On Love, In Love

I can’t imagine not being in love.

I first fell in love when I was fiteen/sixteen and it was inevitably un-requited. This Friday, I was interviewed regarding my writing this song and I found myself talking about my first love. As I talked about her, I realised I remembered every detail about her. Her hair, her dimples, her enchanting lisp, the gorgeous shade of pink she’d go if she had to answer a question in school, her braces, and the tremendous strain her valiant blouse buttons underwent to contain what I thought, at that age, were surely the biggest breasts in the entire world.

I was a kid, we were both kids. I’m sure if I saw a picture of her now as she was then, she’d look like… a kid.

She was the first girl I wrote a song about.

Since then, I’ve fallen in love at least another… eight times! Fuck! That seems like a huge number! But bear in mind that I am 47 now and that I was married for 11 years (together for 14) during that list of massive infarctions. Six of those times were over nineteen years ago so the rate of me drowning in someone’s eyes does seem to be slowing of late.

I guess my serial amory is part of who I am: I’m a songwriter who sings mostly about love. I seem to feel things more than the average person, I have higher highs and lower lows. Where others shake off lovers / relationships / pain / love, I can’t seem to. I stay stuck until I work through everything, usually through putting everything into songs and trying to invent a narrative for what is, in reality, the normal chaos of love. Even then, I don’t “move on” like mature adults are meant to: if any of those girls/women turned up on my doorstep this evening, I’d gladly ask them in, hug them and love them as much as I did way back when. Weird, I know.

Out of those eight times, only four have been requited.

Oh, unrequited love! I could fill so many anguished diary pages with the will-it-blend? assault on my heart those loves brought. I could and I have: please make sure your burn those diaries when my body is found, they make Tumblr look sober.

This is how I know I’m in love:

  • She’s the last thing I think about as I’m falling asleep.
  • She’s the first thing I think about when I wake.
  • Every moment she’s not here, there’s a dull ache inside me, like I’ve left something somewhere but can’t remember what and where.
  • If I see someone with the same name as her on the telly or a film or Twitter, my heart leaps.
  • If I miss a call from her, I start panicking and my heart jumps like a skittish frog. Then, when I call her, she’s all chill and I’m yammering like Rainman.
  • When she texts me and I see her name come up on my phone, it’s like the sun breaking through the grey after a rainstorm, nothing is bad any more.
  • When I see her, when I actually see her in the real, actual, atoms-of-her-body-bouncing-light-into-my-eyes way, it hurts because she’s so pretty. I can’t breathe, I can’t think, I want to crush her with hugs and never let her go.
  • When she says she loves me, I feel the universe unfold and flower, galaxies sparkling chrome in her steady gaze. Every blink seems to take a thousand years.
  • When she holds my hand, I am calm. We could be sailing into a black hole or about to be ravaged by rabid dogs, still I am calm. What could hurt us through this love?
  • When she kisses me, it is shocking. I’m blind, all I can feel are her lips on my skin and a wave of sudden heat passing over me, the splash of a firework on a velvet sky. Every when is now, the kiss will be everywhen.

I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to love but I would say that I welcome it into my life. It is the central engine of my life. Actually, I suspect it is for most humans but modern capitalism has made it a sin to say so: we’re programmed to spew the cant that whatever tasks we perform as wage slaves define who we are.

They don’t. Love is what makes you who you are.

Moreover, a loveless human cannot help but be alienated from their work because creation is an act of love. Sever the bond between love and work and you end up with anomie and reality TV: empty, inimical shite.

I am not in a romantic or sexual relationship now and I haven’t been for five years. So, in that sense, I am unloved. But I have love in my life because I am in love. Yes, sometimes that hurts terribly ~ when is wanting what you can’t have ever not painful? Nevertheless, I love love and I would not live without it, no matter how many times I may say that I would.

I know my love will read this and she’ll probably shake her head at my foolishness. In her eyes, she’s just a girl, ordinary and unremarkable. She can’t equate that with the hyperbole of the poems and songs I’ve written about her, the words and worlds that roll out of my mouth when I see her.

This is the best thing about love.

Love can show another human being aspects of themselves that they cannot see themselves due to propinquity or habitude. When I sing her something and she smiles, she understands. I know that apperception will melt away like a snowflake’s kiss. We are all such masses of debits and doubts, none of us truly believes we are worthy of love, which is why it shocks us so and why the belief in love evaporates so disastrously quickly.

But when I’m honest, when I let pure love pour out, too stupefied to barricade it, something happens. I know, for a second at least, love has shown her how extraordinarily, preternaturally wonderful she is.

