‘Oh God, I’m sorry. You know that, right? You know that I didn’t mean any of it? None of those words — none of those words that hurt. I mean only good, only the best – You know that, right? Of all people, you should. If not you, who? You know me better than those words. They’re only words, right? I take it all back. Give it back, please, let go of those words. They’re mine, not yours. You shouldn’t have them. Please, I need them back.
‘Listen, don’t listen to me — none of this – Because if you’d just look at me you’d see the truth. You’d know that I love you. Isn’t that so clear now? Surely, by now, you understand. You’re drowning, but you’re not dead. Isn’t that enough? What else do I need to do? You’ve taken everything already. I gave it all to you, only you, no one else. I promise.
‘You know, You said it yourself. Didn’t you? I thought you did. Wasn’t that you? I sometimes can’t remember details. Who would say that? Nobody. Nobody would say that. That’s why it had to be you. Nobody else. I knew it all along. You said it – now say it again.
Even today —
* * *
‘— And so I tell my life to myself’, Nietzsche writes in Ecce Homo (1969: 221). In this precise sense, God – and indeed any creator – gives birth to him/herself. What, then, we might wonder with Schelling, does this say about something as fundamental as sexual differentiation? We can, I think, understand this more fully by setting it in relief with the curiously hermaphroditic ambivalence about femininity that appears to have run in Schelling’s family.
‘Mysteries are female’ Friedrich Schlegel (his brother-in-law, once removed) writes in Lucinde, his loving ode to the romantic novel, ‘they like to veil themselves but still want to be seen and discovered’ (1971: 253). For his part, Schelling regards femininity both as fullness and lack, fecundity and emasculation, the In-Itself of Absolute Freedom and the sign of necessary weakness. Femininity, as such, is regarded by both Schlegel and Schelling as a lack – inasmuch as it must be actualised, i.e., made real, in the (male) Word, it ‘still wants to be seen’ – and as the inaccessible (‘veiled’), fecund Ground of its own being.
When one disavows corporeal nature, Schelling reasons, in exchange for an idealistic, ‘masculine’ desire for a spiritual Absolute that reflects its own identity back to itself without any recourse to objectivity, one has renounced one’s own body. It is, thus, ‘precisely when the (masculine) philosopher ignores (feminine) nature he sacrifices his own (masculine) nature’ (Krell 1988: 18). Which is to say, by excluding the feminine potency of nature, the manly men of Idealism, not least of which being Hegel, reveal themselves to be decidedly ‘girly’.
* * *
‘It’s funny the things that scare a person. Being alone. Being forgotten. Being forgotten and alone. Forgetting you’re alone – which is the same as being ordinary, the same — part of the crowd. At ease, patient — sleeping well. These are the things I want to tell you, that I keep trying to telling you, but I’m not sure you’re listening. You’re just staring. Those eyes —
‘What do you see that I don’t? What do you feel that I ought? Your so beautiful, and yet — oh, those eyes — but, you’re staring.
‘What are you thinking? What are your fears? I know you have some — you told me once before. I know what they are, but fears change, right? Fears are like people. We aren’t always afraid of our fears. But I’m always afraid of you. If only you’d just look, really look, without staring, I’d know that I shouldn’t be scared. Why do you want to frighten me? Is this some sick thrill? How can you be so cold?
‘You’re dead, aren’t you?’
You’re gone —
* * *
It is especially significant that Schelling’s description of the Idealist philosopher is not unlike the young protagonist of Lucinde, Julius, who sublimates, in the act of writing (described brilliantly by Martha Helfer as ‘an ideational erection’ [1996: 177]),his ‘mental lust’ and ‘sensual spirituality’ for his beloved Lucinde:
The words are dull and dreary. . . . A grand future beckons me to rush deeper into infinity, each idea opens its womb and produces countless new births. The furthest extremes of unbridled lust and silent intimation live simultaneously in me. I remember everything . . . and all my past and future thoughts are aroused and spring up against my will. Wild blood rages in my swollen arteries, my mouth thirsts for union, and my imagination picks and wavers among the many forms of pleasure and finds none in which my desire could fulfil itself and be at last at peace (Schlegel 1958: 10).
Julius’ ‘autoerotic narcissism’ (Helfer, 1996: 177) throughout Lucinde is unabashed: ‘I don’t hesitate to admire and love myself in this mirror [i.e., Lucinde]. Only here do I see myself complete and harmonious, or rather, I see full, complete humanity in me and in you’ (Schlegel, 1958: 10). Interestingly, what at first appears as strict, ‘straight’ heterosexuality is really anything but. In fact, Helfer draws our attention to a surprisingly stark homoeroticism that runs throughout Lucinde, where we continually find Julius expressing his pressing need ‘to find himself inside Lucinde.’
The difficult point that Schelling and Schlegel are each making philosophically and poetically is now what the analysis tells us psychoanalytically: that the female is the subject of desire par excellence. Which is to say, that the woman (i.e., in-and-for-herself) can only be characterized (i.e., for him). It is too easy to jump the gun and dismiss this as bygone misogynism, though. Rather, does it not share the ambiguity of the statue in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man that depicts a kneeling slave whose veil is being, depending on one’s perspective, lifted or lowered by a philanthropist, a scene the narrator describes as either ‘a revelation or a more efficient blinding’? For here, too, we are unsure — the veil of creative, divine femininity leaves both sexes and all genders severely constrained, where all we can do is stare through confused, blinded eyes.
* * *
‘I keep losing track of what it is I — Are you still staring? This is getting old. I mean, I can’t —
‘If only — You just — You know, Last night I totally believed in eternal life, but by the time I woke up I’d forgotten why.’
You’re blind —
‘I don’t know what you want. I’d stare back, but all I see is me — too much me — Where do you begin. Add one, subtract anything or add anything to infinity, Zeno says, and it doesn’t make any difference.
‘Do you have any idea what it’s like to see yourself in another? Do you know? Do you have any clue? You have to.’
All you ever do is stare.