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Friday, December 31, 2004 

The Floating World: Love And Attraction

And so the year ends, with me procrastinating a little before finishing off cleaning the apartment in preperation for K getting back tonight.

Only I don't think it's really procrastinating. I sat down at the computer to read all the regulars for the day and decided to listen to an album, specifically my version of Darren Hayes' quite astonishing The Tension And The Spark, and one of the songs grabbed me so that I knew I needed to write about it now before I forget too much. I wrote a bit about the album here (number 13), but I'm still amazed at how much I like it, and how it's one of those albums that makes me sympathize strongly with its creator. Hayes sounds much more miserable than I am, maybe than I've ever been, but that of course is no deterrent to empathy.

"Love And Attraction" isn't even close to my favorite track on the album (that'd be "Dublin Sky", or maybe "Void" or just possibly "Hero"), but I think it highlights some of the reasons I like The Tension And The Spark so much. I think I'll get the lyrical content out of the way right here:

Love and attraction
It's like sex and passion
It's two ends of a spectrum
Are you a friend or a lover?
Now pick one or the other


Love and attraction
You can chase them forever
Are they ever together?

Which is what I think The Tension And The Spark is really wrestling with. In "I Like The Way" Hayes also refers to a lot of this stuff, explicitly contrasting the times he's been attracted to the physicality or someone versus the times he's been attracted to the person - attraction versus love, in his parlance.

Plenty of people, of course, are lucky enough (or what have you) to experience both at once, but not Hayes. That's what he so desperately seeks throughout the album (and The Tension And The Spark is pretty thick with need, especially say on "Sense Of Humour", but I believe this is as much purgative as normative for Hayes).

And I think, actually, the issue is much broader than that. I do think this is something most of us will wrestle with at some time. Especially if we contrast the comfort of a long-established love to the fireworks of new attraction, that elusive quasi-mythical "chemistry" that people seem to think is necessary for everything. I'm not knocking chemistry, or butterflies in the stomach, grand passion, and so on and so forth - but the ideas that, firstly, every relationship must be accompanied by truly whopping amounts of it all immediately, and secondly that this frenzied pace must be kept up ad infinitum, I think both can be rather harmful.

But again, go broader. He's talking about romantic relationships and friendships, about the bonds we form with other people. And he's confused (rightly so) about what we each might need as human beings. We all need contact, but what type? How much? And so on, etc. As life in the Western World shifts and alters for some of its inhabitents into increasingly bizarre forms, the traditional structures of human relationships have also been called into question. Which in some ways have been good (feminism and other civil rights issues both drive some parts of this and have benefitted from others), but in other ways are downright scary. Especially for people who grew up in a world where those social roles were more nailed down.

Are you a friend or a lover?
Now pick one or the other

Well, that's the thing; for someone existing the mileau that Darren Hayes is, you don't necessarily have to. And that can mess things up pretty badly (the distinction between the two might normally be so sharp because it's easier for humans to handle, for example - there's little way to tell), can confuse all parties concerned and cause a lot of hurt. Or not. And even worse, it's not going to be the same for all of us.

We all need human contact, but the people who at one point would have been in the same village with you all your life now wind up leaving for another city in a few years. Nobody my age really dates anymore, there are just these weird nebulous relationships. We all know there are people we care about, but everything past that (how do you care? why? the tension between should and is and etc). I'm exaggerating in some ways (and not going far enough in some, I'm sure), and I'm not arguing modern life is horrible, but it does bring new challenges. And as that continues and advances and expands, I'm sure we'll see more reactions like The Tension And The Spark, walking the knifeedge between certainty and doubt, tradition and freedom, love and attraction. We all know we want both of the latter dichotomy, and in the same person, but how many of us will get it? How many of us will figure it out, how many will get lucky? And what happens to everyone else?

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Ian Mathers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Stylus, the Village Voice, Resident Advisor, PopMatters, and elsewhere. He does stuff and it magically appears here.

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