In the series Dialectics of the Sexes: no. 11

Yet I would not have all yet,
Hee that hath all can have no more,
And since my love doth everyday admit
New growth, thou shouldst have new rewards in store…

John Donne, Lovers Infinitenesse, around 1600



In his essay Des femmes et de leur éducation Choderlos De Laclos – author of the both famous and infamous novel-in-letters Les liaisons dangereuses – writes under the heading ‘puberty’: Le sujet qui existe trop tôt n’éxiste jamais pleinement – a person existing too early, will never fully exist.


One of the many Dangerous Liaisons

A clear apercu! A youngster who, at too early an age, has seen and done it all – fucked, travelled, boozed et cetera – will later in life, when he’s is finally ripe enough to savour all the goodies of flesh and drink, of distant birds and nice people, alas miss his chances. He/she has become what the French call blasé.

Thank God – rather, thank my parents – I have been a slow one on any terrain. Only during my ‘Rome Tour’- the ritual completion of the grammar school days, at the same time my first foreign trip – did my father allow me to have ‘some wine with my dinner’. My ‘first woman’ I enjoyed when I had become nineteen.

Now, in my 70th year of life, even attacked by all sorts of unpleasant ailments, I am still allowed to be a God ‘in the deepest of my thoughts’, as a Dutch bard has it, and even next to as well as inside my Goddess. How long it took me to realize, that the unattractive man I considered myself was in fact, at least for some women, good-looking. Certainly not before my 30th did I see the light.

How well I remember the wonderful poem by John Donne in which he encourages his maîtresse to give him everything, to give herself entirely – though not all at once, not like so many things come, too fast and too quickly, lest later there would be nothing left to give nor to receive.

The one who grows slowly into his life, will learn to intensify what he receives and to perceive its nuances. These were the existential mottos that I held up to my students. The sacrosanct Higher is always and everywhere nothing more than the Higher-of-the-Lower. But also: To become civilized is to complicate the given senses – smell, taste, sight, hearing. And not to forget: one’s skin.

Surely Márquez must have read De Laclos. How else could he have written in his Of Love and other Demons these everlasting words on Cayetano Delaura, a man of the cloth, thirty six years old! Almost without touching, his fingertips wandered over her body, and for the first time in his life he experienced the miracle of sensing himself by way of someone else’s body. 

Différence et répétition – the title of Deleuze’s masterpiece. It seems to be the motto for the art of living. Whoever ages prematurely and thus becomes blasé, will never reach such refinement. To achieve it, a long apprenticeship is needed. The existential art is the art of slowness. No hasty plunge into the pond of the horny and the beautiful, this De Laclos seems to have realized.

Sierksma – La Roche 9.8/2015


Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats. The reader, interested in my writings on aesthetics, literature, and sociology, may want to open, where various pieces are published.

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