; it's a grasping to fulfill an internal lack. And I've yet to meet a woman who's even remotely tolerant of such a gesture.

This is no doubt the seduction of dating apps. All the blips and beeps, all those notifications, give you a sense that somebody, somewhere, is interested in you. What I've seen in my experience is that rather than let silence become the norm and risk that sense of death, people double down on the app, swiping more and more, messaging more and more, to get the taste of desire, to create a set of tethers, however false, to the social world in general and the sexual economy in particular. You hear all those beeps and think: Yes, I am desired! Most of the time, people don't even meet; the difficulty and messiness of the flesh is too much. And so they remain ensconced in a world of digital communiqués with the faint scent of desire and without the weighted hassle of real human discourse — or even intercourse. It's all so much grasping. I don't want to be alone! Desire me — even if it's false.

On the other hand, it's nice to feel desired. And the fact is, life is hard and often we feel shitty about ourselves. We feel not only unloved but unlovable. And to have someone we love say: It's ok, yes, I love you can turn a shitty night, a shitty mood, a shitty life right around. Should that be enough to turn it around? Should a person be able to feel loved and lovable on one's own, without any actual person expressing it? Yes, absolutely. This is why we hear Christians say Jesus loves you and God loves you. It creates a state of perpetual lovability. Which is beautiful. But it's hard to summon that and sustain it and I know I, for one, sometimes — perhaps too often — want some external confirmation.

In the meantime, we — well, I — grasp for things other than a woman's attention. Sometimes, it's just for some social tethers. We've all seen this, if not experienced it ourselves, on the Facebook. We post and comment to get it on with old friends, acquaintances, strangers — just to feel a little less alone. All the social media outlets amplify this — Twitter, LinkedIn, Spotify, Instagram, Reddit, Quora. We look for those likes and feel, even if only for a moment, that we belong with the world, that we're not just alone adrift in the cold, cold cosmos (even if, from the right perspective, that is bliss).

Sometimes, I don't grasp for feminine or social attention. The tethers I seek at these times aren't human. I pour myself some of this, eat some of that, pop a little of something else and soon I am feeling grand. I am beyond the petty needs of the social, of the romantic, even of the sexual. I am riding waves of thought and sensation. I may not belong with people but, right now, I belong with this cosmos. Watch me go!

But whether I'm texting a would-be or actual girlfriend, posting on the Facebook, swiping on the Tinder, or pouring myself a hefty glass of tequila, I am grasping. All because I want to feel enmeshed. I want to feel the embrace of the world, even if digital or drug induced. Because, on my own, I don't feel like I'm enough.

I am rarely willing just to sit with my state, whatever state that is. I'm always seeking an exit, an escape hatch, a distraction, a change. If I have low energy, I have an espresso; if I'm anxious, I pop an Ativan or pour a cocktail; lonely, I text, swipe, or post. I grasp at what's around me so as not to feel what I'm feeling. My lack, my self-loathing, seeks remedy anywhere and everywhere.

What's funny is that when I don't grasp — when I don't text or imbibe — but feel my utter aloneness on the planet, when I feel that steady drift through the cosmic ether, that is when I feel the greatest joy. This is what I'll do: I'll be sitting my couch feeling that lack and I'll consider my options — my phone, various people I know, my computer, my liquor and drug cabinet. Each proffers its own mode of a tether to the world. But then I'll reach for nothing, lean back into myself, and feel the tethers all snapping like Neo emerging from his pod in the Matrix. And, suddenly, I feel blissfully untethered. I am floating peacefully through space as this temporary coagulation of form. It is euphoric. Mind you, euphoria is not the most common reaction to my cosmic loneliness. But it does show me that grasping is not the answer.


There are of course less nefarious modes of grasping. I've met plenty of people — and I have been known to be one of them — who are constantly seeking self-improvement through this or that — different practices, books, philosophies. All of these come from the same source as me reaching for booze: something is missing. Maybe I'll find peace in two weeks of silence! Or by reading more Osho! Both of these things might be great practices; they might lend themselves to peace. But, as with booze or late night texts to women, they can also be desperate and needy, stemming from a place of self-loathing, self-discontent. It's all seeking when everything is always already perfect. There's nothing to seek.

All that said, I do have desires — I enjoy the attentions of women; I enjoy sex and romance; I enjoy bantering with the world; I enjoy my cocktails of every sort; I learn from Nietzsche and Osho. These are not tethers; they are desires. After all, we are ecological beings; we are always already and fundamentally enmeshed with the world. We breathe, eat, touch, talk, fuck just to live. So what distinguishes grasping from enjoyment? This is an elusive internal calculus. Often, I can feel the difference as each enjoys a different posture. When I grasp, I lean a little too far forward; I get twitchy; I feel the jones, as the say. When I desire, I saunter to the liquor cabinet and concertedly pour that drink. In both cases, I'm having a cocktail. The difference between the two is internal. And, alas, not always clear. 

We reach for, we reach with, the world — necessarily. We take in air, food, words, ideas, sensations and give out gases, gestures, more words. But there are different ways of doing so. Part of me wishes I never needed confirmation from the world, never needed a woman to tell me she desires me, never needed a boost or sedative, had all the wisdom I needed, that all my self-worth were self-generated at all times. But alas, at times, I want that confirmation from someone or something — from a woman, a glass of tequila, from Osho or Nietzsche. And, frankly, that doesn't seem so bad. It seems part of being alive — accommodating and loving those who grasp, offering a confirmation that they do indeed matter, that they are indeed loved and lovable.

Grasping may not be pretty. It may not be healthy. But it does seem like something we all do from time to time. We can, and should, work to reach with vital desire rather than desperate grasping. We should work to feel like enough for this world, perfect for and with this world regardless of what's happening — regardless of whether you've been fired, dumped, whether you're sick or depressed. Then again, sometimes it's just plain old nice to have the world reach for you with a loving touch, whether it's a kind word in a text, the keen insight of a tantric master, or the warm embrace of a cocktail.

1 comment:

Dave in Van said...

would really enjoy your take on what this guy is saying

https://www.amazon.com/Secret-Our-Success-Evolution-Domesticating/dp/0691166854

Behold This Non-Fungible Vagina (NFV), or The Multiple Event of Emergent Particularity in the Digital Age

 Check out this nutty essay on this NFT/NFV that I wrote on Medium