I finished reading Anne Carson’s Plainwater around the end of February but I have been constantly thinking of a passage from “The Anthropology of Water”:
“Lovers— correct me if I’m wrong— insist on bringing the two perspectives together, a sort of double exposure. To draw into the very inside of my heart the limit that was supposed to mark it on the outside, your strangeness. But keep it strange. Those three things.”
I was immediately reminded of the Lovers card in the tarot deck, and how I wrote it in shorthand like a venn diagram.
One of the common interpretations of the Lovers card is doubt. When I was learning how to interpret the images and symbolism of each tarot card, I often wondered why such a seemingly positive and reassuring card such as the Lovers would connote doubt. Thinking about it a little bit more, I also realize that the overlapping of two images or, in the case of venn diagrams, situations lead to a third image, or space. A third condition where ambiguity and uncertainty arises, but also common ground (how ever different the two overlapping things are), possibility and growth. What appears to be two separate things, one thing or another, are actually also both things at once. A limitation that is drawn on the ground between two people exists within them. What feelings and thoughts tremble within that limitation also exists in both bodies. And I imagine that for some, these conditions are frightening to contemplate and confront. Hence, doubt.
The diagram above is from “The Auditory-Visual Overlap” from Don Ihde’s Listening and Voice: Phenomenology of Sound (1976; 2007). It shows the realms of the auditory and the visual, where –z– stand for purely vibratory and sonic things (the unseen, sound waves, ghosts) and –x– refers to things that are visual (objects, the natural world). –y– is the third condition where the seen (–x–) and unseen (–z–) meet and that denotes movement. So, when the unseen and seen are thrust into each others proximity, there is movement. Movement is going from one place to another; it is also growth, a cataclysm, a revolution. It is a force of change.
In Carson’s “The Anthropology of Water”, the voice (main character) goes on a road trip with a lover whom she refers to as The Emperor (there are plenty of references to Ancient China in this section of the book). He’s not really that great. He talks mostly about himself and his exes. He seems only concerned with sex. He says cruel things disguised as clever observations. She is aware of all this— why else would she speak of it?— but goes with him anyway. So, thrust into each other’s presence, they go on a road trip.
There is always something bubbling and boiling and trembling underneath the surface. The road trip ends with the voice keeping a set of maps her lover no longer needs. Or wants. Seemingly without explanation The Emperor flits in and out of the voice’s life and within the reader’s sight. The voice at some point— in Luz, Utah— says, “By the time I wake, anger is scorching through me… The light snaps at my heel like a farm dog.” Through the road trip, the voice is occasionally reminded of her father. It appears that love and resentment overlapped to create a third space where she understood. “I am wondering about the color green. Why it hurts like sound hurts inside a jar…” the voice says as they drive through Kansas where “there is the limitless green limit of the horizon” and of the changing landscape as The Emperor is talking about history, “… This is not what he is saying but it is what I know. I am the one who watches the way plants sweat at noon come at me, slap my mind across the room. That is who I am, those three things.”
Lately, I have been focusing on understanding things, situations, people, and myself. Why I write, for instance. It can’t always be for the clout or a way to brag, as if writing was content and I was only producing for an audience. I’ve always grappled with intentions. Mine and other people’s. I really didn’t understand much, and let things happen. Even though I knew what I liked and didn’t like, it was different from knowing what I wanted and who I was. Am I past this condition? I feel I am nearly out of the woods.
Keep moving, stay strange, be all three things and more.