I know people who have had affairs and most of the time, it hasn’t ended well. On the other hand, I expect that lots of couples I admire have gone through affairs and resolved their issues quietly. Not everything is as it seems. When doors are closed people hurt each other and when they open the doors back up again and let their love back in, they’ll hurt each other still.
As a species, humans are really quite detestable, and I feel OK about saying that because I’m not bitter about it. I just don’t expect any better – myself or otherwise. I think the most recent time I learnt to expect very little from myself or others was while I was sitting in a chair catching up on some TV this morning. Two and a half hours of my life were spent watching a whole host of my favourite British actors play people in disastrous relationships. The BBC’s five-part series “True Love” was a fantastic piece of television, a great selection of writing and also had a diamond sound track.
But of all the perverse thoughts of the perverse thoughts in the world, why is it that I found myself silently hoping that Billy Piper’s character would manage to get away with a relationship with fellow actress Kaya Scodelario who plays a 16 year old student? That is some seriously weird longing on so many levels.
American evangelical leader Mike Bickle used to speak about love a lot. In fact, he even wrote a book about the subject. His conclusion is that the deepest longing of the human heart is to be loved and that everything else comes down to that. I couldn’t agree with him more. Everything we do is about love: if we’re rich or poor, sick or in health, better or, in our case, worse – it all comes down to love. Love is unconditional and doesn’t see circumstance. And that makes me simultaneously very happy and very uneasy. Especially when I feel so moved by the idea of a teacher running off with a nubile teenager both of whom appear to be quite unhappy with their lives and their loves. Can we really judge a person for pursuing the deepest desire of their heart? Who are we to say that a relationship is evil? Perhaps if Piper’s character was a Christian we would have more right to be concerned. But as it is, she is not and can’t be expected to follow the moral standards that are clearly laid out in scripture.
Piper starts out in an affair with a married man (whose own wife has an affair in the next episode). She’s evidently unhappy and disinterested in any relation with the man, physical or emotional.
Hopeless as a teacher, too, she is discontent with her life and begins to feel the wanderlust that comes from sadness and melancholy. She’s approached by Scodelario’s character after a class one day and although initially uncertain whether she should accept an invitation from the pupil to go to an art exhibition, she goes. The two begin a relationship which escalates in a way that only television can develop a relationship – a Polaroid snapshot of a complicated album – and before they know it, we see them making a decision to run away together. This reminds me quite a bit of that essay by the writer David Foster Wallace, a wonderful writer, entitled E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction where he writes: “And I’m not saying that television is vulgar and dumb because the people who compose the Audience are vulgar and dumb. Television is the way it is simply because people tend to be extremely similar in their vulgar and prurient and dumb interests and wildly different in their refined and aesthetic and noble interests.”
He has a point. In reality, or in a book even, there would be a repercussion for what, although legal, is in a severely grey area in terms of ethical considerations: a teacher running away with a student of the same sex. But television is vulgar and dumb because our interests are vulgar, prurient and dumb. Or are they? I don’t think it’s as clear cut as that.
I’m very fond of the closing scene in Annie Hall – actually I’m fond of all the scenes in Annie Hall – where Woody Allen tells the joke of the two brothers, one of whom is mad and although I hate to spoil a punchline, I think this is just as good an occasion as any to do so…
“You know, this guy goes to his psychiatrist and says, “Doc, my brother’s crazy. He thinks he’s a chicken.” And the doctor says, “Well why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.” Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships– you know, they’re totally irrational and crazy and absurd, but, I guess we keep going through it because most of us need the eggs.”
I guess it’s kind of a mixture of what Bickle says and what Allen says. Love is crazy and irrational but our deepest human longing is for love to win out – even if it has to be at the cost of all the well reasoned arguments that we lay out in our minds. I think at the bottom of everything, we really need the eggs.