Tag Archives: Luce Irigaray

love, madness & “elemental passions”


“There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

So I am about half way through Luce Irigaray’s “Elemental Passions” and I am convinced that her words are mostly a long string of blubbering nonsense that sound in-genius and palpable for moments in time –perfect for a precise moment but then disappear again into nothing but distilled disillusion and disappointment. OH OF COURSE she is writing about the state of being in love! The elemental urges, ebb and flow of that electric emotion that makes the world go round. How could it or would it make sense?  If we understood it – it just wouldn’t be interesting right? We would simply stop yearning, trying, challenging ourselves to obtain it.

Maybe I am having a hard time relating to her words right now because this text was originally written in French (maybe the translation is off?) or it could be because I have been thinking too clearly and directly these days (I am currently past my last bout of love/sickness that clouded my judgement). For better or for worse, I don’t happen to be swimming in the sea of love at the moment, but I may be floating upon it.  Love, like water has this way of making you thirst again as soon as there is a draught or you find yourself landlocked.

I have been attempting to read Laura’s recommended book a bit each evening reading it out loud before going to bed on the  sailboat– savoring each sentence as if it were poetry, I am letting the words, and waves of confusion rock me to sleep. I am finding myself getting lost in its layers and caught up in the repetitive cycle of expression from ecstasy to misery and then back again.

I resonated briefly with this moment from Irigaray’s philosophical ramblings and then in a flash lost its meaning again:

       “What attracts me in you, what I love in you, is what remains of your own self that part you have left so far behind, covered up so much that I alone, without ever letting it appear, can sometimes catch a glimpse of it like a faint light shimmering in the night. 

In that frail illumination. I love you, I love myself. I would like to go back to it as to a place, an environment, full of impulse and growth, still vibrant with life. The whole of the living, the whole to live for, is that not kept captive within the almost imperceptible enclosure of light?”

An intangible elixir that intoxicates in ways beyond any chemical substance could. Love drugs us into such oblivion that we find ourselves singing, painting, purging, whining, writing and running furiously. Of course we all return to love. Who wouldn’t want to do all those things again and again?   Although I tend to believe that love afflictions are not chosen – you don’t find love – in the end true love finds you.

Here is some wisdom from another who has spent a lot of time in love and madness:


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chapter six


Stories from Your Life (and meditations on romantic love…)

Dearest Beth,

I have been wondering for months what the hell I’ve gotten myself into and how to engage with something so intimate and something so not my business as your interpersonal relationships.  But talking to you has helped me come to grips with this dilemma.  Our conversations over the last month have been extraordinary.  Because of these conversations, you have been floating around my daily life even more than usual.  I hear something, or see something, or think of something and you immediately come to mind.  But even though you wash over me as a presence, there are times when I wish that I had recorded our talks so that I could pull you to my side in a more physical way.

This month, for the chapter on interpersonal relationships, I’d like to see you blend your friendships with your love for collecting stories. I would like you to interview four people (feel free to interview more if you like the idea) who you love, care about, or are intrigued by.  You may choose old friends or people you want to get to know better.  It would be wonderful to interview and record people who you’ve talked to for ages just to see what it’s like when you move from spontaneous conversation to a slightly more purposeful format.  And I think one of these interviews should be with your Mom.

There needn’t be specific rules as to how you go about your interviews.  You could decide to be dead serious, dead silly, to talk about deeply personal things or to talk about your favorite foods or films.  You could talk about the past, present or future. You could ask someone to read your favorite story to you or to sing a song.  Whatever is important to you at the time is good.  I do think you should decide on some key questions before you begin your interview.  It would be nice to begin by asking that person something you’ve always wanted to ask them or something that you’d like to be able to replay in the future.  If the conversation meanders and you get completely side tracked, that’s fine. There is no need to share these stories or interviews with anyone if you don’t want to.

I would aim for one interview a week.

Now you have much more experience than I do related to collecting stories and thinking about story telling.  But I’ve come across a few beautiful stories or meditations on storytelling over the past few weeks and I’d like you to listen to them.  (Can you feel the teacher in me coming out here?) Hopefully you will just enjoy these.  And we can include these pieces in our future conversations.  Maybe, maybe, maybe you could think about the idea of a “single story” and your family.

What Are The Dangers of a Single Story? By Chimamanda Adichie on the Framing the Story episode of the Ted Radio Hour


 Hitchhiking as A Family from Dick Gordon’s The Story program


Terry Gross interview with Maurice Sendak from September 2011.  This link takes you to the last 5 minutes of the interview, illustrated by Christoph Neimann.  There is a link to the entire interview on the page.


I am going to use this challenge to record some stories from my parents.  I have thought about doing this for years and will now get off my butt and do it. At the very least I can immortalize the story of my Mom getting her mouth washed out with soap by her father.

In terms of romantic love, I would like us both to read Elemental Passions by the philosopher Luce Irigaray.  I will be sending you a copy of this book soon!  Now this book will in no way give you any kind of useful advice about creating, maintaining, or leaving romantic relationships.  As a matter of fact, you may find this book way too oblique and even annoying.  But I’ve found sections of this book strangely beautiful and I thought we could talk about love and try to untangle what Irigaray is saying together.  It’ll be a slightly different interaction between us, but it would certainly make a car ride to western Maryland edifying as well as fun.




Just finding this blog today? Read more about the Living Chapters project here.