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Falling In Love With Myself/No-Self

December 29, 2010

Via cnekez, keeper of the beautiful blogspace to live (def):.

Interviewer: Isn’t love a union between two people?  Or does Eartha fall in love with herself?

Eartha Kitt: [Smiles] I think, if you want to think about it in terms of analyzing … Yes.  I fall in love with myself … and I want someone to share it with me.  I want someone to share me with me.

Seems to me that Eartha Kitt (a singer, dancer, and actress) is talking about falling in love with the whole world. Even with the interviewer — asking those leading, loaded questions.

She cuts right through his seeming innocence (or cluelessness?), mocking the true misogynistic subtext: that a woman is incomplete without a man (hello, heterosexism), and that in order to make love ‘work’, women have to ‘compromise.’ (And in this sexist, racist society, we know what that means, y’all.)

To me, this scene is a profound display of pitch-perfect compassion. As Khandro Rinpoche says, “Compassion is not about kindness. Compassion is about awareness.” She is on some next-level shit here. And she is sharing it.

What does it mean to fall in love with oneself (“for the right reason; for the right purpose”)?

What I hear her saying echoes a famous teaching by Dōgen, a Japanese Buddhist and the founder of Soto Zen.  In his “Genjōkōan” he says (and there are many translations but I’ll go with this one):

To study the Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by the myriad dharmas. To be enlightened by the myriad dharmas is to bring about the dropping away of the body and mind of the self as well as those of others. The traces of enlightenment come to an end, and this traceless enlightenment continues endlessly.

Typically, I think, we are too afraid of ourselves, and too easily distracted, to truly study the self, or to fall in love with ourselves.  Instead, we try our hardest to fall in love with other people, circumstances, and projections.  Success.  Leadership.  Having “made a difference.”  Images of strength; glamour of all varieties (including emo glam).  Pleasure, beauty, and credit.  Things-going-the-way-we-want, or barring that, hope.

But sometimes we can experience a bright wrinkle (don’t know why I think of it that way, but I do!) of falling in love with ourselves.  Which isn’t to say that we become self-absorbed, but that we tap into the question of self, of experience, and we begin to catch glimpses of no-self.  Of impermanence; indeterminacy; the absence of a fixed, enduring, bounded identity.  I don’t think that meditation is necessary for these glimpses to occur, but it sure can help.  And for me, the tenor of these bright wrinkles and glimpses is less one of soft fuzzies or infatuation, the way our culture often thinks of love.  More one of awe.

I love that this Eartha Kitt piece brought out the awe in cnekez, and then in me.  And now I share it with you!

Does that mean we’re all in love with each other?

[Chuckles]

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 29, 2010 3:31 pm

    A great original being, Eartha Kitt. So fierce, such a terrific singer. Irrespective of whether I fully agree or not, she is herself.

  2. December 29, 2010 5:26 pm

    She’s fierce, I love it! But I wonder how egotistical she was?

    Because sometimes I worry abotu the initially healthy focus on “self-love” in opposition to the devaluation of self that is promoted to a lot of folks that aren’t ruling class, fully abled straight white men.

    Seems like what sort of love we have for ourselves matters a lot, and also that 95% of people I meet who say stuff like “I’m in love with myself” tend to value their needs over others, be blind to their own most important flaws, and other stuff that’s really difficult to talk with them about.

    I’m totally into the reinterpretation of Kitt’s “falling in love with myself and sharing that with others” as “we tap into the question of self, of experience, and we begin to catch glimpses of no-self”…………….but my apprehension is that many people, Kitt probably included, are unconditionally jocking themselves, a key opposite of no-self!

    And then all of this is complicated by the necessity of validating the self, especially the female self, the Thai self, the disabled self etc. as part of the process of liberation. I think there’s real ways though that this liberating validation can and does become narcissism and loses its rigorous, liberating potential. How can we tell the difference?

  3. vladimir permalink
    January 6, 2011 10:30 pm

    ryan makes a very interesting point. when does self-love become arrogance? i suppose it all has to do with the definition of love in the first place. arrogance may actually be rooted in self-hate. most arrogant people that i have been close to are also fake. this is not a coincidence. they are trying to be someone they are not because they dont trust who they are. they dont trust themeselves because they dont know themselves. and because they dont know themselves, it goes without saying that they dont love themselves. arrogant fake people alienated from themselves, and thus cannot find the real connection with other people. they usually go through spurts of affection or closeness and then periods of withdrawal, and use the people around them to fill the functions that knowledge of self is supposed to perform. in relationships, this can cause much turmoil, and the interpretation by each partner to be in opposition. the arrogant fake one will claim to be compromising extremely much just as the other one points out their selfishness. the non-arrogant one might begin to advocate for themselves (self-preservation) and reach for some autonomy, which will inspire the ire of the arrogant one because their whole concept of their own value is in relation to others as a comparison, not rooted in self-knoledge and self love. the non-arrogant one will feel oppressed by their desire to fill the hole in the arrogant one’s soul, only to be abused, drawn in and refused cyclically. the lesson will be, therefore, for both partners the same, although from different sides: compromise? for what!

    i understand why people would want to not compromise with anyone or anything. its good to have boundaries, especially for those who tend to give too much, unite a little too much with their loved ones (which includes white males). but any time that anyone claims not compromise, they are being untruthful because anything they have learned has been a process of compromise; replacing or augmenting their truth with another superior or more complete truth. anyone who claims that they do compromise is also probably lying about the extent to which they do it. more than likely, they learn far less than they claim.

    compromise means to “promise with.” promises are dangerous because they are absolutes. since the world is fluid (especially the world of more enlightened mind), absolutes rarely hold. the key to good a good promise is that it be abstract, intangible and immeasurable. ‘to be true’ is a good promise, because while it can be judged, it cannot be scrutinized in very much detail. but ‘to always tell the truth’ is a bad promise to make.

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