Saturday, June 17, 2017

Mad love, found objects, objective chance

Coincidence multiplies when we pay attention, above all when we are charged with certain energies and moving outside the grooves of familiar routines and mindsets. André Breton, the French Surrealist, called coincidence “objective chance”. In his amazing narrative Amour fou (“Mad Love”) Breton shows us the state of mind, and the pattern of behavior, that turns us into walking synchronicity magnets.
     What required is the kind of openness to the unexpected the French call disponibilité and, beyond this the choice of “lyric behavior”: the willingness to give oneself to the “dazzling revenge” of the imagination on a world of stubborn facts.
      Breton describes how two people joined by passion or strong interest become a powerful double attractor for coincidence. "I would be tempted to say that two people walking near each other constitute a single influencing body, primed." He compares this phenomenon to "those sudden atmospheric condensations which make conductors out of regions that were not before, producing flashes of lightning." The “single influencing body” is formed when he is traveling with his lover, but also when he is walking around the flea market with the sculptor Giacometti.
     The sculptor is thinking about the undefined face of a woman in his current piece, and finds a strange mask that speaks to his need. Breton has harbored an odd desire to possess an ashtray shaped like a woman's high-heeled shoe, and finds a curious spoon in the same shape. In the chance discovery of these trouvailles (found objects) we sense the hand of an unseen player behind the scenes.
      Breton writes about how, if we pay attention, we may notice not only that life rhymes but that it can follow a poetic mode of composition. He describes how all the elements in a poem he write in 1923 manifested on a "Night of the Sunflower" in Les Halles eleven years later, as if the poem was taking root in the world.
      Mad Love is a paean to the magic that comes when we go about the world charged with love and desire, magnetically drawing people and events to us in novel ways. Breton does pause to reflect on what happens when passion is thwarted by worldly circumstances; “Indeed passion, with its magnificent wild eyes, must suffer at having to mix in the human struggle”.

It is always with surprise and fright that I have seen...harmless complaints...grow more acute. They hone themselves on the stone of silence, abrupt and unbreakable by anything at all, quite like absence and death. Overhead, between the lovers, flies a rain of poisoned arrows, soon so thick as to prevent any exchange of glances. Then, hastily, hateful egotism walls itself into a windowless tower. The attraction is broken; even the loveliness of the beloved face goes into hiding; a wind of ashes sweeps everything away; the pursuit of life is compromised.

And if objective chance is still operating, its operations will be chancy, for we attract or repel different things according to the emotions and attitudes that live in us.

Photo: André Breton in his Paris apartment, crammed with found objects.

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