I don’t get you

The get in the title of Yo La Tengo’s “Sometimes I Don’t Get You” should be taken in its double sense, as understand and as possess. The two are really inseparable. Complete understanding is an attempt to possess, just as possession requires a high degree of understanding. Under the rule of capital, the axiom of interpersonal relationships demands that the flows between intimates represent the totality of possible flows. Nothing should escape and nothing should stay a mystery. If some bit of history or a feeling remains a secret, if it is not shared or revealed, that is an infidelity. It is in fact the definition of unfaithfulness. Secrets are always dirty little secrets. In the Yo La Tengo song, the feeling of not understanding the other is also the sense of losing possession of the other and the discovery of something new only induces crisis:


Sometimes I don’t know you, it’s like we never met
The way it seems to me is that you’re having regrets
Am I clinging to something that’s past?
That was never intended to last?

Of course, possession and understanding might go under different names, namely, capture and knowledge, or surveillance. And it is D.H. Lawrence who helped to create the concept that can cut the dialectical knot that binds capture-surveillance: escape. In the so-called occult stories collected in The Woman Who Rode Away — which, far from being mystical, are actually some of his most “material” moments — the characters continually run into the limits of understanding/surveillance: attempts to know and fix the object of desire leads not to its possession but to its disappearance. As the main character of “The Border Line” finds out:

Only in her own woman’s soul could she silently ponder him, darkly, and know him present in her, without ever staring at him or trying to find him out. Once she tried to lay hands on him, to have him, to realize him, he would be gone for ever.

In Lawrence’s stories, the characters, in attempts to feed their desires, create entities — voices, dead souls, other communities — that don’t recognize the primacy of knowledge and that resist capture. These entities are not fantasies. They are avenues of escape.

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