And so it is, of course, that the smart thing to do is to hang out by the heart, loiter just below the inferior vena cava, hold on to each other in a tight chain so as to resist getting pushed out into the cold harsh world. There are some ants that hold on like this for ages, for all time, burrowed into little nooks, even—hiding out in my heart where they know there is always a home, safe, pounding and ever so warm.
The positioning of desire is a result of social power. But the content of desire does not contain—the way a mirror contains—social power, in image or reality. (What it contains, if anything other than itself, is that tiny part of the freedom of language associated with abjection.) Indeed, it is the positioning of desire that always draws us to “The Unspeakable” in the first place.
Here was an artist who depicted fruit in its ripeness and at the moment it had begun to rot, an artist who painted flesh at its most delicately seductive and most grievously injured. When he showed suffering, he showed it so startlingly well because he was on both sides of it: He meted it out to others and received it in his own body. Caravaggio is long dead, as are his victims. What remains is the work, and I don’t have to love him to know that I need to know what he knows, the knowledge that hums, centuries later, on the surface of his paintings, knowledge of all the pain, loneliness, beauty, fear and awful vulnerability our bodies have in common.