More Modeling and the “motte and bailey” of Four-Letter Words (sfw – mostly)

Izzat love what I feel when you’re in my arms
Make me die before I’d do you harm
When you’re lost I will lead you home
If you’re cold, you know I’ll keep you warm

Am I wrong?

Or izzat love when I dream there is no one else
In the end, who’s your friend? Just myself
Izzat love to forget my pride
To conceal how it feels deep inside

Am I wrong?
Or izzat love?
Izzat love? Izzat love? Izzat love?
Izzat love?
Izzat love? Izzat love? Izzat love?

Izzat love to forgive all those things you’ve done
If you go still you know I’m the one
Only love, love alone can survive
Deep inside I believe it’s alive

Am I wrong?
Am I wrong?
Am I wrong?

Or izzat love?
Izzat love? Izzat love? Izzat love?
Izzat love?
Izzat love? Izzat love? Izzat love?
Izzat love?
Izzat love? Izzat love? Izzat love?

– Todd Rungren, “Izzat Love?

Once I get the bit into my teeth about something, especially something emotionally laden, I often have a hard time giving it up. And the theorizing I’ve been doing about my little emotional model is a prime example.

I’ve thought and thought about this, and kicked it around with a couple of friends. Now I’m up to 5 dimensions. I’m going to enumerate and define them here, and repeat some of my previous examples.

  • The ‘physical’ dimension is actually two different ones – Carnality is part of it. It’s just pure lust, pure sex drive.
  • The other physical dimension I’ve figured out is Sensuality. Think anything that stimulates the senses without a sexual component:
      Cooking and consuming a fine meal – all the intricacy of selecting and preparing the ingredients, and then the myriad sensations of taste and texture and temperature.
      Riding roller coasters.
      Taking a mindful walk in the woods in the spring or summer, with the riot of sensation of color, smell, breeze on your skin, sun on your face, and the texture of moist, rich soil between your fingers. (Or in the winter – cold, wind, greyness, snow – all sensual impressions.)
      Massage. (Yes, any kind of touch can quickly escalate from mere Sensuality into Carnality. But it doesn’t have to.)
  • Deliberateness – prioritizing ‘the relationship’ – putting the time and emotional energy into maintaining and extending it.
  • Intimacy – both the ‘shared details of life experience’ and the understanding of how one’s partner’s story has an emotional impact on them.
  • and finally, Bleshing – the one that (I think) many people don’t manage to make explicit. This is the desire and intention to ‘live your life in formation with someone’, to ‘build this thing together‘. This is the drive that takes couples from just ‘going steady’/’being exclusive’ with each other, to ‘being engaged’, to ‘getting married’, to ‘Living Happily Ever After’.
    It’s the often assumed ‘goal’ of a “romantic” relationship, where “romantic” decodes to enough Carnality, Deliberateness, and Intimacy.

Now, rightfully, most people in most “romantic” relationships grow all of these dimensions more-or-less simultaneously. And they do so for non-romantic relationships also, probably without any Carnality. But it’s possible to describe actual interpersonal relationships that have various non-obvious mixes of these dimensions. I already mentioned the Deliberate and Intimate (at least one-way) relationship between a person and their counselor or pastor. To give a pathological example of splitting the two physical dimensions, whatever happens at a ‘glory hole‘ is clearly Carnal, but very little else – to my mind, not even particularly Sensual. Contrarily, I am Sensual and Deliberate in the way I interact with my fellow doshi in my aikido dojo – and this is exactly how it must be. Consider, too, the idea of ‘friends with benefits’, which is Carnal, possibly Sensual, Deliberate, some degree of Intimate – and not the least bit Bleshed. By contrast, I have known a couple (a gay man and a straight woman) who were very Intimate, very Deliberate (decades-long interaction), and Bleshed – but not Carnal and only moderately Sensual. In a lot of ways I would call them ‘soulmates’, even though there’s was not a romantic or familial relationship.

I want to shift courses here a little and talk about some ways that people muddle up their language (and even possibly their thinking) when describing emotional relationships. Sometimes I think it’s because the ideas we want to discuss are so fraught with emotional weight that they become ‘taboo’ – forbidden. (And linguists and cultural anthropologists can lecture endlessly on why a thing or a word becomes taboo, and how the ‘taboo word’ itself can get taboo’ed and be further euphemized.)

One very obvious example of this is that particular four-letter word which is one of the most vulgar and taboo ones in English – that one of Germanic or Dutch origin that we use for the most intimate, loving carnality we could possibly share with one another. Admittedly, part of the problem here is that word, especially used as an interjection (followed by “… you!”), is a verbal assault, used to describe or imply the physical assault of violent, non-consensual sex – rape. Human beings have a mental wiring error – the drive for sex is too closely paralleled in many by a drive for power/domination. So sex gets used as a weapon, in the same way that fists or sheer weight and size gets used.

