An Erotic Cosmos? Relationality at the Heart of All Things

Recently, I drew a figure of the eightfold systemic struggle domains with an eye to illustrating the interrelationship of these systems.  For some time, I have found it likely that systemic struggles were not all equally weighted in terms of social revolution, but making this figure produced some striking results.

My basic idea was that ecology is the widest system that contains all the others as subsystems. Within the ecosystem, gender, race, and class seem to have the most direct impact on human suffering, that is, non-whites are the largest single exploited social group, women are second largest, and class domination encompasses not only women and people of color, but also a the majority of the caucasian population.

At the center of the diagram, where race, class, and gender intersect, it seemed natural to place sexuality or relationship as the central field. I didn’t expect that result, but it ultimately males a great deal of sense. Sexual reproduction produces racial lines, gender is a primary embodiment of sexuality, and economics is ultimately a field of relations that have affective valences.

Though not a point to be overdone, it can be noted that gravity, the cosmic force that moves bodies, is also referred to as “attraction.” Certainly, all human interactions are relational and the systems of organized human relations are as nearly pervasive in our daily lives as gravity.

One of my favorite philosophers is John Macmurray, a Scottish Christian who became a Quaker late in life. His magnum opus is a two-volume set of Gifford lectures which are collectively titled The Form of the Personal. Volume 1, The Self As Agent is a critical examination and proposal to replace the excessively theoretical, dualistic, and egocentric view of humanity of modern society, with a more adequately practical and relational viewpoint. V. 2, Persons in Relation begins from this new standpoint to critically examine and explore the field of personal relationships, from infancy to family and to society, religion, and politics.

Macmurray’s conclusion regarding humanity is that our authentic nature is that of persons in relation, beings who are undeniably interdependent on others. This interdependence is complex and fraught with conflict, and with opportunities for reconciliation. The endless task before each person is that of becoming persons of mature love.

This love begins in our lives as a love we should receive from our parents and earliest caregivers. This love we receive will never be limitless, though we may desire it to be. The limitations of our original caregivers provoke fear in us and we reach out to communicate our need to be cared for. Healthy consistent caregiving teaches us that our fears can be assuaged, and our needs met.

Healthy human relationships are not perfect, are not ideal. Each of us fails to be the fully mature loving person we imagine or desire to be. There are many human beings in our world who have never known healthy love. These persons act from fear, anger, and hatred. Indeed, at the smallest scale, social injustice and much of human suffering is the product of a failure to achieve mature reciprocal relations between humans.

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