Saturday, February 5, 2011

Constancy vs Betrayal

Constancy... that small change of love, which people exact so rigidly, receive in such counterfeit coin, and repay in baser metal.

On the money or too cynical? But having come across this quote of Lord B’s in his letters I was reminded of Joyce’s The Dead which I’ve recently reread. For the uninitiated the story undergoes a transfiguration when a husband discovers his wife has always secretly loved someone else. The husband suddenly sees his wife in an exalted light. Joyce loved his epiphanies and some were more successful than others. This particular one always struck me as bogus – an awkward artistic device to arrive at the required emotion, like Hollywood distorting historical facts to give a film more scope for cheers and boos.
But then I thought about it some more. Essentially we demand constancy from our lovers and friends to keep our illusions about ourselves in tact. Ironically though it’s often the act of betrayal that knocks us out of our pinched complacencies into a wider world. So Joyce, albeit a tad clumsily, was right after all…


  1. Interesting one. But is it keeping our illusions about *ourselves* intact, or our illusions about *them*?

    I suspect the latter, and finding what we thought was Truth is not then forces that 'exalted light'.

    Don't all epiphanies come as such? A missing or distorted vision cleared by new thought?

  2. i think lord b in that quote drove his words into a telling metaphorical cul-de-sac.

    i mean, when someone gives you the small change you've "so rigidly" exacted, there's no need whatsoever to *repay* them (especially if the change was counterfeit to begin with), is there?

    but all financial analogies with love are bunkum, base bibelots.

    epiphanies to me are more like distillations (be it essence of illusion or essence of truth) than they are windscreen-wiping refreshers of blurry vision.

    but i guess the effects of either can be similar.