All about Love

Dear Emily,

I write this to respond to my desire of remembering the whole of yesterday, the entirety of the 12 hours you and I sat on my couch on a rainy Friday in June.

I will love you always for your wide-eyed curiosity about everything. With you, I am able to cry and not feel nihilistic, laugh and not feel fatalistic, drink and not be hedonistic. I will always love how we both love Love. I love how we’ve found someone else to discuss love with, without fear of the structure imposing itself on my body, or yours. (bell hooks: No one thinks about [how a single woman who brings up the topic of love] is simply passionately intellectually interested in the subject matter. No one thinks that she is rigorously engaged in a philosophical undertaking wherein she is endeavouring to understand the metaphysical meaning of love in everyday life). I love your unselfish regard for others, while remaining completely, authentically yourself. I will always love you because it is so rare to have the ability to plead, “Can we promise each other to not leave?” and not be afraid.

Until recently, I lived my life oriented towards rigid certainty and stability. Eve Sedgwick once wrote about how academics and critics are always so quick to read new pieces of literature with a pre-emptive paranoia. We get into books and essays hoping to say something disparaging, looking for fallacies in the logic, faults in the method. Academics, both veterans and newbies, can be nitpicky, yes, we both know this, even as we continue to carry desires of maybe one day studying among the Ivy League. (Nowadays, I dream about New York and CUNY and the New School, and you’ve developed a distaste for the elitism of the institution. We continue to dream anyway). But Sedgwick contrasts this paranoid method of reading with what she calls reparative reading. It asks to see possibilities instead of faults. It can train us to be more cognizant of where we are able to see hope in the text, a building-on instead of a dismantling-of. You are the exact embodiment of this reparative reading, Being with you is so hopeful. The fact of who you are is enough evidence that life can be enough. (Eve Sedgwick: among all the names for this reparative process is love). 

Emily, you teach me that I don’t always have to understand to love. Two days ago, I told you, “I have no energy to explain what’s going on right now, but I’m not okay.” and you said, “Dionne, I don’t have to understand.” Twice. You came to me without expectations on my part, but a complete openness on yours. Your willingness to be present despite a momentary lack of knowledge was a big lesson in empathy and love. I am trying to unlearn about how the need for certainty is a rationalized way of needing control. Control is so antithetical to love. You teach me so many things, just by being you.

Thank you for caring for me when I can’t. Thank you for the Baileys, the avocados, my clean kitchen, the short primer on grinding methods for espresso, the shared silence, the second-guessing of giving out advice when we’re often so lost on our own. Thank you for your attention and presence in watching Ladybird and Annihilation with me. Thank you for sharing with me the enthusiasm and sincerity in discussing books and film with the same life-giving intensity as I do. Thank you for allowing me to cry. Thank you for crying with me. Thank you because it was the most reparative string of 12 hours I can remember.

Thank you for choosing me. I will choose you, too, over and over again.

Love, Dionne

What I’ve Read: The Week of March 25th 2018

My wonderful professor Lindsey Freeman posed a question in class yesterday. “Who do you think with?” I hated that it took me so long to come up with answers. At the top of my head, only the Big Names of my life stood out to me: Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, Karl Marx, Sara Ahmed, Achille Mbembe, Michel Foucault, Maggie Nelson, Anne Carson,…. and they aren’t nearly enough! I want to remember every name and every sentence that has ever informed how I think.
I also want to have an archive and a gift to myself, as my application to enter the Masters program in Urban Studies in SFU has been OFFICIALLY ACCEPTED! Nothing gives me greater joy than higher learning. I find personal fulfillment in this like no other.
Because of this, I’m making a conscious effort to archive EVERYTHING beautiful I’ve read at the end of every week. This will be an act of reverence too, towards all the thinkers who have enriched the life of my mind.

Author – Title – Publication Details, Date
Form / genres which I see fit
[excerpts where available. coloured in red, for when I am especially affected!]

1.Janine Benyus – Biomimicry – 1999
Book / Ecology, biology, environmental studies – VERY new ways of knowing for me!!

