Allan Bloom wrote a beautiful book on love and friendship. In this book he examined issues that emerge between lovers and friends. He also provided a shorthand for those who merely skim great writers, but who have in their actual lives experienced great love and friendship in their lives (but in experiencing great love and friendship, they have also experienced their inevitable simulacra too). Bloom ended the book with a discussion of Platos Symposium. Whether it is Euryximachus account or Aristophanes account, Socrates has the last wordSocrates with the help of Diotima literally has the last word as he and Aristophanes, after an all night drinking party, hold an unrecorded conversation about the distinction between tragedy and comedy. The dawn paints its rosy fingers on the party, but we do not get to hear this last conversation. It is a great loss for us readers. At least this is what Apollodorus more or less recounts for us in a dialogue written by Plato.
One should always be suspicious of a person who takes his allusions for lessons of living life from the likes of Plato (and I must have something to say about living life, or else I am a mere pedant or aestheteor even better simply a pretentious idiot).
So let me also add the pretentious example of St. Augustine in his Confessions. Here is a man who lets the reader into his most intimate of thoughts (even if reconstructed from his own infancye.g., how does one remember what one felt about ones own mother when one didnt even have the capacity for speech?), but more importantly here is a writer who opens the reader to the deepest of longings that he can experience and potentially could be experienced by all of us. The Confessions provides an account of Augustines deepest longings, and he decided to share them with others. In his Confessions, Augustine takes the Aristophean longing to be whole in a lost and forgotten other and makes it into the ontological condition of human beings as such in relation to a personal and knowable godmy heart is restless until it rests in thee. Unlike Aristophanes myth of doubles divided by an angry god, Augustine shows a longing for a god beyond all being, but a god who completes itself in love of him and each person for the other. He presents a sensible account of the importance of human life on these terms.
For what its worth, in my view this is a shortcoming in Blooms account, as excellent as his book gives one of love and friendship in terms of its discussions of Shakespeare and Jane Austen. He doesnt close off this issue of Augustinian longing, but he still leaves it out of hand and out of need. To my mind, Blooms account of love and friendship is too abstract and antiquarian (and even perhaps pedantic) when it avoids this Augustinian account of human longing . Or perhaps I should say that this as far as an honest atheist can go, or to be more fair, as far as one who does not consider any longing beyond what the deepest and truest understanding of reason can go.
In the City of God, on the other hand, Augustine wonders of the ultimate import of Didos passion for Aeneas and whether such love (and consequent hatred) is worthwhile in the larger scheme of things. Augustine makes little of what Bloom makes big. Perhaps none of us has had such a life and passion as Dido, and perhaps Augustine puts her passion into too harsh a perspective. Likewise Lucretia, from Augustines perspective, need not have committed suicide. On could pile example upon example of from the Christian point of view of actions taken that seem to be senseless acts in the name of passionwhether taken out of a sense of scorn or honor.
This is where Bloom is at his best. He finds examples from the best of literature that give voice to such deep longing and feeling, and in this way he doesnt dismiss the particular as Augustine seems to do.
Nonetheless, the Christian is concerned about an even more particular longing and feeling called ME, as Peter Lawler likes to put it. And it is hard to disagree with him, especially when considered in the light of others whom one holds dear as well as in the light of “eternity.”
In other words, when it comes to love and friendship, should one be open to the infinite, even as it shows itself to be beyond the ME that finds itself so important, and therefore so worthy of dignity in the first place? What is the basis of my dignity if not that which is shown in a particular like ME or YOU. Is it Blooms particular literary phenomenology or is it Augustines particular “existentialism”?
So I mention all this after watching some movies (sorry for the long prologue). First, I watched a movie beloved by most pomoconsThe Last Days of Disco. I have a friend from France who had never seen it, and I thought he might enjoy it. He did. Last Days is a talkative movie that is quite brilliant regarding the difficulties of finding love in the early eighties (and since). It is about, amongst many other things, the unwritten rules that keep being rewritten as boy meets girl in the contingency of affection. The movie nicely shows the ways in which intelligent and well educated people navigate affairs of the heart when there is nothing other than arbitrary rules which are defined by no one and that have no real authority anyway. Somehow, these characters make their way through this morass with a degree of dignity.
In a concession to my friend, I secondarily watched a genre monster/gore movie called Feast. While watching it I found out that this was a film was the result of the Project Geeenlight show that Ben Affleck and Matt Damon had a few years ago. Hence, I put a lot of ridicule and scorn on itnot only for being a way to make those two actors seem to be the auteur producers (poseurs) that they are, but also for being a simple formulaic monster movie. True, compared to Last Days of Disco, it was not as intelligent, but my scorn and ridicule was misplaced. These formulaic genre monster movies (like zombie, vampire, slasher, etc. movies) have much to say. You have to take them whole and accept their absurd premises. There will be no character development and hence no way to delve into deep questions of love and friendship. But these kind of movieslike Feastmake interesting comments on the idea that there is no such thing as authority existing in a democracy as each grabs the hindmost of survival in a Hobbesian state of nature. To be sure, these kinds of movies are too sociological in their sense that when the monster attacks we must make community out of nothing, and that you are stuck with whatever and whomever is present. In these movies, those present usually are the worst types (or stereotypes) evident in contemporary America. But, despite their faults, at least in these movies such characters show in an exaggerated manner the simultaneous lack of community and the need for it. At least Feast did this.
I would give Feast a half star out of four (I didnt tell my friend this). In other words, I dont recommend it. But sometimes you watch movies because friends want to watch them. I suppose my friend thought Last Days of Disco sucked too.