Leo Bersani’s Self


I’ve lost my self

Today is day three of my 9 months of writing this thing, and I haven’t started writing yet. Time to get serious. Ok, the horoscope says:

Sagittarius Horoscope: September 11, 2011

There are a lot of facts, figures and dates simmering in your head right now, so it is no wonder that you might be feeling a bit rattled in terms of your everyday tasks. Get ready for a day of lost sunglasses, car keys and cell phones! You’ll be misplacing items left and right, but don’t get too upset — they won’t stay lost for long. Bear with the temporary breakdown of your concentration skills for a little while longer. You’ll get a kick out of discovering your lost items again.

Aside from the fact that today’s advice seems feckless, I’ll make room on my plate for the warning that while I might feel lost today, one day, I might also feel found. A liberal paraphrase for sure, but I’ll take it. Preliminary thoughts: “Out of all the things I’ve lost I miss my mind the most.” Props to Ozzy Osbourne.

So focusing on loss I jump in.

To get me going I’m reading an issue of PMLA. For anyone who doesn’t know what this is consider yourself a better person than I. You need to know only that it is a pretentious academic journal for humanities types, considered the overbearing Mike-Tyson-tattoo to the face that gets you places if you make it inside. For others, like me, who unfortunately feel intense waves of nausea, panic, adolescent longing, or dismissive jealousy when we hear it mentioned, I am reading the March 2010 issue of PMLA. The one with the creepy children cartoon on the cover, and Leo Bersani on the insides.

I read for Leo.

No one writes gayness quite like Leo Bersani. He manages to piss off most lesbian women, gay men who actually aspire to live like Will and Grace (as long as Grace looks like a hot pool-cleaner and looks good in Armani), and a shit-storm of academics who dismiss him as perverse, arrogant, and crass. A man known for famous quotes such as: “Psychoanalysis is about what two people can say to each other if they agree not to have sex,” and for essays about anal sex that ask, in earnest, “is the rectum a grave?” Bersani likes to live his scholarly life as though he was actually kicked out of the closet, thrown out of all doors, booted out of the faculty clubs, and has chosen to settle in the unsettled. I adore him. I think he’s gutsy and that he might actually be the one queer scholar today that says what he wants to mean even if he doesn’t mean what he says in the way he says it. Make sense? Not at all.

Leo Bersani and I are at this moment dancing throughout his words. He’s doing some form of neutral Industrial hip-hop while I’m shimmying and shoulder-shaking on my own in a corner. He hasn’t come over to ask if I want to join him, and I’m hoping he won’t. He is a Leo after all.

I’ve turned to him to help me reignite my passion for this thesis. He has done this for me in the past and I really should dedicate my Master’s year to him, along with the scars and years of therapy that ensued after I tried to argue, following Bersani’s definition of “cruising,” that a desexualized “cruising,” the act and the metaphor, might bring about a new ethics of relating to all others, including animals. Along with being labeled the anti-Christ that year, I was also called Moo-Lissa—yep, a clever combination of a moose cruising Melissa. Thanks Bersani. My comps year also owes him accolades. During my defense when I argued that as queers we need to self-extend outward into the undefinable, past our own desire for the power that comes from owning an identity and being recognized with the rights therein, I was chastised by some of my committee members for being too pessimistic, or worse, not-spiritual enough. Where was my hope for the future? One member asked. Well, probably up my rectum. Thanks again Bersani. And now I am returning to my old friendless pal in non-hopes that he will help me get excited about loneliness once again.

Today, I’ll start on a bright note and think about selflessness and selfishness. Both are problematic for me. Someone who is selfless seems disgusting in their goodness, or, worse, a martyr who gives until they’re gone and expects a nothingness in return that seems impossible and eery. Worse than one of those owl-eyed people you meet at a party who talks about silver linings and puppies, the selfless seems selfish in her selflessness. An apparition who is always silently seeking something, or someone hard to respect because they lack any sense that they too deserve care, maybe not in return for their love, but for being a person who cares for others and who should expect some care for themselves. Selfishness is easier to dislike. We all know the people we think are selfish, or perhaps we’ve been accused ourselves of being narcissistic jerks. The ones who can’t seem to recognize other people’s pain or hurt because they are too concentrated on recalling their own. The one who you talk to about your thoughts but who you know is listening to the inner drum of their own many needs. The man who looks over the side of a boat and sees someone drowning and thinks of their own fear or water; the woman who hears the story of a mother who loses her child and her response is, “I get what you mean. This one time when I had my appendix out….”

But Bersani asks us to take the notion of the selfless and the selfish and put them in a blender to see what smoothie can be made: a delicious, queer avocado and banana mixture of care, compassion and self-worth? Or a monstrous blend of Mother Teresa and Hitler? Mary Shelley might smile. I wonder, though, where the fun is in this thought? The obsession with the self and its importance of lack thereof seems rather dull when placed in the context of real living. I don’t need hedonism, really I don’t, but I really like pleasure. I desire it and crave it. So Bersani, the question becomes for me how, as a lonely gay, my loneliness can be pleasurable to me an others? Or, how might I use my loneliness, a large part of myself, to relate to others in ways that do not consume or subsume them? Is loneliness an identity that might yield the type of person who can both come into the world always already giving a shit about those others in the world with them, and who, by the same token, will leave that world having done something other than inflating their own ego, body, pride, bank account and extenda-boobs with self-importance?

Of the self Bersani states:

“I am interested in a pleasure in losing or dissolving the self that is in no way equated with loss, but comes rather through rediscovering the self outside the self. It is a kind of spatial, anonymous narcissism” (6).

Spatial, anonymous narcissism. Uh huh. What you’re telling me Bersani is that what I have to work with for the next while is the notion that love— real, compassionate, ethical love—can neither be selfless, completely, or selfish, completely, and must come from a place of “impersonal narcissism.” What the fuck? Shoot me. Seems pretty lonely to me. No wonder I’m single!

About newdaynewmood

A Lonely lesbian trying to write about everyday life and everyday ways to negotiate the tough political issues therein.
This entry was posted in humour, lesbianism, loneliness, queer politics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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