I recently participated in a charity event called ‘Scrapbooks and Rapbooks’, where I read from the diary of my 16-year-old self. The event inspired me to dig out these two complementary yet contrasting pieces on the subject of love. I say ‘pieces’. More like pieces of shit. Especially the first one, the poem. It’s basically a few nifty lines surrounded by a sea of overly sentimental faux-profound pretentious fuckery. Instead of going to all the effort of penning a poem I could just as easily have written ‘I KNOW A COUPLE OF BIG WORDS, NOW WILL YOU PLEASE FUCK ME???!!!’ on a piece of A3 paper, photocopied it and stapled it to trees and lamp-posts throughout the local area. As a strategy, it wouldn’t have worked, but at least it would’ve been honest. I wrote the poem when I was 17, and it makes me want to vomit up my heart and squish it underfoot like a dying fish.
The second piece, which is more of a rambling essay-of-sorts, I wrote when I was 25, and was inspired by an episode of Ross Kemp on Gangs. I wonder if you can also tell that I wrote it not long after a break-up, another in a long-line of healthy relationships my younger-self was addicted to machine-gunning to death in fits of faithless, fickle, sexually feckless behaviour.
I don’t know if ‘enjoy’ is the correct word in this context, but I certainly bid you to tolerate the following musings. First up, the piss-ass poem. Bits of it really are reminiscent of a song written by David Brent.
Science Vs Religion
A paradox, a fraud amongst feelings,
A laboured lie cursed upon souls:
Of all the bonds that bind a man,
None can be so false as ‘love’.
Our minds control our destiny, not our hearts,
And what we feel can run no deeper than the
River of blood that runs through us all –
A deformity, a bastard born of man,
A twisted, deceptive purity! Inconceivable! –
it grows from our ignorance, not our instinct;
what lunacy a force as such could join the
feelings fortified in man.
To grieve a child can not be love.
Can it not be seen that creator weeps when creation fails?
What we grieve in loss is not empathy for the lost
But for an emptiness in ourselves –
Pity for a hole in us, not in earth.
To take a woman can not be love.
Nothing more can couplings be than means to lust and procreate,
A web of neurones, nerves and volts, making mortal drives seem great!
Another held above one’s self –
That’s tantamount to suicide!
Then dead am I.
For this that shudders down my veins,
From pounding heart, through all my brains:
but bubbling broth of DNA?
Have faith, my friend, join hands, let’s pray:
Once fingers fondly skirt the flesh,
All limbs entwined and hearts enmeshed;
Once the cliché’s been embraced
the ugly beast in each soul faced;
Then once you’ve watched the whole world die
Deep down dark, in mans mind’s eye,
And asked yourself (but please don’t lie),
Tell me, friend, but did you cry?
My friend, once you’ve experienced that…
Atheism, as your doubts, will crumble to dust.
To ask how love can be is futile.
To simply know that it does must suffice.
Excruciating, eh? Anyway, on to the next one.
In a television documentary series entitled ‘Ross Kemp on Gangs’, British actor Ross Kemp travelled the world to spend time with various gangs renowned for their brutality. The episode I watched featured the town of Auckland, New Zealand, where Kemp chronicled a native gang called ‘The Mongrel Mob’.
The Mongrel Mob’s members all feel shunned or abused by society in some way. Thus they have formed a clan of like-minded sociopaths hell-bent on visiting violent retribution upon society for these perceived slights and wrongs. Some of the group rage against society with a twisted sense of propriety and righteousness ; others gravitate to the group simply because they enjoy raging for destruction’s sake.
In this particular episode Kemp spoke with an elderly member of the Mongrel Mob about the role of women in the gang dynamic. It became clear that the gang members valued not subservience in their women – as a master would a pet – but instead didn’t value women at all. Those women who were permitted entry to a Mongrel Mob clubhouse entered on the proviso that they left their human rights at the door. They were expected to surrender themselves into the Mongrels’ fold as nothing more than shrieking, sucking, walking, fucking vaginas.
One of the old charmers recalled to Kemp a distant time when, in one of these very clubhouses somewhere in the dilapidated suburbs of Auckland, he ripped off a woman’s pants with his teeth, and then used them to pull out her tampon. The tampon, as you might expect, was soaked in blood – as, very quickly, was the chap’s face. Naturally – as you do in these situations – he then asked a male friend to lick the blood from his face, and then invited his acquiescent comrade to share with him the tampon feast. Maybe this recital will have more impact if I present it in plainer English: they ate her fucking tampon.
