“Women have been replaced with spell-check and porn,” says Rudy. “But there isn’t a computer program in the world that will fix your car for you.”
Rudy’s voice comes through a little muffled because he is deep into the dashboard of my elderly Toyota, where he is fiddling with the radio that hasn’t worked in a long time. Rudy and Kristine were my neighbors years ago. I love them because they are solidly pro-dog and generous with their hospitality and wine. That and Rudy occasionally shows up to fix things. My payment for this kindness is that I listen to unsolicited opinions on the relative uselessness of women. Still, I like Rudy a lot. Generally, I introduce him as, “This is my friend Rudy with an emphasis on the Rude.” He has a mouth like a garbage pail, but his heart is as big as the great outdoors.
Rudy reappears from the guts of my Toyota. “Okay, this is a long shot. Do you . . . by any wild chance . . . have a phillips-head screwdriver? It’s the one that looks—”
“I know what it looks like. And yes, I have one.” I hand him the screw driver. Nicely. I reflect that I am grateful at least for the nod to spell-check. Also Rudy usually repairs Black Hawk helicopters, so my little Camry is lucky to receive such expertise. I am tempted to remind Rudy that just two days earlier I had cast his astrological chart for him and walked him through his moon in Taurus and Libra ascending. He was briefly fascinated by this study before turning his attention to the more absorbing problem of my Toyota. Nor do I point out that he would curl up and blow away like an Autumn leaf were it not for the emotional sustenance he accepts from the women in his life. That might be ungracious given that he is fixing my car for me, and he is also going to get my water heater working again. The pilot light somehow extinguished itself in the extreme cold snap. Rudy had explained how that happened and the explanation went out of my head because I don’t care. It’s non-essential information. I just want it fixed, so I can have hot water.
I am mindful that these are tasks I could accomplish on my own. I can read directions and spell things correctly too. I just don’t want to fix these things. I want someone else to do it. I don’t cut my own hair, and I don’t mow my own lawn. I am perfectly competent to change the flat tire on my own car, I just don’t want to. Not when I know I can call Geoff, and he will drive across town to change the tire for me, and make only a couple of snarky jokes about helpless baby girls in the process. I know how to take care of it myself. I just don’t see any reason I should, when I can get a helpful man to do it for me. Look, this is not my first rodeo. I’ve been at this game a long time, and I have nothing left to prove by changing my own damn flat tire.
Besides I don’t have time or mental space for such problems. I am blogging, editing manuscripts, and reading Plato . . . If Rudy were not buried head-first in my car right now, I might share some of the Symposium with him, since the “Dialogues on Love” suggest possibilities between men and women that he might not have considered before. For example, in the first chapter Phaedrus describes Eros as the oldest god, who created the cosmos. In this tale, Eros is the binding force that makes order out of chaos. It was Eros who separated the land from the seas and cast the stars into the sky. Every meaningful shape owes its existence to Eros. This binding force acts continuously in the universe, keeping everything together that needs to stay together. The molecules that make up this desk where I am now sitting, stick to each other in solid form due to this initiating and holding force that came into the universe as the power of Love.
According to Plato, at least.
Bringing that idea into the local sphere, there is a suggestion that Eros, who makes order from chaos in the universe, rendering a coherent cosmos from nothingness, may also create order from the chaos within a person. The power of love—or the power to love—renders coherent what would otherwise be the scattered and meaningless inner life of an individual person. I like this idea. Certainly nothing constructive was ever accomplished out of meanness, distaste, selfishness or self-absorption. Narcissus fell into the pool and drowned because he was enamored of himself, his own reflection. Only when that love impulse moves out from the self, does the scattered self become . . . orderly. Only then does the inner life organize itself around some meaning. And the outer life takes shape and movement, informed by that meaning and that love.
I want to tell Rudy: A man just needs a problem to fix to be happy. And women have provided this material for men to arrange themselves in an orderly fashion, for as long as . . . well . . . for as long as it takes. He’s not listening.
Later I consulted Emily. She tossed out this poem:
“Why do I love” You, Sir?
The Wind does not require the Grass
To answer — Wherefore when He pass
She cannot keep Her place.
Because He knows — and
Do not You —
And We know not —
Enough for Us
The Wisdom it be so —
The Lightning — never asked an Eye
Wherefore it shut — when He was by —
Because He knows it cannot speak —
And reasons not contained —
— Of Talk —
There be — preferred by Daintier Folk —
The Sunrise — Sir — compelleth Me —
Because He’s Sunrise — and I see —
Therefore — Then —
I love Thee —
Emily’s question contained within the quotation marks is “Why do I love”. The “You, Sir” lies outside the poem’s quotation marks. So the rest of the poem answers why does the poet love at all, anyone or anything. Not why does the poet love this particular “You, Sir”. That person is the listener to the poem, not the object of the inquiry.
Her answer is that she loves because she can. Simply because she has the power to love. Her capacity to love functions in the same way as her capacity to see. Her eyes open, and her vision falls upon the thing before her. Her sight works regardless of the thing it sees. Her heart opens to the world and casts her love out there. The willingness of her love’s object to accept or understand or reciprocate the love doesn’t augment or diminish Emily’s ability to love. Silly question, she implies. Maybe that’s why she put it in quotation marks. It’s not her question. She is repeating a question that this “You, Sir” has put to her. He’s the one looking for answers and justifications. Men always have to have things explained to them.
Rudy pulls his head out of my Toyota. His face is determined and not a bit weary. What a good soldier. He packs up the screwdrivers and asks, “Okay, where do you keep your water heater?”
Order out of chaos. The cold snap has passed. My pipes are free of ice. The return of hot water signifies the return of all that is decent and good. Tonight I will enjoy a bubble bath and a glass of wine.
One response to “Love and Toyotas”
One of my father’s mantras these days goes like this: “The world is in chaos.” He has compelling reasons to think so. His vision is blurry, yet he insists on reading two newspapers every morning; there is no shortage of chaos in the newspapers. My dad’s mind is blurry, too, but he continues to read books with titles like “The Age of the Unthinkable” and scratch cryptic notes on a pad of paper.
“You might be right about the world, Dad, but I don’t think so.” I could argue with him, but I’ve never won an argument with him.
Yesterday, he showed me a checklist in a report called “Mind, Mood and Memory” he received from some esteemed health organization. Under the heading “Dementia,” he read aloud each symptom.
“Trouble concentrating. Yes. Problems with organization. Yes. Increased confusion. Yes.” And so on, down the list.
His bright blue eyes were perplexed, searing. “What am I going to do?”
I scrambled for an answer, came up with something unsatisfactory, something he probably didn’t register. How do I explain my father’s chaos?
Tonight, I read your blog about Plato and Eros, order and disorder. Tonight, I will drink my glass of wine and ponder the possibilities.