[ “In these pages, you’ll meet men and women who are exploring nature’s masterpieces—photosynthesis, self-assembly, natural selection, self-sustaining ecosystems, eyes and ears and skin and shells, talking neurons, natural medicines, and more—and then copying these designs and manufacturing processes to solve our own problems. I call their quest biomimicry—the conscious emulation of life’s genius.”

“Even the wheel, which we always took to be a uniquely human creation, has been found in the tiny rotary motor that propels the flagellum of the world’s most ancient bacteria.”

In ensemble, living things maintain a dynamic stability, like dancers in an arabesque, continually juggling resources without waste.”

“Within these lines, life unfurls her colors with virtuosity, using limits as a source of power, a focusing mechanism” ]

2. Sharon Mattern – “The City is Not a Computer” – Places Journal, 2017
Essay / Urban studies

[ “Modernity is good at renewing metaphors, from the city as machine, to the city as organism or ecology, to the city as cyborgian merger of the technological and the organic. Our current paradigm, the city as computer, appeals because it frames the messiness of urban life as programmable and subject to rational order.”

“… city is an assemblage of media forms (vaults, archives, monuments, physical and electronic records, oral histories, lived cultural heritage); agents (architectures, institutions, media technologies, people); and functions (storage, processing, transmission, reproduction, contextualization, operationalization). It is a large, complex, and varied epistemological and bureaucratic apparatus. It is an information processor, to be sure, but it is also more than that.”

City-making is always, simultaneously, an enactment of city-knowing.” ]

3. Henri LefebvreTowards An Architecture of Enjoyment – 1973
Book / Urban studies, Frankfurt School

4. Charles Altieri – “The Significance of Frank O’Hara”  The Iowa Review, Winter 4.1 – 1973
Essay / Literary criticism. history, urban studies (Happy birthday Frank O’ Hara!)

[ “For the city is a continual source of interesting and engaging details. Moreover, the city is a perfect metaphor for O’Hara’s sense of the value in these details. Presence in the city is antithetical to presence in nature. City details after all have neither meaning, hierarchy nor purpose not created absolutely by man. And more important, the city is committed to perpetual change; there are no enduring seasonal motifs or patterns of duration underlying and sustaining the multiplicity of city phenomena. They exist completely in the moment. And they exist superficially. In the city, as in O’Hara’s ontology, interesting and engaging details are continually becoming present. Yet not only do these momentary apparitions promise no underlying significance or meanings to be interpreted, they actually resist any attempt on our part to know them better. City life offers a series of phenomena to notice, perhaps to play with in one’s own psyche, but very rarely do these phenomena inspire or welcome any attempt to participate in their lives.” ]

5. Samantha Rose Hill – “Critical Love: Night of Philosophy Love Symposium” Public Seminar – 2018
Essay / Philosophy, love

[ “Rousseau – Love’s Secret Wish

Can you imagine walking in circles, day after day, experiencing life in abandonment? And then, one afternoon, finding a secret note folded between the pages of a book? A note that contained your most longed-for wish? What would it take to unfold that paper?

Knowledge and love interwoven, the propensities that follow us throughout our lives are born in the youth of our awakening. Each love can only become what came before, so we never stop looking for it in the future. Hours spent staring at kitchen tables and night-stands, wooden arches of doorframes, too weak to walk through. Fear impinges and fuels desire. I long for you to see me as I think I am, as she did. Can there ever be recognition of such hidden longingTo be loved by everyone who knew me was my most ardent wish. Yes, this would-be evidence of love. The fulfilment of secret desires.”

“Marcuse – Eros is by its very nature polymorphously perverse, freed from the demands of productive society.”

“Arendt – How to Love the World

We must be committed to, as Benjamin says, returning in a round-a-about way to love as an object of contemplation. Love, much like thinking, belongs in the private realm of human affairs. At best, I hope that at the end of the day, when I go home I might find some joy in my solitude. I might find a way to be with the world that has followed me inside and engage in the 2-in-1 dialogue. There in the private realm is where we come face-to-face with the question of love.

