But a funny thing happened. As I started to read my paper, I lost my voice. Literally, for a moment. I found it, but it started to fade again. At first I thought I had stage fright. But I had none of the anxiety I normally associate with that. Then I thought it was the powerful allergies I was suffering there. I apologized.
I looked out at the audience of mainly young undergraduates and -- how can I put this? -- I saw relative innocence batting its eyelashes at me, open-faced. For the next 20 minutes, every word I uttered seemed like an affront to the truth that looked me in the face and it was all I could do to keep myself from going involuntarily mute.
I was in the grip, the horrible grip, of enantiodromia. The word, first used by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, derives from "enatio" (counter) and "dromia" (running). The idea is that when you start running in one direction, a counter-movement sets in. It was Heraclitus' way of expressing the fundamentally oppositional nature of existence.
As James Hillman argues, enantiodromia became the foundation of Carl Jung's psychology, particularly his theory of compensation, which had as much importance to him as wish-fulfillment did to Freud.
Enantiodromia works this way: The more committed you are to your position, the more the opposite will begin to nudge you as a compensation. Perhaps you are a family values advocate. You write screeds for your church newsletter and donate money and time to the religious right. You're a pillar of righteousness. Boom! You find yourself suddenly consorting with whores and one day you're photographed on your way into Madam Mammary's Maison de Massage and Bible Study. A scandal erupts.
People will call you a hypocrite, of course. A more accurate description is that you've previously been unconscious, for Jung and Heraclitus did not suggest that this process lacks intention. The function of enantiodromia is to make you conscious. So, if you are wise, you will stop and wonder how to accommodate both the weird drives of your libido and your desire to do the right thing by your family and community. You may become more temperate, or maybe not. You are psychically restructured. You become "a stranger to yourself."
It doesn't matter which side of the coin is conscious. "The way up and the way down are one and the same," wrote Heraclitus. So, in Asheville, I began on the dark side of the coin. I pride myself, as many liberals do, on my libertine values. But the moment I became polemically attached to the idea that people are merely accidents as agents of sexual deployment, my heart was undermined by the personal face of youth. I had to stop and really consider how something that feels so true, the impersonality of desire, can also feel so untrue before youth, which bears the face of love before journeying very deep into desire, Freud's infant sexuality be damned.
Now, one can get too literal about this. The typical analyst, for example, decides that there must be a kind of conscious process of working through the opposites. We must use this fact of life called enantiodromia.
Thus the heroic ego becomes enlisted to conquer the oppositionality. The hero, of course, is famous for throwing himself into the chaos of the opposites. He leaves the calm of home for war. He blows the whistle in his corporate job. He leaps from his own car to rescue a dog that's been hit by a runaway car. He takes the unpopular position -- seeking justice, the balance of the opposites. He is always a stranger to himself.
But Hillman notes the conscious seeking of balance by the heroic ego is ill-conceived in psychic process. For one thing, the moment you require balance, you are by the very definition of the process of enantiodromia inviting chaos. No. You must instead simply remain completely present to what is before you. You don't seek an opposite. It is already present in what has been revealed. It comes to you. You sink into it.
So, in my own case, I realized that it wasn't so much that love was taunting me with its more innocent face, but that an occluded part of me was being reflected. The opposite was already present in my own argument. Desire is both impersonal and personal. The effect of this simple apprehension, so visceral that it took my voice, was to remind me that nothing matters more than love, no matter how it comes to you -- strange and anonymous, innocent and vulnerable, holy or profane. My heart flew open for a weekend.