This is an essay I have already posted elsewhere, but I’d like to have it up here as well, so for those who have already seen it, please excuse the repeat.
I love Dick is a stunning foray into the little-discussed mystical practice of ego-disintegration through relentless, unrequited love. Chris Kraus references and quotes Simone Weil’s Gravity and Grace many times in the book- she also gave the title of that book to the film she is working on throughout the narrative- and I find this book to be indeed a brilliantly creative commentary on /extension of Weil’s thought. Kraus’ revelations of total humiliation, sexual exploitation, rejection, cruelty… The (common female) experience of being violated, erased, or both, simultaneously or in succession, of always being a plus-one, of being told implicitly or explicitly that one is not a “real intellectual”, that the work, if it includes or is built around a female first person perspective, is “narcissistic”, all are shards of shadow easily thrown from a Weil-ian prism.
Weil was a mystic of self-negation. Like Kraus (see Aliens and Anorexia), she had problems with eating all her life, preferring the power and authorship of self-denial to the physical fuel that is food. She was also a virgin and a person who voluntarily refused the range of earthly comforts in favor of ill-paid physical work. In other words, she placed the spiritual above the physical, and found a realm of autonomy there which she could not fully secure elsewhere.
Our culture tends to associate such self-denial in female-identified humans with weakness. We associate it with pathology, mental illness, self-loathing- with impressionable young women and girls effectively skewered on the male gaze.
We also seem to hold a collective erroneous assumption that women, and particularly young women, have no spiritual life to speak of seriously, or that those who do are somehow “not right”, “not properly female”.
Throughout history the denial of earthly nourishment has been a practice of yogis, gurus, monks and other spiritual seekers who seek to cultivate a state of transcendence, free of ego- who are trying, step-by-step to make it across the line to another, better, more true place. Incidentally, a place which exists outside of corporeality, and therefore outside of the biological sex that for most people for most of history, has spawned gendered life-scripts.
Taking away the mystical nature of women’s self-denial, of their self-exposure to elements that could destroy them, of their testing the limits of their own earthly bodies and in some cases insisting on being the authors of their own suffering and even of their own deaths, is yet another form of misogyny.
As for Dick…
Rumi was a Sufi mystic who sang the merits of doing the work of ego-dissolution in relationship. He says in his poem “Checkmate”-
“Those who make you return, for whatever reason, to God’s solitude, be grateful to them. Worry about the others who give you delicious comforts that keep you from prayer. Friends are enemies sometimes, and enemies friends.”
“If you can’t do this work yourself, don’t worry
You don’t even have to make a decision one way or another.
The Friend, who knows a lot more than you do,
Will bring difficulties, and grief, and sickness-
As medicine, as happiness,
As the essence of the moment when you’re beaten,
When you hear Checkmate, and can finally say
With Hallaj’s voice,
I trust you to kill me.”
The essential exchange here can be understood as one between two humans- a person and her “friend”, however, the “friend” in Rumi is also understood to be God- a divine intervention, and agent of ego-destruction that scours off the shell of human personality to reveal the divine presence in the one being broken down, allowing her to speak with the holy voice of Hallaj, to use this new voice in agreeing to her own destruction, which is actually, in effect, not a destruction at all but a transformation into something truer, more enlightened than what she was before.
In I love Dick, Dick seems most disturbed when he starts to suspect that this intelligent woman is using him not for sex (as others may be, like “Kayla”, the “Bimbo on the answering machine”), but as “the Friend”- as an ego-corrosive, as a vital male catalyst in a mystical and intellectual prostration.
What he, as intelligent as he is, has not been in any way prepared by his life and education to process, is that for her their relationship is so profoundly not about him and his dick, but about her and her enlightenment.
Chris says “let me be your lap dog” to Dick, thereby directing their sexual encounter to make herself lower- as low as she can be in relation to him. After all, we can only know our position in relation: She needs Dick because to be lower is to be lower than something or someone outside of oneself.
And somewhere Simone Weil intones:
“la pesanteur fait descendre, l’aile fait monter.:
quelle aile a la deuxieme puissance peut faire descendre sans pesanteur?”
(Gravity causes downward motion, a wing causes rising motion-
But what wing to the second power could cause a lowering without Gravity?)