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  • Perhaps Cultivating Touch Can Still Save Us
  • Luce Irigaray (bio)

Entering into presence with an other is generally submitted to the rules of a world that is presumed to be neutral with respect to each one and to which each one must conform. Communicating with the other would require the neutralization of the singular belonging from each and the adoption of an artificially neutral attitude that cuts us off from our energetic resources. Our natural energy is not yet educated towards a communication with respect for our difference(s). This energy is left both uncultivated and repressed. It remains in a natural state in which only degrees of intensity exist, an intensity that sometimes needs to be released through acts of instinctive domination or submission, unless it is transformed into a neutral energy that cannot stop increasing and thus it also needs to be reduced.

Dionysos and Apollo: two individuations out of touch

In fact our vital energy has not been cultivated as a natural energy towards a personal growth and a coexistence with the other. We remain at a stage of artificial individuation, an individuation that is supported by rules that are not appropriate to our proper nature and do not contribute to its transformation. We stopped at neutral standards for our relational identity and this divides us between a wild, instinctive part and a formal, artificial part in our relationships with the other, with others.

Such a situation appears to be the result of a lack of cultivation of our first relationships to the mother at both an individual and cultural level. In our tradition, the mother has been reduced to a natural origin that we have to dominate and overcome towards culture. It was not a question of considering our origin to be the fruit of the loving union of a man and a woman, a fruit of eros who could come into the world thanks to the hospitality given by a woman during nine months in her own body. All this human relational context was merged into the family unit, in which it surfaced only through parental roles: the role of caring about nature being assigned to woman and this of laying down the law to the man-father. Apparently it was more a matter of sharing out the tasks than of an allocation of sexual – or sexuate – roles. Family as such was not a place where sexuality had a great part, except for reproduction. And even its function in reproduction was not obvious. Thus, the little humans grew [End Page 130] without knowing what he or she could do with their energy, especially their sexual energy, apart from submitting it to abstract education and social standards.

However, a human energy cannot be of use only to grow as is, or at least seems to be, the case in the plant world. It is also a relational energy that needs to be learned, to be educated in a human way. This education is still lacking in our culture. And most of us most of the time remain torn between an uneducated energy with respect to our natural belonging and a formal codified and imposed way of appearing and behaving that does not suit our nature. One could say that we remain torn between Dionysos and Apollo, that is, between a god who stays faithful to his natural energy, but does not know how to embody it and oscillates between lack and excess of energy, and another god who favours remaining in a beautiful appearance, within an ideal form, at the price of subjecting to it the vitality of his energy. Neither the one nor the other of these two gods has solved the energetic problem that an uncultivated relationship with the mother raises.

His uneducated relational energy leads Dionysos at best to regress to merge into a primitive natural unity, into an ecstatic communion with the whole of the natural world, which somehow substitutes for the original sharing with the maternal world. Dionysos does not reach an embodiment of his own, and goes from a state of life that grows or declines without blooming into any forms, in a continuous motion that finds a momentary stillness...


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pp. 130-140
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