is beatific love possible in a pornographic age? the beginning of a rumination on love and possession.

is it possible for a man to have a beatific obsession in the age of pornography? can a man have a muse that he willingly does not want to touch, that he dare not break the spell with, that he does not want to “break a piece off with?” tricky tricky stuff in the age of pornography. the myth of romantic love that was born in europe less than 600 years ago has given way in the modern western world to a fabrication of  desire that is, quite actually, built upon a deep foundation of artifice. i’ll use pornography here not in it’s literal sense, but as an avatar for a type of longing, passion, or possession based primarily on primal feeling vs. even the vaguest spiritual impulse.

dante did not perceive of beatrice as a sexual object, but as a sort of deity to be admired, a perfect representation of piety, grace, and strength. i know this representation itself may raise the ire of many, because it is of course, a type of objectification in and of itself…but how does this compare with the siliconed, bleached anorexically informed vision of beauty, desirability and “love” that is crammed down our throats with regularity?

 this is the very beginning of a question, and i’ll continue to pursue some answers in this space.


6 thoughts on “is beatific love possible in a pornographic age? the beginning of a rumination on love and possession.

  1. Percy, I think its a bigger question than whether we can have a muse or a beatified, yet untouchable presence. I think we have to think in terms of milieu, the greater milieu, not just the projection on the screen, which is horrifically objectified and soulless. Where are things headed? Is the world that is bull rushing us head first even remotely concerned with the spiritual and artistic values that Dante’s world was just beginning to support and venerate?

    Our world is driven by economy, social economy, economies of scale, macro and micro. It is the “atomic and sub-atomic,” as Ned Beatty chillingly illuminated in “Network.” It’s also an increasingly genomic and genetically modified world. Just down the road from your crib, in Davis, they’re getting their freak on by getting cool polymers to cohabit and shack up with carbon hotties.

    The world and the terms you’re trying to frame this in no longer exist on a large scale.

    Can we still have that alchemical marriage?

    I don’t think it’s impossible, but to do so, you’d have to break ranks with synthetic modification on a moment-to-moment basis.

    Stay human.

    • robert,

      this is the conversation i’m talking about! you hit at the heart of the matter. the synthetic process you are talking about is a black hole, a simulacrum of feeling, expression and artistry. great surface amazements have taken the place of actual connection, and we are all part of it. stay human indeed.

  2. Percy, this is such an interesting and complex question.

    As a dyed in the wool romnaticist, I believe I understand the spirt of the question. And, as painful as it sometimes is in this age of polyamorous wanna-be porn stars (both male and female), I cling to my ideal of romantic love and will settle for nothing less. It is ironic perhaps that the purest and most transforming love is the realistic kind, not the idealistic. It requires the ability to face the ugly as well as the beautiful. And of course the ability to discover the beautiful in what we imagine we eschew. .

    That said, there’s a deeper core to examine when it comes to the way women are depicted by male purveyors of porngraphy versus the way females depict themselves in seemingly the same light. Looking at the matter historically, it’s interesting to note the disparity between the way women project their own inner heroic selves through dress and accoutrement (as well as behavior) in comparison with the way men have created idealized sex and love objects in fantasy and art. Obviously there’s overlap between the two. But there are important differences.

    Women universally gravitate towards cultural icons who represent wildness, independence, and even evil. Women of all ages and in all countries (where they are not oppressed) will mimick femme fatales seen in movies before they’ll mimick the good girls. Why is that? There’s an essay here but I would say at it’s core that women much prefer to imagine themselves as a force of nature; independent, self-willed and self-made; successful, wild, irresistable, and defiant rather than a being who exists for the purpose of serving and inspiring others towards success and independence while remaining docile, hidden, etherealized, sublimated and pure.

    Unfortunately Dante’s Beatrice was developed against a backdrop exploring sin and its eternal consequences. Is her idealized state something any woman would have invented? For that matter, would Dante himself have created such a contrast without the input of church dogma? Beatrice was an illusory construction within an illusory philosophic/social construct. At the core of these polemics lies a dogma induced self loathing in the male mind. A rejection of his own vulnerabilty, carnality and humanity.

    So, given the possibility (and in my experience the reality) of idealistic love, I think part of the problem is that we as a society have fundamentally lost a grip on core ideals and values. The old ideals – honesty, self-sacrifice, dedication, etc., seem to exist largely in lip service only. Our political leaders don’t keep promises, break their vows, steal and sell us down the river to big corporate interests. What we see modelled is a kind of self-interested greed and lust – every other edifice of the human soul seems to crumble before these twin impulses. So, how can we have idealized love in a society that has no sublime ideals at all? If men do not behave in heroic and noble ways, will women? Even the muses need to be inspired.