Kemp asked the romantic so-and-so why he thought the woman had tolerated being treated in this manner. “She was in love with me in those days,” he replied.
Kemp, stony-faced, asked what happened next. I got the feeling Kemp wasn’t holding out hope for a sanguine ending to the tale. Neither was I. “I made love to her on the bar in front of me mates,” said the Mongrel, somewhat softly.
Did I really hear that? Did you just really read it? Love? A guest appearance from such a word in this old man’s lexicon seemed as incongruous as Kemp himself appearing in an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. [VOICE OF PRESENT-DAY JAMIE – I WROTE THIS PIECE IN A PRE-EXTRAS WORLD. YEARS LATER, RICKY GERVAIS WOULD INDEED CAST KEMP IN PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. VERY FUNNY IT WAS, TOO.]
If this act was performed in and, if we assume, received in the spirit of love, then what can the rest of us mean when we lay claim to the same concept? What price a declaration of love when its currency has been devalued so by wretched creatures such as these?
But then words are nothing more than representations of concepts; arbitrary symbols that refer to a framework we have erected to make sense of the things and ideas around us. They aren’t the actual thing that they represent, merely esoteric representations presented in a form tangible to certain human groups of representations of things filtered through our fallible, objective senses; and isn’t pinning down the nature of love a million, billion times more baffling than trying to unravel the middle section of this nonsensical and heavy sentence? [VOICE OF PRESENT-DAY JAMIE – MAYBE IF YOUR SENTENCES WERE BETTER AND MORE COHERENT IT WOULDN’T BE SO MUCH OF A PROBLEM, JAMIE]
We must remember, however, that The Mongrel Mob has chosen the Nazi interpretation of the swastika as the symbol of their ‘struggle’ against society. The irony that the Nazis were a mob of mongrels who would gladly have purified this assortment of mainly ethnic, dim-witted alcoholics with extreme prejudice is sadly lost on them. So, perhaps their definition of love should not be unquestionably accepted as definitive.
But isn’t that the point? I could profess love to a calculator, and no man on Earth would have any right to question my commitment or feelings towards the object. I could love that calculator more than a man loves his wife. I could love a sunset, or a painting, or a dung beetle. I could love with an unmatched burning intensity a woman who steals my house, or love a woman I’ve just brutally raped. I could love fifteen women at once. What do I, do we, mean when we say that? How is my love for a woman the same as or different from the way that any number of men love women; or that women love men, women women, and men men?
I’m sure we all have our own sense of truth in this matter. The English language may be standardised, but the emotion of love (if it can be called an emotion) varies in its form from person to person, culture to culture. I have read many interpretations of and theories about love in books on religion, psychology, sociology, philosophy, biology, anthropology and history. [STILL DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT THE FRENCH I TOOK, THOUGH] I’ve read comprehensive studies and reports (even Cosmo-fucking-politan), asked many friends and acquaintances, searched my own thoughts and feelings, and still I’m not sure whether or not love even exists.
We all agree what it means and feels to be angry, sad or afraid. But ask us of love and each will offer a different and ‘definitive’ translation: the woman married for 60 faithful years to a loving husband will cite the trials and tribulations of holding together a union over six decades as the epitome of love; the woman who holds her newborn child in her arms may know no greater case for the manifestation of love than the feelings stirred in her by the tiny pissing puke-bag under her care [I’VE GOT A SON NOW. HE IS INDEED A TINY, PISSING PUKE-BAG, BUT THE BEST TINY, PISSING PUKE-BAG IN THE UNIVERSE, AND I WOULD CRAWL NAKED OVER IRRADIATED BROKEN GLASS TO KEEP HIM SAFE]; the teenager who stands at a girl’s house in the early hours of the morning with a bunch of flowers and a fluttering heart believes that no-one has felt such strength and purity of love as he has at that moment, believes that love itself wasn’t born until his eyes fell on the object of his affections; the men at the altar, both the priest and the groom, have different ideas about, but perhaps equal intensity in their feelings, of love, for God and woman respectively (some may say the two aren’t mutually exclusive); the man who cheats on his wife but still loves her; the Muslim man who loves his daughter but kills her to restore family honour; the woman who takes an overdose of pills through an overdose of love; the stalker who waits unseen outside of his idol’s home with a wedding ring in one hand and a knife in the other; the woman lying at the bottom of the stairs in a broken, bruised heap, her husband towering over her triumphantly on the landing above: all love.
