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BARBICAN LIFE


Musings on Love


Buying art can cause you to lose a morning, demonstrates Sreela Banerjee – a sonnet hangs on the wall on her way to the kitchen and provokes many musings : she contends that there are two kinds of love, and that Adam Smith defined one, which is complemented perfectly by the other of which the Bard speaks. But how can a craving for banana nut muffins be replaced by staring at sedimentary rocks in the sunlight? And why in this day and age of mobile phones and instant connectivity is ‘disconnection’ a topic of social research ?


‘For thy sweet love remembered.’ I read the words, in pencil, at the bottom of an etching on my wall, near my kitchen. On the other side was a signature: P Freeth. Above these were fourteen lines by Shakespeare, on love.


T


here are, in my book, two kinds of love – romantic love is the aim of every individual, the subject of songs, novels and much of our cultural life besides. I switched on the hot water, and took out the washing, musing about how many of us have both kinds. We are all ‘allowed to want’ romantic love of course. I picked up the paper, and noticed that unemployment was down to 2.65 million, in May 2012: I wonder why it is not reported as the isolation of that many individuals. If you line them up one next to the other, you would comfortably fill every bit of the Barbican High-walk, and they would spill on to Silk Street, the car parks. . . and on to the tube stations at either end of our estate. They are all, I suspect, short of the other kind of love.


This is a more diffuse thing, an unspoken need, and therefore more difficult to define, but no less important – it is the ‘love’ we seek from the world at large. It is hard to quantify it – call it connection, or peer approbation: the lack of it expresses itself as a vague anxiety – I saw it first when the first of my friends became redundant, and I noticed a slightly extended pause


Sreela Banerjee


after the story of someone else’s career success…. The signs of this anxiety are subtle – they look like disappointment, even envy… and when we don’t have this love from the world at large, we are oh so careful not to show ourselves as someone whose impoverished spirit prevents him from being happy at someone else’s success. But is it really that? Is it not reasonable to feel a sense of loss, because you are fearful of suddenly becoming ‘invisible’ to people? I believe it is a more subtle thing than envy – we find ourselves lacking in relevance when we are removed from our workplace ‘now I have become less important and somehow ‘less loved’. I am not ‘good enough’ or up- to-date enough. Shakespeare said it succinctly in this sonnet on the way to my kitchen – we are in an ‘outcast state’.


Then I was made redundant myself, more than twenty years ago now, and I understood it


better….though the redundancy was far from a surprise - an intended outcome of the process which I had led – I had wanted to leave, because my husband was ill. Redundancy felt like a loss of love nevertheless. This approbation, this restrained, disciplined ‘love’ had become without my conscious assent, some kind of measure of my worth. I found myself looking again at my yardsticks. What makes me worthy? Why did I suddenly feel that I didn’t matter any more? Is it intelligent to have so much of one’s own worth dependent on the approving gaze of others? Does everyone feel this? I went back to the sonnet. ‘When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes’ is the first line. Being in disgrace with fortune –


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