Monday, July 16, 2007

Rivalry Unveiled -- Alma-Tadema

Unconscious Rivals (1893) - Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

René Girard writes, "Jealous and envy imply a third presence: object, subject, and a third person toward whom the jealousy or envy is directed. These two 'vices' are therefore triangular; however, we never recognize a model in the person who arouses jealousy because we always take a jealous person's attitude toward the problem of jealousy. Like all victims of internal mediation, the jealous person easily convinces himself that his desire is spontaneous, in other words, that it is deeply rooted in the object and the object alone. As a result he always maintains that his desire preceded the intervention of the mediator. He would have us see him as an intruder, a bore, a terzo incomodo who interrupts a delightful tête-à-tête. Jealousy is thus reduced to the irritation we all experience when one of our desires is accidentally thwarted. But true jealousy is infinitely more profound and complex; it always contains an element of fascination with the insolent rival ..." (My emphases)

This is why truest and dearest friends share nearly every thing in common; they "catch" desire from one another. Favorite sports teams, favorite fashions, favorite political leanings. However, as Alma-Tadema shows in the painting above, best friends can share nearly everything in common ... except someone they both desire. One can only imagine who it was who just passed under their admiring eyes!

Ultimately, and sadly, according to Robert Hamerton-Kelly, “(The rivalrous, resentful mind) is a mind enslaved. It desires not only to possess the other, but to consume or destroy. It wishes not only to imitate the other, nor merely to possess itself in the other, but to destroy the other as the place where the self is alien to the self.”

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