26 October 2010

an impotent, quivering yearning

Physical eroticism has in any case a heavy, sinister quality. It holds on to the separateness of the individual in a rather selfish and cynical fashion. Emotional eroticism is less constrained. Although it may appear detached from material sensuality it often derives from it, being merely an aspect made stable by the reciprocal affection of the lovers. It can be divorced from physical eroticism entirely, for the enormous diversity of human kind is bound to contain exceptions of this sort. The fusion of lovers' bodies persists on the spiritual plane because of the passion they feel, or else this passion is the prelude to physical fusion. For the man in love, however, the fervour of love may be felt more violently than physical desire is. We ought never to forget that in spite of the bliss love promises its first effect is one of turmoil and distress. Passion fulfilled itself provokes such violent agitation that the happiness involved, before being a happiness to be enjoyed, is so great as to be more like its opposite, suffering. Its essence is to substitute for their persistent discontinuity a miraculous continuity between two beings. Yet this continuity is chiefly to be felt in the anguish of desire, when it is still inaccessible, still an impotent, quivering yearning. A tranquil feeling of secure happiness can only mean the calm which follows the long storm of suffering, for it is more likely that lovers will not meet in such timeless fusion than they will; the chances are most often against their contemplating in speechless wonder the continuity that unites them.

Georges Bataille, Erotism (1986: 19-20)