Let's talk about loving people. I don't mean loving someone, which is a more determined affair, but loving en masse. Loving people feels like cupping clear spring-water in your hands – knowing it's going to leave, but also knowing it still available, and knowing the source isn’t far from grasp. It’s their mind you’re after. It’s intellectual attraction, freeing yourself from the physicality and instead just possessed by their mind. In awe of it. Intellectual attraction can be a precursor to romantic and sexual attraction, depending on your taste, but it can also be free of them. Love and attraction needn’t be words about romantic or sexual relationships (they are wonderful things themselves, but this writing is not about them). Of course, intellectual attraction is beautiful when it leads to romantic attraction, but it can make it infinitely more tragic. Think of Jane Eyre, of Mr Rochester. Upon discovering Mrs Rochester’s existence, Jane decides to leave Thornfield Hall and Mr Rochester. He is mortified and attempts to make her stay. He threatens physical violence, and even rape, but immediately rebukes himself;
"Consider that eye: consider the resolute, wild, free thing looking out of it [...] Whatever I do with its cage, I cannot get at it – the savage, beautiful creature."
His romantic attraction to Jane makes him crave the body and the mind, as one, and the objectification that comes with any form of physical attraction (whether it stems from intellectual attraction or not) demands the presence of that being. Mr Rochester will never be satisfied unless he is with Jane: he is in want of her body and mind. A tragic situation due to his combining intellectual relationships with heteronormative romantic relationships.
The intellect, the inner being, the self, is perfectly summarised by the above quote. The eye as the organ of The Gaze is the clearest lens through which the Mind chooses to direct attention towards the world. No wonder eyes are seen as windows to the soul. The eyes, then, are the shortest route to the Mind you are interested by. The ‘free thing’ staring out is their Self, impossible for us to pin down. They are always themselves. The cage, the body, the physicality, while more than a meagre vessel for the fullness of the mind, is an illusionary body that can only be some aspects of the person. The savage, beautiful creature, that is that person’s spirit, is housed within that body, and no physical relationship alone with them can get you more of their mind, unless it is supplemented by increased communication with them
The ideal for many is to be sexually, romantically, and intellectually attracted to someone all at once – this is supposably the perfect harmony for a successful exclusive relationship. Maybe it is (for heteronormative folks). But I'm not here to talk about that. I want to talk about loving Many, away from relationships. Loving minds. In doing so, in keeping around you a strong party of people who intellectually stimulate you, you get the joy of being amazed and in awe of others and their worlds, while not having to stress about their relationship to you and how that may develop (or not). This isn't to say that there is no interest in their perception of you– of course you still maintain yourself in the best manner – but the relationship between you both does not need to develop. Access to their mind, however infrequent, is enough. There is a beautiful webcomic called XKCD that sums this feeling up.
This is another excellent explanation of intellectual attraction. I feel this exact sentiment often, meeting as many phenomenal, wild creatures as I do. Artists, musicians, writers, makers, people who do things. I fall in love their spirits constantly. They are in this world and they make it theirs. Their reality is extended out, like the deep, violent roots of a bamboo tree, allowing them the strength to remain upright. I used to think I could only do things with permission. And yet every day I am meeting people who, more and more, prove to me that permission is for those who are scared to take action, as I was. It does not need to be aggressive, there are subtle ways to skip asking permission. But it is there, it is a presence of knowing that something has to exist. It must exist because their minds are determined in impressing themselves upon the world. It takes courage and strength and resolve and all of these mighty adjectives to be like we are. I fall in love with this quality in people every day. It is fleeting: the conversations and the moments spent together are not something I need every moment of the day. I am doing my own thing. I can’t give them all my time. But there is no desire to. Minds pass like buses. They arrive, stop, leave. They are followed by others. This is how minds, and people, work. Though you may crave their company, the constant knowledge that you will never fully possess their spirit makes it easier to have these fleeting encounters. Unlike poor Mr Rochester, romantically attracted to Jane, the non-romantic intellectual attraction is a beautiful foundation for a long-standing friendship, the sort of friendship where absence is a simple fact, and has little impact on the participants.
In this way it is like polyamorous relationships. Each new mind gives you something different, and everyone has multiple orbits to one another. I find myself pairing up people – not as a matchmaker but as a sociologist of sorts, imagining how they might connect with one another, one mind to another, like how each eyehole of a pair of binoculars gives a slightly different perspective. Look through both, and you get a perfect alignment. I like seeing people excited, eagerly talking about what their current obsession is. When we are children it is seen is perfectly natural to have obsessive phases. Swimming, football, horses, certain toys, etc. When we are adults people are suspicious of it. In today's age, binge-watching shows on Netflix is the only truly acceptable obsession.
My brain craves for connections, cross-references, patterns, relationships between people and objects. It wants everything.
One event from my childhood sums this up completely. In primary school, I must have been five or six, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I was older. I thought for a while, unable to decide. Then, with resolve, I answered: on Mondays I will be an actress; Tuesdays, a doctor; Wednesdays, a farmer; Thursdays, a teacher; Fridays, a writer; Saturdays, an artist. And then I'll take Sunday off because I'll be quite tired. The teacher, naturally, laughed. But the joke is on her really. As an artist I get to live all of these lives on my terms. I do all of these things. And I love speaking to people, not about the day-to-day but about their in space in the world. Their reality. And in that moment I become them, almost entirely, entering into their world, living all these different professions by proxy. Perhaps it is an abundance of mirror neurons. As a youth, I was anxious due to this excess of empathy, but now it is a tool for furthering my own understanding of the world, the one outside of my world, and the worlds that other people see. This is what fuels my becoming intellectually attracted to people very easily. They allow me to step out of the bounds of my experience, and allow me to learn more. My real obsession.
The problem with intellectual attraction is how incredibly easy it is to project, as, unlike physical attraction, you cannot see the object of your interest. You guess at it. But the upshot of the fleeting nature of these friendships is that you needn't cut anything off, or break hearts. It’s all unresolved and apt to change. You do not rely on one person to fulfil your intellectual needs. You have a gaggle. There are always new and interesting people to meet. It lets you love people en masse, knowing that, underneath the day-to-day, there could be something fiery in there. Something alive.