And the man who makes love to a brutalised woman on a bar in the presence of his mates.
But, again, that’s the point; if indeed there is a point. None of us can do more than see the world through our own eyes. My analysis of love, however more elaborate, is no more or less useful than any analysis that may be offered by a member of the Mongrel Mob. Whether you believe in love at first sight; or that love is forged through hardship over time, or whether you believe that love itself is a questionable concept doesn’t matter so much as the thought that all of this belief is just personal conjecture.
Yes, it’s interesting to discover how highly people revere love and the idea of love, or what in regards to it they believe to be true, but it can never be anything more than merely interesting. Revealing about the person doing the soul searching, yes; but not conclusive: never definitive.
In this respect belief in love – perhaps specifically romantic love – requires a similar leap of faith to belief in God.
I could state that we are all animals and no more capable of romantic love than starfish or kangaroos. To attempt to convince you of this I could fashion an intricate argument that harnessed power from the fields of zoology, anthropology, biology and every episode of Trisha; tell you that survival and reproduction is our over-riding goal, and even our love for our offspring is essentially love for the continuation of our own genetic and ancestral line. Which would tie in very nicely with what I might claim next: namely that all love emanates, at root, from the self, to the self. I could even rattle out a witty little aphorism that runs a little like this: ‘You can’t make people fall in love with you; you can only help them to fall in love with themselves’. Pretty trite and catchy, yeah? I could tell you that you’ve all watched too many bloody movies and that real life is more like The Sopranos than Ghost.
I could even, if you so wish, quote a study which found that the brain of someone supposedly in love exhibits the same waves and patterns as the brain of a bona fide lunatic. Is there a man or woman alive who wouldn’t agree with that? I could even, in final desperation, disavow love as a Frankenstein emotion, or expose it as nothing more than other emotions like guilt, anger, pride, fear and vanity wearing a clever disguise.
Would it matter? If love is indeed the new religion, then its associated supporters and fundamentalists will care not for any of my opinions. And why should they? Faith is their bulwark. Maybe it’s yours too.
It’s nice to hear and say sometimes, isn’t it? To love and to be loved. What would we in the West do without it? Besides, what’s the alternative? To remove ‘love’ from the dictionary, to wipe it from our hearts and minds would be as successful an endeavour as one faced by your average grumpy, secular British father should he wish one year to ban Christmas from his house. Sure, it’s a load of overly-sentimental tacky shite that has significantly decreased in impact and worth over the millennia, but just try explaining that to your kids or your wife.
Which of these likely lads do the odds favour to sustain a meaningful union long enough to have children?:
Man A: “I love you, darling. Will you marry me?”
Man B: “You see, sweetheart, love is an artificial construct born of our own narcissism and naivety. Something foisted on us and indoctrinated into our fragile minds from birth. Often one of the first words we’ll ever hear. It’s perpetuated in the classrooms, the churches, the cinemas. And, interestingly, the Marxists believe that love ultimately leads us to marriage, which in turn ensures that the working man is sufficiently pacified and preoccupied to almost guarantee that he will never wish to or be able to revolt; he’ll be nothing more than an efficient cog in the machine, thus preserving the balance of power in society and protecting those in its higher echelons. Anyway, since everybody else seems to be doing it, and since I don’t want other men to be able to sleep with you too easily, do you want to put this ring on?”
You’d die alone, wouldn’t you?
So maybe you agree with me; and maybe you don’t. Maybe you think that love is one of the constant forces of the universe, and I’m just a cynical, selfish, failed-romantic motherfucker. Your opinion, then, is as irrelevant to me as mine is to you. It doesn’t mean you still can’t be right.
In conclusion, then: it seems to me that if love can mean so many different – and often contradictory – things to so many millions of different people, then the word and the idea begins to be stretched to the point where they are rendered almost completely meaningless… but then what do I know? I don’t believe in God either.
Maybe He loves me anyway.