Saturday, December 12, 2009

Singles and Couples Manifesto

After Wednesday's tardy snow day (while everyone else knew before school started that classes would be canceled, SNC declined to close campus until after I ended up going to my first class before I could enjoy a day off :) ), Thursday and Friday flew by. Today Andrea and I schlepped all of our finals materials to Kavarna to get out of the apartment and accomplish something. And I wrote a pretty solid manifesto on the interdependence of the human race.

Singles & Couples, the class I wrote this manifesto for, is my favorite this semester. We have been reading literature supporting the autonomy versus relationship of individuals and discussing which is more natural, how each one plays out in real life. After writing our initial thoughts on single v couple for class this week, we each had to take into account what our classmates wrote and expand that into an actual manifesto. Anyways, here it is:

It did not surprise me to learn that in the entirety of our class, no one wrote a manifesto on the complete independence of humans. It is clear by our collective thoughts we lean towards interdependence or at least a balance of autonomy and relationship, though that balance might differ from person to person. Caitlyn, Sam and I were the only ones who wrote on the complete interdependence and our manifestos each reiterated the idea of connection even when we think we are alone. Caitlyn writes, “Although one can be physically alone, one can never truly be alone.” The three of us commented on the fact that even when we aren’t surrounded by people, our thoughts are still influenced by everyone we have interacted with and any measure of autonomy we have is just another form of connection—whether to thoughts or memories or places influenced by others.

Jody, Chloe, Tess and Matt each wrote on the balance struck between relation and independence. Chloe believes, “the best situation is a balance of extremes,” while Matt and Tess each agree that the balance differs by individual, since, as Tess writes, “if everyone had the same balance of autonomy and relationship there would be no sense of an individual." Jody brought into the discussion Rainer Maria Rilke’s thoughts on autonomy and relationship: “I hold this to be the highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the solitude of the other.” These manifestos get at a piece of the truth, but I still believe they are too moderate, too balanced. They avoid the extreme of relation in fear that humans just might be completely interdependent. It’s a scary thought, that each of us is connected to each other, but taking into account ideas from Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Michal Cunningham’s The Hours, it is easy to understand the essential connectedness of human beings.

Humans were created for relationships in all senses of the word: familial, brotherly and intimate. We rely on connections throughout our entire lives, from conception to even death, which is the only other shared experience we have with humankind besides birth. Sex, our most essential action as a species, is physically the closest people can get. Two separate individuals become one. If connections weren’t imperative for our growth and fulfillment, why would our most vital action involve such a degree of connection? As individuals, we form our identities through those we do or do not relate to. We are students in relation to teachers and friends or enemies in relation to peers. Clarissa Dalloway may have married Richard Dalloway for the sense of individuality she could retain, because “there is a dignity in people; a solitude; even between husband and wife a gulf; and that one must respect,” (Woolf 181) yet the title of the book remains Mrs. Dalloway, showing the reader that at the end of the day, Clarissa is connected to Richard. In fact, Clarissa herself articulates her undying connection to the entire world through what she calls a mist: even in death, she thinks, “she survived, Peter survived, lived in each other, she being part, she was positive, of the trees at home; of the house there, ugly, rambling all to bits and pieces as it was; part of people she had never met; being laid out like a mist between the people she knew best” (12). Clarissa even deems herself part of people she has not met, key in the connectedness of the human race.

While everyone seeks solitude at some point, they generally do not seek it permanently. Some solitude is even just a different form of connection—solitude with a book is connection to another world and its characters; solitude with only thoughts is a connection with the inner self and the inner self to the processing of outside stimuli. Those who would believe humans crave solitude at some point, who quote Rilke in his protection of the solitude of humans, have dismissed the first part of that quote which discusses the “highest task for a bond between two people.” Rilke admits solitude happens, but only in the sense of strengthening connection. I view solitude as an inner sanctum within the greater realm of relationship. Yes, sometimes we do things on our own, but we remain connected in our thoughts of others, in our existence within the same places in which others have previously existed.

Peter Walsh gets at this eternal connectedness human beings experience as he muses about Clarissa’s party:

For this is the truth about our soul, he thought, our self, who fish-like inhabits deep seas and plies among obscurities threading her way between the boles of giant weeds, over sun-flickered spaces and on and on into gloom, cold, deep, inscrutable; suddenly she shoots to the surface and sports on the wind-wrinkled waves; that is, has a positive need to brush, scrape, kindle herself, gossiping. (244)

Humans have that need to crash into other humans, to brush against them and connect with “gossip,” or any news of others. Even if we do this as individuals, we do it in our eternal need, eternal quest, for connection with others.

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