Friday, January 18, 2019

Crypto-Catholic Libertine

A post about coming out.

Here's Isabel from Le divorce again:
I gradually came to understand that Edgar was religious, at least officially, believed in God and the Catholic religion, in a not preoccupied but nonetheless sincere way.

At first I was shocked by this. In California, you wouldn't go out with anyone openly religious, because someone who talks about God automatically comes across as a hypocrite. But there was also the French hypocrisy, if that is the word—or inconsistency is a better one—in believing in a religion and conducting this rather unconcerned adultery.
That "inconsistency" can't be proven. It's not a factual claim. There is sufficient variation within any group that you could easily find Americans who perfectly embody the French attitude and vice versa, pun on "vice" very much intended.

We might say that the Frenchy American would count as an outlier in her culture while the Française à l'americaine would likewise be seen as really French and yet different in hers. I don't know if that holds up; it's just an idea I'm trying out.

It's time for a confession: I lied. Not to you so much as to myself. I've done this twice lately. The first time was on Facebook a year or so ago. A cousin of mine put up a picture of me from my early teen years. I'm not sure exactly how old I was in the picture but probably 15 or younger. It caused much comment among my friends because I had a style in that picture that was very far from what I adopted just a few years later at 18 and have kept more or less, with a few short side excursions, ever since. By way of explanation I said that I identified with Keith Richards in those days. I believed what I wrote on Facebook when I wrote it but it wasn't true. That was brought home to me rather bluntly last summer when I found a box of stuff I had collected as a teenager that had come from my parents' house. What was painfully obvious was that I had actually identified with Mick Jagger. To be blunt, my entire personality was based on my understanding of him.

Why did I lie, first to myself and then to the rest of the world? Mostly shame. And by "shame" I mean I was mostly scared to admit it. Telling the whole world the truth about your aspirational self just opens you up to mockery. Anyway, I said in an earlier post that I identify with Isabel but the truth is I identify with Edgar Cosset.

As a rule I would advise against ever revealing your aspirational self—the sort of character you aspire to develop—except to a few very trusted friends who you think might have useful things to say to you about it. Otherwise, don't talk about the person you want to be just be it. I feel safe breaking my own rule in this case because Edgar is only a type and I can cop to the type. Indeed, it's hardly a secret. Twenty-five years ago the art department of a company I worked for showed me the mock up for my business card for my approval. As a joke, the designer had put "poète et bon vivant" where my title should have gone. I have a type and it's not a secret: my entire office was in on it. Except to me who is sometimes ashamed of something that is not even a secret.

Which brings me to the name of this blog. Back when I started I called it "Crypto-Catholic Libertine". I shied away from that mostly out of fear of what we Catholics call "scandal". I was worried that someone might see it and that the implied hypocrisy in that name, which is not erased by the intended irony, might disturb them. So I ditched what was probably the best name the blog ever had.

Why am I going back to it now? Well, here's the continuation of Isabel's thoughts from above:
I brought up this issue in a rather general was with Mrs. Pace, without mentioning Edgar and me.

"Well, their piety is more evolved," said Mrs. Pace. "In America we have only two forms, as Matthew Arnold said: the bitter and the smug. In France, it appears, there is a third type, the wordly."

"The genuine?" I wondered.

"I suppose they are all genuine. Bitterness is always genuine. And there is nothing so fervently genuine as as the sense of being right. Smugness, autrement dit. Why not world but genuine?"
That point about all pieties being genuine is a deep one.

In any case, "Crypto-Catholic Libertine" is back.

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