I am blessed with thoughtful, provocative and intelligent friends. And because this blog deals with the inchoate world where creativity occurs, I am particularly grateful for the ongoing inflow of ideas, insights, parallelisms, wisdom.

Martin Dickinson, the poet whose poem about Sugimoto’s Sea of Japan photographs I posted here on June 25, also writes book reviews on Amazon. Going through his writings, I was compelled by so many of them. But one in particular jumped out at me.

My knowledge of the writer and philosopher Luce Irigaray has been primarily in the context of an enclave of similarly aged and educated philosophers who have been labeled (much to their distaste and vehement rejection of the term) French feminists. Along with Julia Kristeva and Hélène Cixous, Irigaray is a writer whose works demand that you work hard as a reader. In general, this has presented two primary problems for me: 1) These writers must be read in translation (my French is too feeble at this distance from that one year spent in France during college); and 2) The overarching—and it seems signatory—tendency of Po Mo writers to adopt a density of style and an obstinately obscurantist approach to their subject matter. As a result, my primary approach to Irigaray has been in small and often edited doses.

But her ideas, particularly when paraphrased by others, ring true for me again and again. How can they not? I’ve spent a lifetime poking at and probing into the visible and invisible repercussions of growing up female in a highly patriarchal world. I was raised a Mormon. Need I say more?

Martin’s review of Irigaray’s book, The Way of Love, gave me yet another insight into her thinking that I found compelling. I have been savoring the phrase, “letting be transcendence” all afternoon. Here is an excerpt:


Luce Irigaray

What is love and why is it so important to understand and explore it?

Since Plato’s Symposium (and maybe even longer) the meaning of love has been a significant topic of philosophers. Irigaray’s exploration and discussion is refreshingly different. She, in a way, takes on the whole prior philosophic tradition…

One of her most enticing notions is “letting be transcendence.”

“To experience this co-belonging implies leaving representative thought and letting oneself go in the co-belonging to Being which already inhabits us, constitutes us, surrounds us. It presupposes, in fact, dwelling ‘there where we truly already are’ . . . In order to have access to it man has to leave his own world, or rather to partly open its limits. It is not in his house, including that of language, that he will find out how to enter a new historical era, a new speech. The feature referring to the specificity of man has to change place–passing from the relation to things to the relation to the other.”

I think of “letting be transcendence” as the best possible communication between persons who love one another. It is a way of relating in which one does not define the other but leaves an open space and listens and watches to see how the other defines him or herself. By not defining or pre-categorizing the other, two together achieve something higher–the “letting be transcendence” which opens up a whole world, and a higher order of thinking and existing in the world.

Besides “letting be transcendence” there are numerous concepts and ideas she reveals along the “way of love” that captivate our imagination and make us want to be participants. Love for Irigaray is not some abstract notion or intellectual category–it is real, existing in the here and now.

It is exciting when you, as her reader, are going along with Irigaray on these flights. She makes love–actual physical, emotional love and being together–to be something transforming and visionary.

It is as though Irigary takes the actual physical proximity that we know of as fulfilling love and expands it outward into a view of the cosmos–and in a way that is the reverse of Plato and other philosophers. In the old fashioned way of looking at things philosophically, love seems more an abstract external concept or force that a man (if worthy) might access or partake of. But for Irigaray it is the concrete, immediate presence of love that generates this spiritual force outward.

Very cleverly she begins her treatise by discussing the word “philosophy” itself, asking the question why we have interpreted philosophy to mean “love of wisdom” instead of the “wisdom of love.”

It requires concentration and a surrender to her text (almost like the surrender to love itself) to keep up with Irigaray on her remarkable journey, but the experience is well worth it.

Click here to read this and other reviews by Martin Dickinson.

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