The Black Pot and Kettle

“It’s become so obvious. You are so oblivious to yourself. You’re tied in a knot, but I’m not gonna get caught calling a pot kettle black.” ~Wilco

I just finished reading Porcelain, the first memoir by Moby, and it was absolutely fascinating. I didn’t think I had any preconceived notions about him, and yet my mouth was open nearly the entire first half. What hit me the most was when he talked about all the random sex, all the one night stands he had, being part of the raver scene in NYC in the 1990’s.

One liaison bled into the next on the page. Maybe I’m just not used to people being so open about their sexual experiences, or maybe I’m just shocked at how many people become part of a scene, not knowing what it entails, and yet it gets grafted onto their ideals in bits and pieces until the scene is indistinguishable from them. They become like interchangeable bodies, not even names at that point, not even human beings by then, just robots programmed for these kinds of relationships that aren’t real relationships.

I often read a poem to my English 102 students; it’s by Sharon Olds, and it’s called “Sex Without Love.” It says, “How do they do it, the ones who make love / without love?” The idea is that even the words we use to describe sex aren’t always adequate, that they are often not up to date with how society is defining the entirely physical relationships. I guess to me it’s always been this feeling of, “Can you separate these two parts of yourself, the physical and the emotional?”

As I continued to read the memoir, I found myself trying to find some kind of introspection, but there really wasn’t one. All I found was a sense of the scene, like he was just listing these moments in his life because they were moments in his life. He often talked about finding someone he could settle down and be with forever, and yet his actions didn’t speak to that, unless he hoped the one night stand with the stripper would lead to more.

But then the next night he would be with some other girl, not giving any of these physical moments the chance to bloom into an emotional connection. The drugs didn’t seem like they helped either. I think of my rather stilted understanding, growing up, of what sex really meant, of how it fit into the concept of any relationship I would get into, of its gravity and its simplicity at the same time.

It’s funny how I like rave music, but the scene itself would have freaked me out, had I found it back when I was young. All the expectations of doing things, of being able to separate the idea of “making love” from sex, I probably would have passed out. Even now, I’m just beginning to understand that there is this whole other world out there, where people would drop their jaws at how “conventionally” I’m living my life, where I’m on the other side of the one-way glass.

As we move forward, though, and as so many people judge others on what they do and don’t do, it’s interesting to me that there really is nothing new under the sun. These things are not new; these ideas are not prescient ones. It’s all been done before, by the generation before us, and by the one before them. The problem is we don’t expose ourselves to it. We don’t try to figure out what went on before. We don’t try to understand it because we feel it doesn’t affect us.

But it all does affect us. We come in contact with people who have different definitions from the ones we’ve copied down all our lives. Being able to see where they’re coming from, to embrace that difference, it’s important, especially if we want to claim we are open-minded, that we are part of one race — the human race.

So, I didn’t judge Moby for the decisions he made in his pursuit of love. I don’t judge anyone for their decisions either. We do what we feel we have to do to achieve what we want to achieve, and it’s not my place to say your way is somehow worse or better than mine. I don’t want to become that hardened man I’ve seen far too often.

And I hope Moby finds the love of his life. I hope we all do, if we believe in that sort of thing.

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