And yet…. And yet…. I have been in ‘the heat of the moment’, and I or my partner has said “F*** Me!” to the other with absolutely no desire to hurt or be hurt, but rather in the deepest spontaneous expression of Intimacy and Carnality and affection.

So which is it? Does “f***” mean Assault or Cherish? The Author shrugs. Both, in different contexts. But you had better be damned sure which you have in mind before you use that word with or towards someone.


I need to add another term of art here (invented, but not by me) – motte and bailey. If you didn’t bother to check that link out, think of a medieval castle surrounded by the keep’s fields, and finally the wall marking the boundary of this knight’s or lord’s domain. The kernel, the heart of the space is the motte – the fortified castle. The rest of it is the bailey. You defend the whole bailey if you can, but if it gets too bad, you retreat to the motte and make your stand there. But the motte isn’t a pleasant place to live for long, so when you can, you move back out into the bailey.

Now, in the rhetorical realm, what this means is using a word of some ambiguity in a conversation, and implying (or your listeners assuming) the widest range of meaning it has. When your correspondent objects to the breadth of your description, you rhetorically retreat back to the ‘motte’, the least-contentious meaning, and claim (honestly or not) that this subset was all you were really talking about.

I’m going to ‘assume good faith’ here as I discuss this next four-letter word. I really don’t think most people are trying to be deceitful in their conversations and thinking. It’s just a really, really, really hard idea to define precisely.

Of course, I’m talking about that word love. Philosophers and poets and psychologists and mixed-up, horny 16-year-olds have tried to figure out what this means, and have all failed. Yet, there’s a pretty good ‘folk understanding’ of what we mean by this; it’s only in trying to distill it down to something you can put into a dictionary that we get confused.

Robert Heinlein once gave this definition of love:

“… What is love, Ben?”

“What? Oh, come off it! Everybody from Shakespeare to Freud has taken a swing at that; nobody has answered it yet. All I know is, it hurts.”

Jubal shook his head. “I’ll give an exact definition. ‘Love’ is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.

Ben said slowly, “I’ll buy that … because that’s the way I feel about Jill.”

“Good. Then you are asserting that your stomach turned and you fled in panic because of a need to make Jill happy.”

“Hey, wait a minute! I didn’t say –“

“Or was it some other emotion?”

“I simply said –” Caxton stopped. “Okay, I was jealous! But, Jubal, I would have sworn I wasn’t. I knew I had lost out, I had accepted it long ago — hell, I didn’t like Mike the less for it. Jealousy gets you nowhere.”

“Nowhere one would wish, certainly. Jealousy is a disease, love is a healthy condition. The immature mind often mistakes one for the other, or assumes that the greater the love, the greater the jealousy — in fact, they’re almost incompatible; one emotion hardly leaves room for the other. Both at once can produce unbearable turmoil — and I grok that was your trouble, Ben.”

from “Stranger in a Strange Land”

Well, yes, that’s a precise, neat definition – the motte. But it has all the juice pressed out of it – the huge rush of emotion one feels for ones’ beloveds sure seems like more than just ‘needing someone else to be happy to make me happy’.

And another classic quote pops into my head – Aunty Em in The Wizard of Oz, talking about Miss Gulch (the Kansasian shadow of the Wicked Witch of the West) – “It’s my Christian duty to love the woman, but I don’t have to like her!” Literally, Christian doctrine says one must love everybody – which could be taken to mean that one must consider the happiness of everyone else around them to be essential to their own. But, except in the most abstract, ‘charity’-minded way, that’s an impossible emotional state for a person to be in.

More meaningfully, for what I’ve been grumbling about in this blog post series, we can imagine some part of that 5-dimensional space of possible relationships to have some boundary we could draw, where “in love” is on one side and not the other.

But where?!? Were my two friends I talked about above ‘in love’? Was I ‘in love’ with Eve? Were my wife and I really ‘in love’ – or were we just coasting on the spent remnants of our initial passion and (not at all well thought out) Bleshing?

And as I go forward, meet people, and try to ‘fall in love’ with them (and they with me, ofc) – how will we know when to use that word?? All I can say right now is the same conclusion I came to in “‘Foolish Hearts’ and Good Falls” – learn to roll emotionally (damned near as hard to do as a good aikido roll), and just Discuss The Hell out of what each of us is feeling and why (as far as we can discern these things about ourselves) – and keep working towards an explicit mutual understanding of Where We Are In Emotional Space.

I’m thinking this is going to be the last of the posts in the “life weirdness” category for a while. It’s not that I’m not still thinking about these things — I am. Sometimes almost continuously, at least with part of my mind as I do other, less mind filling, stuff.

But I’m to the point of trying to actualize quite a bit of this now. With some success. 😀 Aaannd A Gentleman never “kisses and tells” – and I’ve told a lot already – perhaps a bit too much. The rest of it is between me and whomever……. ;-}

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