There, I read Auden, Rilke, Homer. Yes, there, they bring me closer to loving the world. Closer to the opening that unfolds beyond the horizon of human deeds, nearer the path of Being. Nearer to beginning again. Alone with myself, love reborn in every thought.” ]

6. Donna Haraway – Staying With The Trouble – 2016
Book / Feminist science studies, biology, new ways of thinking!

[ She thinks in attunement with those she thinks with—recursively, inventively, relentlessly—with joy and verve. She studies how beings render each other capable in actual encounters, and she theorizes—makes cogently available—that kind of theory and method. Despret is not interested in thinking by discovering the stupidities of others, or by reducing the field of attention to prove a point. Her kind of thinking enlarges, even invents, the competencies of all the players, including herself, such that the domain of ways of being and knowing dilates, expands, adds both ontological and epistemological possibilities, proposes and enacts what was not there before. That is her worlding practice. She is a philosopher and a scientist who is allergic to denunciation and hungry for discovery, needy for what must be known and built together, with and for earthly beings, living, dead, and yet to come. ]

7. Judika Illes – The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft – 2005
Book / Witchcraft, feminism

[sympathetic magic.]

8. Susan Matasovska – What Lesbians Do In Bed – 1992
Poem / Feminism, queer women, love

9. June Jordan – Poem for Haruko – from Directed by Desire, 2005
Poem / Queer women, love

10. June Jordan – A Poem for Haruko 10/29 – from Directed by Desire, 2005
Poem / Queer women, love

[ Oh! If you would only walk
into this room
again and touch me anywhere
I swear
I would not long for heaven or
for earth
more than I’d wish to stay there
and touching you ]

11. Jean Pierre Vernant (historian, anthropologist, lover of Claude Levi Strauss) as quoted  in David Farrell KrellThe Tragic Absolute: German Idealism and the Languishing of God, 2005
Book / Philosophy, Dionysus, theology, greek mythology, my namesake

Like wine, Dionysus is double: most terrible yet infinitely sweet. His presence, which is a bewildering intrusion of otherness into the human world, may take two forms, be manifested in two different ways. On the one hand it may bring blessed union with the god, in the heart of nature, with every constraint lifted – an escape from the limitations of the everyday world and oneself. That is the experience extolled in the parodos: purity, holiness, joy, sweet felicity. On the other hand, it may precipitate one into chaos in the confusion of a bloodthirsty, murderous madness in which the ‘same’ and the ‘other’ merge and one mistakes one’s nearest and dearest, one’s own child, one’s second self for a wild beast that one tears apart with one’s bare hands: ghastly impurity, inexpiable crime, misfortune without end, without relief.”

On having loved less, and the pleasure of loving more

A common mandate among the girly magazines I read growing up was to love less. I mean this in the way that: one should love less than their partner. Sometimes this mandate was explicit, sometimes more implied. In the late 90s and early aughts, in the heyday of CosmoGirl (which has since folded), I remember interwoven memories of myself waiting on a couch in different hair salons, the smell of creme developer and acetone mixed with the intensities of my curious girlhood. As with most girls, I was enamoured with reading articles speaking to romantic love. They had largely been heterosexual models, of course. PG-13 versions of Cosmopolitan where, instead of “how to drive him crazy in bed,” it would be “how to tell if your crush likes you.” I consumed all of this, my young heart always in awe of crevices where love could exist, but even more so because romantic love has always weathered upon everyone’s shoulders, as most normative ideas do.

I remember the sentiment of most of these advice columns. ADVICE TO 10 YEAR OLD GIRLS: LOVE LESS. CARRY THIS POWER WITH YOU UNTIL YOU ARE NO LONGER 10.  Surely the language was more flowery than that, and surely it was less imperative. But the rigid sentiment stayed with me. Love and power were interwoven in an indirect correlation. To love less means to have more power. To play coy against the advances of your crush meant to have the upper hand.

