8 May 2009

Sexus, Henry Miller, Vol. 1, pp.287d-290c, Foolish Power

by Corry Shores
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Henry Miller

The Rosy Crucifixion
Volume Three

Chapter 10


Foolish Power

Mr. Miller is on the subway. He received an urgent message. His lover Mona barely survived a suicide attempt. He expected this. So he's not surprised. Nor is he worried.
I knew also that her instincts would prevent her from accomplishing her end. (288a)
He is curious how she did it. But he hopes her story is convincing.
I did not want to hear some preposterous, outlandish tale which in my unsettled condition would cause me to burst out into hysterical laughter. (288b)
If the moment is too dramatic, he would be unable to keep a straight face.
Drama always affected me strangely, always aroused the sense of the ridiculous, especially when motivated by love. Perhaps that was why, in moments of desperation, I could always laugh at myself. The moment I made the decision to act I became another person the actor. And of course I always overplayed the part. I suppose that at bottom this queer behavior was based on an incurable dislike for deception. Even though it meant saving my own skin, I hated to take people in. (288c)
Miller does not want his own influence to affect the woman's love for him. He wants the woman to be overcome by her desire, and be the assertive one who ensnares him.
There was no triumph or satisfaction in it for me unless the woman surrendered voluntarily. I was always a bad suitor. I became discouraged easily, not because I doubted my own powers but because I distrusted them. I wanted the woman to come to me. I wanted her to make the advances. No danger of her becoming to bold! The more recklessly she gave herself the more I admired her. I hated virgins and shrinking violets. La femme fatale! that was my ideal. (288-289)
In love, we want to be enslaved. But to be enslaved is to create a fragile balance of power. This gives the slave power over the dominant one.
How we hate to admit that we would like nothing better than to be the slave! Slave and master at the same time! For even in love the slave is always the master in disguise. The man who must conquer the woman, subjugate her, bend her to his will, form her according to his desires is he not the slave of his slave? How easy it is, in this relationship, for the woman to upset the balance of power! The mere threat of self-dependence, on the woman's part, and the gallant despot is seized with vertigo. (289b)
So no matter which position, slave or master, in both cases the lover is vulnerable to the other's power. But if they can both acknowledge that fact, they can both be free. But if it is just the man who submits utterly and overtly, then he traps the woman.
But if they are able to throw themselves at one another recklessly, concealing nothing, surrendering all, if they admit to one another their interdependence, do they not enjoy a great and unsuspected freedom? The man who admits to himself that he is a coward has made a step towards conquering his fear; but the man who frankly admits it to every one, who asks that you recognize it in him and make allowance for it in dealing with him, is on the way to becoming a hero. Such a man is often surprised, when the crucial test comes, to find that he knows no fear. Having lost the fear of regarding himself as a coward he is one no longer: only the demonstration is needed to prove the metamorphosis. It is the same in love. The man who admits not only to himself but to his fellowmen, and even to the woman he adores, that he can be twisted around a woman's finger, that he is helpless where the other sex is concerned, usually discovers that he is the more powerful of the two. Nothing breaks a woman down more quickly than complete surrender. a woman is prepared to resist, to be laid siege to: she has been trained to behave that way. When she meets no resistance she falls headlong into the trap. (289b-d)
Thus the ultimate lover is the man who plays the utter fool and unconditionally surrenders to the woman.
To be able to give oneself wholly and completely is the greatest luxury that life affords. Real love only begins at this point of dissolution. The personal life is altogether based on dependence, mutual dependence. Society is the aggregate of persons all interdependent. There is another richer life beyond the pale of society, beyond the personal, but there is no knowing it, no attainment possible, without first traversing the heights and depths of the personal jungle. To become the great lover, the magnetiser and catalyzer, the blinding focus and inspiration of the world, one has to first experience the profound wisdom of being an utter fool. The man whose greatness of heart leads him to folly and ruin is to a woman irresistible. (290a-b)
But those who are self-absorbed will not enter into such a overwhelming love.
To the woman who loves, that is to say. As to those who ask merely to be loved, who seek only their own reflection in the mirror, no love however great, will ever satisfy them. In a world so hungry for love it is no wonder that men and women are blinded by the glamour and glitter of their own reflected egos. No wonder that the revolver shot is the last summons. No wonder that the grinding wheels of the subway express, though they cut the body to pieces, fail to precipitate the elixir of love. In the egocentric prism the helpless victim is walled in by the very light which he refracts. The ego dies in its own glass cage. (290c)

Miller, Henry. Sexus: The Rosy Crucifixion. New York: Grove Press, 1965.

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