Doubling Down

Even in that classical bond and inscription of participatory cultural self-validation we know of as “marriage”, catastrophic loneliness can arrive on any day and at any hour. It seems as though those ubiquitous narratives and celebratory mythologies of aspiration to romantic, emotional and sexual completeness were always already purposed to support some pre-existing social, logical or symbolic hierarchy before they were ever intended to serve any considerations of personal happiness or plausible longevity of interpersonal relationship.

The cultural construction of love and marriage, on a spectrum from pulp romance fiction through popular music or tabloid media and on to sociological artefact or even as defined through the professional surveillance of relationship mediation professionals, has become one which (like personal body image control and weight-management) provides the individual with prefabricated vectors and paths through which to assert their individuality. A certain pressure to conform to normative, culturally self-validating relationships creates a sense of loss or failure when those mythologies of perfect and ideal emotional or physical connection prove unattainable.

(Is it a matter of necessity that the unattainability of a specific condition is a prerequisite for the possibility of that thing; that we can perhaps only construct shared cultural mythologies in ways which require that ideal form and state of affairs to be unattainable; and is this perennial asymptosis towards the Object of our own personal emotional or psychological completeness a prerequisite for the existence of that aspiration ? Consider an arrow in perennial free-fall (i.e. orbit) around its target; that which is pursued is always already the constitutive condition for the possible existence of the pursuer – in this way the whole system wraps back upon itself and generates its own foundational incompleteness and an impossibility of closure.)

Consequently, countless thousands (millions ?) of couples find themselves in the awkward position of being coerced by cultural and social pressures into untenable interpersonal bonds which (not unlike the ever-receding possibility of home ownership) become a grindstone to which they become forever bound in a cycle of aspiration-to-attain, failure, regroup and aspiration. The normative ideal becomes a literal ball-and-chain which both forces people into implausible social contracts with one another and which so pollutes or corrupts the possibility for genuine creative interpersonal growth that even a successful and loving relationship could rarely ever attain that idealised mythological perfection, making unhealthy relationships out of healthy ones.

Our lives (and loves) are inscribed upon a vast and multiplying possibility-space in which the various dimensions of motion and freedom are measured on the intersecting axes (among others) of symbolic value, economic participation, existential constraints of personal psychological continuity and always also at some level (conscious or not) of species propagation. What is curious to me is the ways in which social and cultural systems endlessly double-down on bad bets in vain attempts to seek validity and continuity through enforcing normative constraints on individuals. Of course, there is no greater enforcement than that which is self-inflicted – everywhere we see people, couples, marriages, singles inscribing upon themselves those cultural norms and adopted expectations. Doubling down on prefabricated axioms and theorems of interpersonal relationship and emotional connectivity which have been proven false (or at least inconsistent) is a recipe for interpersonal disaster – and personal unhappiness.

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