Blah Blah Entrepeneurship, Blah Blah Business, Blah Blah Let’s Club Baby Seals

So, every day I check Medium and every day I see another array of posts on how best to squeeze the blood from humans in order to maximise the profits for Yet Another Corporation run by a gaggle of Sith.

Is this all this place is for, middle-management corporate wankery about ‘throughflow’ and ‘synergy’ and ‘virality’ and ‘inspiration?’

Obviously, it isn’t. I’ve found so many pieces that are actually celebrations of humanity, small stories that, when I read them, make me feel it’s okay to be fallible and lonely, to be normal.

But they’re drowned out by the foghorns of commerce. Ooh, look, here’s another 3min piece on how to organise the chairs in your boardroom so everyone feels equally motivated. Or this one, this one is how to best scam the net with a fake viral ad. Every post is full of buzzwords like ‘millennials’ or ‘entrepreneur’ which actually just mean people and capitalists.

This normalises Medium for me and it normalises it to somewhere I don’t want to be because, basically, I would love to see (and help usher in) the death of world capitalism in my lifetime.

Take a look at the fucked-up world around you. Take a look at food mountains in the EC and starving people in those same countries. Take a look at the ecological damage of razed forests and poisoned air. Take a look at workers dying in collapsing sweatshops to provide a few extra pennies for their bosses.

Thank capitalism for all that. Thank the outmoded fallacies of an economic system based totally on psychopathic ‘entrepreneurs’ and the profit motive.

When you build the world around that system, a system where psychopathy is rewarded, is it hugely surprising that we end up where we are?

So, no, thank you. I don’t want to read your inspirational piece on monetising infants’ tears or how best to outsource your work to a pauper in Mumbai, all your fakeass, self-aggrandising altruism.

I prefer to read about people who are actually making the world a better place.

Alastair Reynolds Talks At Derby IOP

Alasatair Reynolds At Derby IOP Talk

Last night one of my favourite authors, Alastair Reynolds, spoke at a talk organised by the Derby Centre for the Institute of Physics.

Al’s talk was on the role of science in science fiction, more specifically covering exoplanets, aliens and interstellar travel. He spoke as you would expect an experienced novelist to speak: fluently and with many interesting meanders along our course.

One of his biggest themes was that SF is often outmoded by actual science. When we thought Mars was earth-like, it was lovely to have rip-roaring stories of fearsome, toothy Martian warriors battling in front of canals arrowing into the distance. Now that we know none of that is true, for writers like Reynolds, we must update our SF. Of course, he doesn’t rule out fantasy about Mars which is just as viable as fantasy about Earth but then that isn’t SF any more, in the most commonly used limits of the genre.

Speaking on aliens, Al outlined the Fermi Paradox and posited several answers as to why it exists. Unlike many other explanations I’ve heard, he emphasised that although the universe is very old, evolution is very slow and we spent nearly three billion years just hanging round as single cell organisms. Maybe no-one’s dropping in to say hi because life just hasn’t had enough time to evolve? Maybe we’re the first – hey, someone has to be! I find this a slightly depressing prospect and much prefer the Cosmic Zoo Hypothesis.

After the talk, we adjourned to a restaurant where I had a fascinating time as I was in my favourite environment: I was surrounded by physicists! Finally, I could ramble on about Penrose and Wheeler, Feynman and Turing and the people I was talking to knew a gazillion times more than me. It was ace!

After stuffing ourselves, we ended up wandering round Derby trying to find somewhere that was open for coffees/drinks but, sadly, everywhere was shut or shutting or full. So, reluctantly, we called it a night, beaten by a lack of all-night chatspots in Derby.

Al is such a friendly, genuinely approachable bloke that I had to keep pinching myself, trying to remember that this was an author whose writing I’ve been reading for at last the last thirteen years. His stories have left indelible imagery in my brain, I still think of the Cathedral in Absolution Gap, spires bristling as it trundles on forever. Not bad for a novel I read ten years ago.

The whole evening energised me, affirming my love of science/science fiction particularly because SF is the fiction best explores what it means to be human. It’s also the broadest canvas we have for imagining our futures, be they nightmares or idylls. SF speaks to both the best and worst aspects of humanity, it isn’t “cosy middle-class comfort fiction.” But what I most love in SF is the thread of optimism and of belief in the possibility of change, in the glory of our grasp exceeding our reach. In our play and in the minds of great writers like Reynolds, we dream of the worlds we would like to live in, to build.

Or, as Mr. Wilde put it,

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”