I heeded this advice, as it echoed itself throughout my life. In hypothetical scenarios brought up in casual conversation, some girls at school would ask me, “would you rather be with someone who loved you but you didn’t love, or be with someone who didn’t love you but you loved?” This was a thought experiment where love was seen as mutually exclusive to one person. And it, ironically, served as both a litmus test and an empirical model for how I performed romance. I attached malice to love. This, in combination with my own histories in an unstable household, where love never grew in abundance, where love always felt like a scarce resource. As with Fromm’s cautioning (whose theory on loving demands mental discipline, emotional fortitude, and practical application), it was an insular form of love, a kind of un-love that patterned itself after the logic of commodities. It was a hyper-vigilance on being loved (passive) as opposed to loving (active). 

This is not new to me. I categorized myself a passive object of love. This, of course, has feminist implications. Us, women, we are so good at appeasing what we fear – in this case, the male gaze. In performing the role of the loved object, I maintained the same anxiety that clouded every body who has ever worried about being loved more. Am I loveable enough. It was a way of waking up next to somebody, where waking up meant a full consciousness of one’s own body. I am way too fat. The traces of my eyeliner have smudged. I have bad breath. Will I still be loved after the hour of waking. It is an anxious waking, a jolt of unwanted self-awareness. This method is self-conscious, self-focused, and eventually as with most solipsisms, the method becomes self-defeating. I know the impulses of turning inward. I’ve done it myself. Selfishness has saved me too in different points of my life, I acknowledge how a totalizing form of inwardness can be seductive to the dispossessed. Any one who has ever experienced unbearable pain and tragedy knows that insularity can become salvation. But salvation is not necessarily love.

I write all this as a response to waking up this morning. This morning, I woke up next to the person I love. I write this because his existence is a testament to how rewarding it feels to love more. I don’t mean in the sense of pure exchange. I don’t mean that I love him more than he loves me. These are questions I no longer concern myself with. I am speaking here of “more” beyond mere comparison. The reward here is being able to move beyond the question of competition. I no longer care if he loves me more than I love him. The pleasure of loving is enough. This is the result of several realizations: I realized that I began to love him more than I was concerned about looking like a fool. I realized I love him more than I was worried about being the one who is loved less. In return, this willingness to give has only given back immediate returns. Loving has only yielded the most immense form of love I have ever had the pleasure and privilege of witnessing and experiencing. These are grand statements. But they reflect grand feelings.

I write this as a response to sharing the joy of your privacy, of uncontainable laughter within Arendt’s sheltered darkness of existence. I write this only hoping to approximate my desire for you, of which contains no malice, a desire which itself desires to mirror the unconditional love I receive from you. How we experience intimacy through different methods: the foolishness of charades, the inertia of depression, the domesticity of stepping out of the shower with warm towels waiting. My love for you is borne from openness, a massive outpouring of wanting to give you the same comfort you give me. Our evenings of sharing words and silence. The magnanimity I find in all that we do: sharing a bottle of wine, sharing our first Skor McFlurry, sharing a bed together. Sharing myself, baked and bare-faced and unburdened. The pleasure of touch. The pleasure of touching you. How being feels enough. The bafflement in being the most loved while being the most true. Am I my truest version because I love, or do I love because I am at my truest – I don’t know. I am always grasping at being the most true to myself, to the world, and to you. My melancholy feels like a footnote now. Every thing I love, I love with you and through you. Yesterday, we drove through the city in a quest to find a Creme Egg McFlurry before Easter. At some point, we decided to get a Dairy Queen blizzard and drove up Hastings without consulting Google. Dairy Queen was permanently closed, it turns out. But outside of the building was one of those blue signs you are always so eager to read – REZONING APPLICATION, from the city. I don’t know what it was, we’ve done this so many times before – stopping in front of blue signs to read them. But in that moment I loved you so much, unequivocally, without doubt or question. I loved you as we drove up to Burnaby Heights and found a private spot for sunsets. I loved you as we walked through New Brighton Park, as we admired the loading of cargo ships, as we pondered the installation of nets for the salmon fishery. I loved you when we got home and shared our silence. I loved you when we slept. There is the poetic impulse to praise love as if it were the singular truth and matter of life, as writers have done and will continue to do. It is so beautiful though, that this impulse still exists, and that it exists within me, because of you.


