First, I feel obliged to report–since most of you apparently prefer cryptic Facebook messages to public commentary–that the answer to the question I posed in my last post is seemingly unanimous: there is, in fact, no one to date here in Albuquerque.
I will respond to these discouraging results only be informing you that this afternoon I had a brief and vaguely flirtatious interaction with an attractive male who may or may not be underage and may or may not be a drug dealer. (Don’t worry, he’s not my student). I tell you this as fair warning: if no one can muster some suggestion that doesn’t involve moving to a different city, things could get ugly.
Also by way of response, I should probably confess that rather than going out with friends after workshop tonight, I opted instead to come home, eat popcorn, blog, and watch ice dancing. (Has anyone, by the way, ever seen an Olympic sport so overtly racist? Or involving so many siblings and people from Michigan? Just curious.)
Anyhow. No Golden Rules today, but a new–and, to me, revolutionary–word: cathexis. Brought to you, of course, by bell hooks.
Well, actually, bell hooks via some other guy, less popular in liberal arts college curricula, named M. Scott Peck. He wrote a popular self-help book called “The Road Less Travelled” that I gather may be familiar to those of you who grew up pre-Saved by the Bell. To “cathect” with someone is to “invest with mental and emotional energy.” And it is what, Peck and hooks say, we frequently mistake for love.
I have had several conversations with people soon after a break-up who wonder whether what they truly felt was love, or simply attachment. I think we’ve all thought similarly, especially as we exit a relationship. It is easier, after all, to tell ourselves that what we’re abandoning is nothing so meaningful–or, as the case may be, meaningless–as love, only emotional ties.
But my understanding of Peck’s point is that it is possible to be “cathected” to someone and also love them. In fact, we inevitably cathect with people with whom we fall in love. What would any relationship, romantic or otherwise, be without some form of attachment?
But: how do we know the difference?
I’m still not sure. Fortunately, I have more to read. But as much as I can wax intellectual about the distinction, I’m not sure it is ever completely clear. What reading hooks, though, and reading about Peck, makes me remember is that love is not actually a feeling, as we usually think about it: something that descends on you like hunger or pain. It’s a decision. It’s an “act of will.”
hooks writes that love means some “combination of care, commitment, trust, knowledge, responsibility and respect.” This is a definition I can appreciate, but not one I find particularly accessible.
Which, perhaps, is her point. We can all “cathect” with just about anything: a dog, a parent, a colleague, a drug dealer. We can find love in those relationships, too.
But, certainly, it’s not as easy.