31 August 2009

May I Show You the Garden?

Ah, communities!  People form themselves into them naturally, it seems.  We are, as BF would say, social animals, and part of this seems to be that we form societies whether we will or nay.  

To pause, I'd just like to say that my room faces out onto a large tree and, below, a courtyard: a most charming view. Alas, this tree does not quite hide the view of, and rather more importantly from, the college bar, which means I must remember to close my curtains, which is a drag.  But when it's daytime and I'm (reasonably) dressed, the tree is very soothing to look upon.

Right, communities.  I read something once that said the English are a clubby nation:  they love to have their groups and clubs, to include and exclude. But this seems, in fact, to be the tendency of all nations and peoples.  Even I, deeply isolate and much in need of private time - and, in fact, scared of groups - partially like to be part of a group.  But the trouble with groups is that after a certain point (or perhaps a certain number?) they subdivide, rift, and generally become more complex.  A, B, C, and D like each other, but one day A inadvertently insults B.  B tells D, who has always harboured a vague suspicion of A, and instantly D is on B's side.  D tells C, who mentions that she's been told to A, who is alarmed, and tries to speak to D.  And so something that was nothing becomes A Big Deal.  This example is hypothetical (it really is - and in this case you know it is because I have no friends named C or D - or B, actually), but you know the sort of thing.

I've been musing on these group complexities for the last couple of months, and this musing has been reignited by being back, since I'm part of a group again.  For a while I thought that the mystery behind these eventual dust-ups was that in a group where the members are of both genders, all involvement seems eventually to become sexual tension:  she likes him; he likes her; they see each other every day; they hang out in each other's spaces = liking turns into however-transient lust turns into sex (or unrequited desire for it).  And there the trouble begins.  And since everybody else in the group eventually knows that the sex or sexual longing has occurred (since the other thing groups seem to specialise in is gossip and badly kept secrets), the trouble often widens.

I discussed this with a friend of mine yesterday, however, and he had a much more plausible explanation for these tensions.  He believes that what happens is that, because they spend so much time hanging out together, people come to believe they know each other much better than they actually do:  revelation and exposure in some areas leads to the mistaken belief that one has obtained revelation and exposure in all areas.  Believing this, people make assumptions that certain behaviours or emotions are the case, or must be the case, in a given situation, and when it turns out they're mistaken, there the trouble begins.

I think to myself sometimes that these sorts of dust-ups and loyalties and discreet grudges with occasional virulent outbursts are the provenance only of those who live together in a cluster, but then I realise that of course this isn't true: one only has to look at academic departments (or, of course, families where everyone is grown up) to see how the construct persists into work and intellectual life.  

Before I started writing this post I had tons to say, but now I find it flown from my brain like a bird from an open cage.  So I'll just say one more thing...When I went to the Tuesday milonga, who should be there but Santa Claus!  He'd apparently stopped coming to the practicas here, so no had seen him for a while - although S.A. told me he'd seen him at a milonga the week previously, not in the company of TBC, the young German girl.  This time, too, he was not in her company (and, I noticed, after two months his tango skills had not improved one bit.  But that's neither here nor there).  Then he showed up at this week's practica!  Interesting.  Back from holiday?  Renewed interest?  Or, didn't work out with one young thing, so he thought he'd go back to the shop where he got the first one to see if they have a replacement model?  None of these probably, of course, but I can't help wondering.

And finally, for how long is one allowed to clean one's wound (as S.A. once so beautifully put it) over an ended relationship?  It depends on the length of the relationship, no doubt, and its intensity, but can one legitimately make three months of hay out of two weeks of involvement? I say no.  And I also say that when one does so, it unintentionally slips from the sorrowful to the comic.  I know one shouldn't laugh at another's serious emotions, and I know one shouldn't laugh at things that are a big deal to someone else, but, oh dear, I can't help it.

This has been a curiously arch post.  I'll have to work on that for next time.

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