Marine Biologist The Doorman Opposite George Newman's Mail The Bootleg Marriage
Just Dessert Sleep Desk Late Coffee High Stakes Motor Oil Downtown
Code Cracking Nonfat Yogurt Bad Boy It's Not You I Can't Be... Exploding Wallet
Elaine Flies Coach The Close Talker The Alliance Broccoli Coated Culture Dinner Party
George's Friend Jerry's Haircut Face Paint Mustachioed Smoking East River
Pool Man Dunkin' Joe Life Lessons Reckoning Dog Medicine Shower Heads
Looking Busy George Tips Kramer's Job Empty Tank
Click here for the reference to the "Argonauts" title, below.
Argonauts of the Seinfeldian Specific
|[b] Rocky RF|
It might well be possible to draw a diagram to show the dynamics of successful and increasingly unsuccessful relationships (or at least severely "asymmetrical" ones). One of my favorite anecdotes about "relational asymmetry," though, requires no diagram. It was spoken back in the early 1980s by a sagely elder at a big shindig held for him...and his bride of fifty-five years. This gray-haired crew-cut gentleman said something I've never forgotten:
That, of course, can be taken a number of ways, but suffice it to say that he did not mean it to be a cynical statement. He explained that you need to try a little harder than you might normally think. It has stuck with me for three decades, but I realized quickly its limitations as a tool for understanding a wider array of social relationships beyond love and marriage. What about friendship? This is the question that George makes us consider. What does "investment" mean in friendship, and how can the dynamics of symmetry and asymmetry play out in life? A great disparity need not be problematic. We often call it "mentoring," and it is quite common. As I have argued in other posts, there is no such thing as perfect symmetry. Ever. You may argue all you want, but life is made up of relational asymmetries large and small. We would do better to engage them than pretend, as lovers of liberty, that they don't exist.
|[c] Open-face RF|
The day dawned bright, and sun shone warmly on the new friendship. George brought sandwiches, and the rock face glistened (this is how I imagine it). In retrospect, bowling might have gone better, though. Unless the ball would happen to fall on his friend's face, it would have to go better. Still, the issue that I can't shake—and the one that lingers for me as I look at George's lost, forlorn, puppy-dog face through Elaine's apartment door—is relational asymmetry and friendship. We'll return to that issue in future posts that will owe their inspiration to George's New Friend.
But, in absence of proof, as a preliminary working hypothesis, one might equate the two apparently contradictory assertions. Socrates' statement that he only knows he knows nothing could be interpreted to mean that philosophy is impossible and that it is not worth going on. But Socrates interprets it in the opposite direction: knowledge of ignorance means that one's life must be dedicated to finding out the things that it is most important for man to know. If Eros, put most generally, is longing, then the philosopher who pursues the knowledge he does not have could be considered erotic. He longs for knowledge. If the need to know is what is most characteristically human, then such philosophical Eros would be the privileged form of Eros. Moreover, it is generally agreed that Eros is connected with pleasure, a very powerful pleasure, and this would account for the philosopher's continuing in his uncompleted quest, which might appear to be very bleak without such accompanying pleasure.
Welshness Performed (1993)
As a foreigner who had learned Welsh, I was unusual enough that I was often publicly welcomed at formal gatherings. People consider it important that visitors be welcomed, and if they have a guest who will be attending some public function, they may arrange in advance for a welcome to be given. One weekend when I was staying with a family and attending two local hymn-singing festivals, my hosts asked me if I had been welcomed at the first one. They seemed displeased that I had not been, but excused it when they remembered that no one had known I was there. To prevent this from happening at their own chapel's festival, they phoned the minister to tell him about me, on the grounds that he would be uncomfortable if he met me afterwards and had not given me the proper public welcome. This turned out to be a very public welcome indeed (the festival was attended by about five hundred people). During some break in the singing, the director said (all this was in Welsh) there was someone in the congregation from Ohio, and made the usual joke that I had come all the way for that particular occasion. He said he didn't know which of us it was, and would I please stand up.
This welcome was unusual in that after I had stood and sat back down, the director then said he had heard I was learning Welsh, and he asked me several questions I had to answer: when I had started learning Welsh, for how long was I in Wales, and was I enjoying myself. People sometimes asked me whether being publicly welcomed made me uncomfortable. It usually did, although most public welcomes were in front of smaller groups and did not require me to say anything. I have already noted the discomfort of an English couple repeatedly welcomed as guests at Welsh chapel services, but apparently Welsh people can also be made uneasy in this way. I was told that one society president, when she had to welcome or introduce someone, would find out all about them and go into such detail that they often found it embarrassing, so much that they would even say so when they got up to speak.
The term that means "to dissipate solitude" is yeewtude, whose usual English translation is "to converse," "to chat." This is quite significant, for we have seen, in speaking of greetings, that it is by means of the spoken word that society is maintained from day to day. Here we see another aspect of what speech does, namely, preserve people from solitude. But while women are thought to be more vulnerable to the dangers of solitude, it is men who must pass more time alone. This is not only because of the kind of work they do but also because of the more rigid separation between the generations...
Yeeweende is not merely the absence of people; it is the absence of those we love and who love us. This can clearly be seen in the songs and also in the fact that the greatest loneliness is often experienced in the town rather than in the bush. Loneliness appears, then, to be the other side of love, for to admit that one is lonely is to admit that one needs the love of others. This need is normally concealed in public, and it is only in songs that it is freely confessed. Besides, it turns out that the evening gatherings where people sing these songs are only held in the bush and sometimes in the riimaaybe villages (debeeje) but never in the wuro. Within the wuro men seek to control their needs and thereby to maintain their superiority over women, but in the bush they may express their desires; this expression admits the implicit superiority of women at the same time that it attempts to touch them by arousing their yurmeende.
 Allan Bloom, Love and Friendship (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993), 431-432.
 Carol Trosset, Welshness Performed: Welsh Concepts of Person and Society (Tucson AZ: University of Arizona Press, 1993), 99-100.
 Paul Riesman, Freedom in Fulani Social Life: An Introspective Ethnography Translated by Martha Fuller (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977), 220-221.
Bloom, Allan. Love and Friendship. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.
Riesman, Paul. Freedom in Fulani Social Life: An Introspective Ethnography Translated by Martha Fuller.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.
Trosset, Carol. Welshness Performed: Welsh Concepts of Person and Society. Tucson AZ: University of
Arizona Press, 1993.
Wednesday, November 2nd
Jerry gets clipped, and looks like an aging character from the Little Rascals. We'll do a little thinking about the theoretical implications of coiffure...next week on Argonauts of the Seinfeldian Specific.