“They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered” -F. Scott Fitzgerald, “This Side of Paradise”
Ok, so in this quote, Amory is actually talking to Monsignor about Princeton, democracy, and academics (so two guys talking to each other), but I certainly think this quote reflects the linear trajectory of stepping into intimate relationships with others–whether those relationships are significant other relationships, relationships with friends, family members, mentors; although magical and infinitely beautiful, once entered, it is a territory in which we can never un-go, un-see, un-feel.
I think there certainly is a transient, unseen realm of human existence that our consciousness floats through. Proof that it exists? You might think of that indescribable something-something in the air between you and another person; you can’t quite pinpoint what it is between you two, but there is something kind of electric, connecting force that bonds the two of you, if only for a moment. I’ve certainly felt this as I stood in an elevator, walked into an unfamiliar lobby, sat at a conference–there was something indescribable–some kind of force–drawing me towards another human, even though we had never spoken, never touched, never even met (and never did meet), but something about their energy transcended my tangible human consciousness, and lingered in my own existence for a period of time. For that short period of time, we were connected.
Of course, these are just flighty relationships, so, just imagine the kind of attachment that occurs in these transient spaces when we allow ourselves to slip deeply into an intimacy with other human beings–when we reveal the make up of our souls intimately and singly to another human; these kind of relationships allow us to enter into that different realm of human existence; to experience something so deeply magical and so outside of our normal human tangible consciousness that, as Fitzgerald says, we can never recover from. Once we have dabbled in that territory, we can never un-do that conversation where we revealed our inner workings and motivations, we can never un-see the sparkle in their eyes, the grin on their face, we can never un-feel the butterflies that filtered into our stomaches–because these experiences will always be held in this space, and our retrieval solely in the form of memories.
For many of us, we fear going into these intimate spaces, because we fear how these spaces will inevitably change us. Amory thinks, “As he put in his studs he realized that he was enjoying life as he would probably never enjoy it again. Everything was hallowed by the haze of his own youth. He had arrived, abreast of the best in his generation at Princeton. He was in love and his love was returned”, and Amory will never be able to return to the person he was prior to his love being returned. Of course, especially for Amory, falling into these spaces can be painful when the break up happens. The time was so magical and beautiful when they were together, but upon the falling out, Amory feels pain, rejection–unrecoverable feelings and sentiments. Much like the conversations and the sparkles and the butterflies, we can also not un-do that ultimate break up conversation, we can not un-see the tears and anger and torment, we can not un-feel the suffering that is to occur.
So, why allow ourselves to delve into these potentially scarring spaces? Rosalind says, “I’d rather keep it as a memory–tucked away in my heart”. Because the memory, and the ability to revisit those memories, is worth it. Sometimes, due to the trajectory of our lives, relationships can only continue to exist in these unconscious realms; the same thing happens to Sebastian and Mia in “LaLa Land” (spoiler alert): their romance is momentary, set only for a short period of time (but during that time, it’s beautiful and magical and so great); they allow themselves to delve into this intimate space that they will never recover from (they tell each other, “I’ll always love you”), and even though they both go on their separate ways and seem relatively happy in what the future holds, there is still a longing, a bit of innocence, and a painfulness in remembering this intimate space they allowed themselves to fall into.
As Fitzgerald might argue, while these harrowing experiences are never welcome, and we try to avoid suffering as much as possible, these experiences remind us that we are human. For, even when Amory is stricken with heartbreak and, consults methods to “shield himself from the stabs of memory”, it is within these moments that his deepest self-enlightenment occurs. In “LaLa Land”, heartbreak and separation leads Sebastian to producing some great music. For Don Draper in Season 7 of “Mad Men”, his ultimate mental breakdown results in a widely successful Coca-Cola campaign; so, feeling isn’t always bad, because feeling produces, feeling instructs, feeling reminds us that we are alive, and as Amory ultimately decides, “there seemed suddenly to be much left in this life”.
“Summer has no day,’ she said. ‘We can’t possibly have a summer love. So many people have tried that the name’s become proverbial. Summer is only the unfulfilled promise of spring, a charlatan in place of the warm balmy nights I dream of in April. It’s a sad season of life without growth…it has no day.”