Why Is Mono Poly Too? – From The G Tales
“one must learn to love one before one can love many,” from Intimate Dialogs
“amor ch’a nullo amato amar perdona,” from La Divina Commedia
“love, that releases no beloved from loving” (Allen Mandelbaum tr)
I have this friend, her name is G. G for gentle. G for giddy. G for “gay.” G . . . for g-spot, or was it g-string? Anyway, she’s like a little girl, I mean, she’s a bit like a thirteen year old, still has the intensity, the trepidation, the relentless, the hubris, the utopianism of that age. Bless her heart.
She tells me everything about herself. And yet I don’t really know her. She’s a mystery to herself. She’s a philosopher, and yet, she’s still a little girl . . .
The latest about G is that she’s alive and well. She’s actually enjoying the dry tropical season, and thinking about numbers.
“Is mono part of poly?” she asks on the phone.
“How can it be,” I say, “if you’re mono you’re not poly. It’s either poly or mono. Don’t you know about those famous mono partners and the havoc they can cause–how they always manage to spoil the game?”
“But listen,” she says, “the number one is just the first in a series from one to infinity. So if you can truly love many you can love one, because one is less than many. No? If you understand infinity, the number one is easy to understand. It’s just a matter of multiplication.”
“Well G,” I say, “this is a bit utopian. The reality is that we often don’t even have the courage to love one, forget many.”
“I know,” she replies, “but love expands to infinity as well, love that is wishing the best even when nothing comes back, love that is empowerment, fulfillment of the other’s potential, love that is free of desire or possession, love that corresponds to the free vital energy of eros. Love that traverses us and weds us together in the communion of life shared on the gay planet earth.”
“Sure,” I say, “that’s how one is part of many, one love that multiplies for everyone that there is to love, like, say, a parent who loves all of his/her children, no matter how many. But when sexuality is involved, things are not so simple.”
“Let me explain it with Dante” she giggles. She’s so literary. She’s read too many books. Her mind’s so convoluted nobody can really follow her. “Three was his favorite number, did you know? Perfectly balanced and open. He’s a bit of a pain in the butt, when you have to study him in school, you know, but he did get something right: numerology.”
“What’s so good about three?” I ask.
“Well, it’s the first of the truly plural numbers, the first that looks upon the infinity of subsequent numbers and is part of them. There is the singular, ‘one,’ the dual, which is, in some cases, still singular in language, as in ‘a couple,’ then there is the plural proper, what cannot be reduced to the singular, except in poly language, where you find words like ‘triad,’ or ‘quad,’ or ‘pod,’ to indicate relationships that include more participants than a dyad, or couple, can.”
“And what does this have to do with Dante?” I probe, “was he poly?”
Giggles. Then silence.
“Oh no, but he loved Beatrice and was married to one Gemma Donati, whom he saw everyday. He saw Beatrice only once, in his entire life, and he loved her to the point that she accompanied him in his trip to paradise and back.”
(Image courtesy of AllPosters.com)
“Perfect number, three,” I reflect.
“You’re getting somewhere now,” she winks. “Consider this other line he wrote, ‘love, that releases no beloved from loving,’ it’s more beautiful in Italian of course, ‘amor ch’a nullo amato amar perdona.’ It’s been interpreted for the longest time, and nobody really knows what it means for sure. Does it mean that when A loves B, then B loves A? Namely, that when someone loves you completely you cannot escape that love, that if that love is true, you will recognize it and reciprocate it? Or does it mean the opposite, that when you are touched by the vital energy of eros because someone loves you, then you start loving someone, and so on and so forth. In other words, that loves is contagious but not necessarily reciprocal. As in, A, touched by the flame of eros, loves B; and B, when touched by the same flame, will love C, who, when touched by eros, will love D, who, touched, will love E, and so on and so forth, until, many, many plural loves later, the movement may come to a full circle.”
“OMG,” I exclaim. “But that’s very messy, and everybody gets upset, and it’s so unsettled.”
“I know,” G says. “Sounds like poly, uh?” she giggles.
“Sounds like poly to me,” I confirm.
“Well, Dante knew about it back in the fourteenth century.”
“Oh,” I wonder, “what evidence do you have?”
“This sentence, ‘love, that releases no beloved from loving,’ nobody knows what he intended because it really means both.”
“What do you mean both?”
“It’s ambivalent,” she replies, “it means both the reciprocity of love, as in A loves B and viceversa, and the circulatory nature of erotic energies, as in A loves B loves C loves D loves E and so on. And all translators, readers, critics, theorists, have been baffled by it for centuries. Yet they all refer to it.”
“Oh, I get it, a literary trope.”
“You may say that. It’s more that the number three was in Dante’s mind, I think. He knew that perfect reciprocity is virtually impossible, that there is always some triangulation, even in the most perfect, most reciprocated type of love.”
“But then, that means that one cannot be really mono, because there is really no system of love that includes solely and exclusively two persons.”
“You’re beginning to get it. From one triangulation, to the next, to the next, to the next, all adjacent to one another, as in an Aids quilt one might say.”
“Then mono is poly. Granted, to some extent. But why is poly mono?” I ask her.
“That’s a little more complicated,” G replies. “Suppose you manage to be as mono as possible, to really focus on one person until s/he feels so loved that life comes to a standstill, that there is really nothing to desire any more.”
“Suppose . . . then what?” I ask.
“Then, from that experience, from having been present to that celestial, hyper-Uranian type of love, you can generate infinite compersion that allows you to love everyone like you’ve loved that person.”
“Ah, but . . . errrrr . . . wait a minute,’ I respond, “I’m a bit confused. Sounds so philosophical, G, can you explain for us common mortals, my love?”
“Well, you know compersion. Compersion, that feeling that replaces jealousy, supposedly, in poly language? Well, it’s nothing really but a sublimation of desire into eros, a way to process the greed, the want for sex, for attention, into an ethereal energy that traverses time and space and expands that mono, that one-to-one reciprocity, to every person.”
“That sounds to me like creative energy. Art, creative expression, in all its forms, has some of that, no?”
“Yes,” G admits, “that’s the point. Especially art that’s part of a healing process, art that generates community, peace, joy. In fact, on might even say that all such art is a form of the arts of loving.”
“Handsome, G, thanks,” I offer.
“You’re welcome. What’s on your mind?”
“Oh, well . . . it’s so extreme, so exaggerated. I’m not sure. Sounds like that story about demanding to test anonymously or not at all.”
“Oh, that’s right. You’ve not forgotten, uh?”
“No. Is this the lesson for the day? I’ll mull it over. Thanks for sharing. Now let’s get back to work. Keep me posted on developments. And when you test again, be a good patient, ok?”
The Three of Us, by Regina Reinhardt
End of G Tale # 1
“The dichotomy between selfless and selfish love is deluded because affectional types of love are necessary for our survival as a species, and are therefore not as selfless as they are believed to be. It is self-defeating because all forms of love have an erotic component, the denial of which causes unhappiness and produces substantial amounts of hatred, often enough to defeat the forces of love.”
From Gaia and the New Politics of Love: Notes for a Poly Planet
Please note: The time references to some of the G Tales are off because they first appeared in SexGenderBody.
Reprinted here with thanks to Arvan Reese.
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