Saturday, March 17, 2012

Repost of "The Rose of Desire"

"It only gets better from here on," Alex repeats over and over to himself as he crouches in the alley. As his heart slows and he becomes aware of his surroundings once more he realises that he has lost the two men who were chasing him. He wishes he could believe what he's telling himself with such desperation, words tripping over each other in a steady flow, a statement becoming a plea becoming something almost like a prayer.
Bitterness rises as he thinks of how easy it must be to be straight, to have access to the results of all those millenia of normalising pressures. He imagines hundreds of generations of lies being told to people like him, the compacted layers of deceit stinking like the trash in the alley -- lies about what is natural, about what is permissible, ultimately about what is possible. As the light from the setting sun fades he finally decides to leave this small town and go to the city. "Desire is the art of the possible," he thinks to himself wryly.


Draw a dot on a piece of paper. This represents the zero dimensional sexuality that most cultures are willing to accept, urges and desires fixed in one place for all time.

Draw another dot, label it "homosexuality", label the first "heterosexuality". Gay or straight. Those are the more flexible options. Draw a line between the dots. If you are on this line you are bi-sexual to a greater or lesser degree.

So far, so inflammatory for many people, but not altogether unexpected perhaps. We all know, even if we don't acknowledge, that such gradations exist.


Alan remembers something from Barthes about there being two kinds of music -- one which rewards being listened to and one which rewards being played. As the notes of the first Goldberg Variation ripple out from under his fingers he thinks to himself that there are some pieces that fill both needs.

The small practice room with the old piano is deserted, but he, for a little while, doesn't feel lonely. The complex intersections of the notes keep him company and as he eases into the zone he pulls back from the purely mechanical concerns that have occupied him for so long and begins to manipulate the music.

Music, the most abstract of the arts and yet one that requires a physicality almost like that of dance, carves out a space that Alan can occupy fully. He knows, at some dim level of awareness, that underlying this shimmering lightness are numbers at play but this level of analysis has never interested him.

He plays the music, trying to keep out of its way.


Now draw a line perpendicular to the straight/gay axis. Label the ends, say, "femininity" and "masculinity". This graph can represent macho gay men, lipstick lesbians, feminine straight men, masculine straight women. Nothing so far that you haven't seen in society.


Jane takes the first of her four daily Dmrt1 repressors, some hormone pills and a small silvery capsule of carefully programmed medical nano. A mouthful of distilled transformation washed down with bitter tap water.

The curtains in the bathroom are cheap lacy affairs and she notices that they are becoming discoloured, the pale yellow of cheap white wine. With a thrill she realises that she has decided to replace them, make a trip to some store and buy something a little heavier, a little darker.

It's not enough for her to be becoming physically female. In fact the large callous covering her transforming genitalia is the least of the changes she craves. She wants the essence of femininity, a 1950's suburban wife's existence. Petticoats and martinis and long afternoons of lonely tears.

What Jane wants is clearer now than what John wanted. John wanted to be a woman. Jane wants an ideal of hyper-femininity that has never truly existed outside of some men's minds. Others in the community, so supportive when she first tentatively made contact, are disturbed. They feel they are somehow being parodied, that this consciously attained shallow submissiveness represents a failure of Jane to truly imagine what womanhood involves. Jane doesn't want to be a woman though, she doesn't want to be a her. Jane's plans are to be something else, something for which there is as yet no pronoun.


Kick it up a notch and add a third axis -- "dominance" and "submission" perhaps. Another layer of complexity has been added and an individuals' sexuality at any moment in time could be mapped as a point somewhere in this three-dimensional space.

But there's no reason to stop at three dimensions and no reason to stop at purely sexual polarities. The mathematics of higher dimensions can be extrapolated out even if higher dimensional spaces can't be visualised and desires can be for more than the gentle collision of two bodies. So add more axes, each representing opposites, enter into a dialogue with this phase space.

Axes to allow for morphological differences in the human form; to represent greater or lesser degrees of pleasure in the exercise of intellect; an axis for eagerness versus experience maybe.


Liss dives into the water, relishing the bite of the temperature change as she swims down to the shallow sea bed. Eyes wide open she sees the limitless cloudy blue over bright yellow sand, strands of dark green seaweed scattered across like discarded Christmas decorations.

She won't tell anyone whether she started as man or woman but usually passes as female, the contours of her sleek, water-adapted body fitting that slot more comfortably than the other.

Today she plays on her own, no dolphin companions have been invited. Opening out to others, to the other, has been a large part of what she has gained since changing, but sometimes she feels the need to retreat into herself and celebrate this new body.

Smooth all over, curves intersecting in ways she deliberately mirrors with her movements, she exults in the freedom to move more than two dimensions in a fluid so gratifyingly responsive.

As she dances in the water her head occasionally breaks surface and for a thrilling moment she sees two worlds, both dominated by blues. Then she submerges again and once more stops anticipating what comes next and allows it to flow.


The dimensions add up, and each individuals' life will be represented as a line winding through this high order space for, after all, we change with time, our desires like flames guttering or jumping high, changing in quality and colour as our bodies and minds evolve, as we tire or revive.

Say one hundred billion homo sapiens have ever lived. Plot all their world lines in our mirrored jewel of a graph. A central space will be densely packed with lines -- the static, basic needs (and needs are frozen desires) that we all share -- food, warmth, light. This is the unchanging realm of order in desire space. Far out from this are the rare, arcane desires -- mathematical purity, high-heeled shoes, other (mercifully uncommon) axes that blight lives. This is the chaotic realm, in principle unpredictable.

Between the chaotic and the orderly, the raging ocean and the pack-ice, there is complexity. Here the world lines map out intricate dances along fractal boundaries and here is where most of us, most of those who have ever lived, exist. Our lines of desire stay deep in the realm of order for all of our childhoods, erupting into great jagged loops and gyres as we hit puberty. For most of us they will settle down into smeared points, short lines or small loops near the chaos/order boundary. For some, another line or lines will be close enough form a braid, two or more thirsts dancing in the laminated, multi-dimensional spaces. Pray you are lucky enough to meet the person or persons who are compatible with your line, a line that defines you and can take far more forms and locations than language can describe.

Make the lines red. Now their sum total will map out a great flower shape, deep red in the middle, fading out to the palest pink at the edges. In between, the involute, multiply re--entered zone of complexity, the multi-variate rose of human desire.


Chris opens a space, fills it with golden threads dripping with light. Sam makes loops of silver, shimmering like dew and enclosing the space in a sphere, making a globe of warm radiance. The threads follow lines that could be described mathematically as involutes of circles, with corresponding equations, but the two humans choose to ignore this level, relishing instead the physicality of light and curves.

Sam opens emself and ey makes a smile in the form of a thousand arches with a thousand open doors, a canal running below. Chris sends a gondola down the canal, a baroque affair, all curls upon curls over the functional underlying shape, red and gold and a dusting of witty pale blue. As it passes each door gapes wide and opens onto the sphere of sweet, sticky light.

Chris sees in the gaps in the sphere that ey has forgotten part of the day -- the easy laughter on the open channel when Sam moved a construction beam with even more than eir usual grace, the awkward motions of the remote translating into a smooth lateral translation so elegant that joy was the only rational response.

A sudden darkness, rich and threatening, fills the space Chris has made and ey shivers as ey feels something that has no name is gifted to em from Sam.

Ey sinks then surfaces and recognises the gift for what it is -- another small piece of the rose, part of the phase space of desire that was not eirs before but has now been wrapped around the deepest part of eir mind.


We are defined by our desires and our desires define the rose.
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