    In short, the old “evil” is tne new “ideal”. The porn age is just a symptom of that. And my bet is that big, money-grubbing corporations like it that way; all of us behaving like implusive, overstimulated greedy pre-pubescents (not insult to teenagers intended). A steady growth index requires an ever-growing demand, even if that desire/demand has to be falsely manufactured.

  3. Andra,

    you_have_nailed _it. this was indeed a question, and i did not posit the idea of beatific love as being a perfect love, as it does have it’s inherent flaws, but it was, even as imperfect as it was, somewhat of a manifestation of focusing on the other past one’s own most basic needs to manifest the ego, or satiisfy the urge….i hope other’s weigh in here.

  4. LVB says:

    Yes, it is possible, and actual. But rare. Very rare, I’d say.

    And that makes it all the more precious an aspiration, and worthy
    of our admiration and pursuit. Perhaps not for everyone, but for
    some of us. And I don’t feel that this could only occur with a
    Dalai Lama or Mother Theresa type personage. Nor does it have to
    be in the context of being a “Quaker” or one who represses their
    true nature and desires out of guilt or pressure from any particular

    It can be simply stated as being the closest we mortals can get to
    the divine love the Creator feels for its creations, us; a love that
    is focused on encouraging, understanding, comforting, assisting and
    even sacrificing for that being we love. In the Creator sense, it is
    sacrificing control, and therefore the ability to protect us, by giving
    us control – freewill. Within our own human condition, it is the
    sacrifice of one’s own trivial desires and primal hormonal urges in
    favor of loving another in spiritual terms, even while trapped in the
    meat puppet shell, which demands otherwise and attempts control to
    fulfill its own needs and desires every waking moment of our lives.

    It sounds a little schizophrenic, but I think we all know this and
    feel the impact of the competing forces within us. They want very
    different things, and try to get them in different ways. The flesh
    is a blunt caveman that want what it wants and wants it now. The
    soul has greater understanding, and is more patient but resolute.

    Overcoming and overpowering our meat puppet shells requires using
    the most advanced, highest powered weapon that we’ve been given –
    our souls, spirits…whatever it is that we truly are, the intangible
    clusters of electromagnetic pulses within the grey matter and neural

    Lust is an organism, like any other. If you feed it constantly, it
    grows to become a behemoth that demands more feeding. But, it can also
    be controlled and confined. It all depends on the core spirituality of
    its keeper, and our willingness or desire to control it, which would seem to be the starting point or prerequisite to developing or eventually obtaining the love that you speak of here.

    The aforementioned “porn age” is here to stay and will certainly become
    more pervasive and influential, especially when you consider that there
    are already prototypes of a technology that fuses the physical electrode
    stimulation of specific areas of the body with virtual reality computer
    models and high-resolution graphics. You can see where this could easily
    lead, and it’s not love or spiritual. Not that this might not actually be a beneficial sort of therapy or recreation at some point, but it’s easy to see how it could get more out of control as a new opiate for the masses.

    This is certainly not to say that all sexual expression constitutes lust,
    or that this expression between two people in marriage, for example, is
    in any way separated from spiritual love. I am only thinking that, perhaps, there might be a spiritual evolution possible wherein one could have this beatific love of a muse, and not want or need to “break a piece off” with him or her. When will we see the possibilities of having such distinctions to include the ability to know and express this spiritual love for one person, and know that this love need not, and maybe should not, include the primal, lustful component with every woman?

    The transhumanist age is upon us, and it will not favor, promote or perhaps even tolerate beatific love. And so, it will become even rarer than it already is…but still possible, because we do have souls and can control the meat puppet’s ravenous demands and desires. If we really want to, and try to find that level of enlightenment.

    I echo the “Stay human” sentiment. These fleshy desires lure us into the animal realm, away from the purity of the soul, that which makes us all human, and therefore able to know the difference and assert control over ALL primal instincts and impulses. If we want to, and work at it.

    And, please don’t get me wrong. I’m as lusty and imperfect as the next person. But I’m considering the practice of not merely suppressing lust, which only achieves temporary results (if any), but to transcend lust by reaching a higher level of understanding that achieves actual, spiritual control over testosterone-driven impulses. Control being defined as, having our souls make the decision to either allow or deny lusty desires, rather than being hormonal hostages. I just coined that phrase, not bad!

    Thank you for this discussion, Percy, it’s a fascinating topic.

  5. Jeff B. says:

    Wow! Id love to correspond with the writer. I have written an allegorical short story about a man who meets a female medical student and through a tramatic event discovers she provides him with a beatific vision. This effectively absolves him of his “sins”, i.e., the destruction of addiction which includes sex and the false, ‘possessive’ love you drew attention to. Your writing on this subject is dead on and inspiring. The concept of the figurative woman Beatrice, in a modern context, namely around pornography, provoding a salvation or spiritual awakening for men with addictions of any kind is fascinating. Please write more!

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