One Way Street: Alberni St. (Burrard to Thurlow)

after Walter Benjamin, sui generis of the poetic city

Hermes (755 Burrard St)

Regarding the virtue of lightness, Calvino says, “At certain moments I felt that the entire world was turning into stone: a slow petrification.” The stare of the Medusa, seemingly inescapable, escapes Perseus, who wears winged sandals. “To cut off Medusa’s head without being turned to stone, Perseus supports himself on the very lightest of things, the winds and the clouds, and fixes his gaze upon what can be revealed only by indirect vision, an image caught in the mirror.” Victoria Beckham once boasted of owning the most number of the most expensive handbags in the world: the Birkin bag. It was named after Jane Birkin, who, in 1983, was seated next to Hermes chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas. “Birkin had placed her straw bag in the overhead compartment of her seat, but the contents fell to the floor.” Dumas made her a black satchel, the first Birkin, to help with the weight of her belongings. Here there are no traces of Hermes, his movement or his lightness. Kim Kardashian, patron saint of shameless consumption, once made headlines for using a $50,000 Hermes Birkin as a diaper bag. “My Birkin carries all of my essentials,” she says. So the Medusa comes alive again.


Tiffany & Co. (723 Burrard St)

I once read that the mere sight of the colour “Tiffany blue” was enough to invoke feelings of affection, endearment, and tenderness in women who saw it. It was from a magazine of pop psychology, which despite its normative assumptions, made sense to a ten year old at the time. Tiffany blue, also known as robin’s egg blue and forget-me-not blue, was shortly patented through the Pantone institute, with the number 1837, the same number as the year the company was founded. Now it’s praised as a landmark in marketing, branding, design. When I was 13, I bought three colours of acrylic paint to mix for my reproduction of Tiffany blue: sea foam green, cobalt blue, and white. I painted a ring-sized cardboard box, stuffed a Hershey’s kiss in it, and gave it to my big sister, who still wouldn’t stop crying.


Jaeger-LeCoultre (1012 Alberni St)

An ordinary part of horology is the expectation of complications. Complications take a technical connotation here – it not only pertains to the difficulty that confronts horologists, but rather the intricacies of timepieces that desire to show features beyond mere date and time. The second most complicated wristwatch movement in the world belongs to a watch designed by Jaeger LeCoultre. The Hybris Mechanica Grande Sonnerie with 182 movements, 27 complications, and over 1300 parts. My mother once stepped on a less complicated watch as a punishment. It was a light pink Baby G one, and it belonged to me. After that it was clear to me that she valued time above watches.


Michael’s (1022 Alberni St)

Any one who pays full price for anything is a fool. Those were wise words from my old nanny, who made her living out of loving me. She would dust off the coloured chalk from my hands after I drew hopscotch boxes on the pavement. I want to find her, and tell her that in this street, they sell bundles of Chalk Markers at half price. In the city, there would be no need to hose down the pavement because the rain would do it for us.


Kobe Japanese Steakhouse (1042 Alberni St)

Where was the California roll created? The historical dispute between Vancouver and Los Angeles still remains. What is more interesting to me is that Tokyo doesn’t care.


Coast (1054 Alberni St)

The imperial ruins of fresh oysters: Kusshi (stellar bay) $3.75, Royal Miyaki (baynes sounds) $2.75, Gems (read island) $2.75, Okeover (okeover inlet) $2.75, Malpeque (pei) $3.95, Joyce Point (sawmill bay) $2.75.

Excerpts from Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric

“Yes, and the body has memory. The physical carriage hauls more than its weight. The body is the threshold across which each objectionable call passes into consciousness—all the unintimidated, unblinking, and unflappable resilience does not erase the moments lived through, even as we are eternally stupid or everlastingly optimistic, so ready to be inside, among, a part of the games.”