The disaster is, however, that mankind can never accept the whole of the dream of passion, which is the dream that underlies and quickens all our life (136). –D.H. Lawrence, John Thomas and Lady Jane
If man could once be reasonable enough to know that he is not a creature of reason, but only a reasoning creature, he might avoid making himself more prisons (136).
I grabbed a book off of a friend’s bookshelf the other morning when I realized (with a twinge of horror) that I would most assuredly finish the book I had with me well before my morning commute was finished. By the dimmed early light I hastily perused the choices, my eye stumbled upon my dear Lawrence. I hadn’t read John Thomas and Lady Jane, hadn’t even heard of it, so with a reader’s thrill I put it in my bag.
She was aware of a strange woman wakened up inside her herself, a woman at once fierce and tender, at the same time soft and boundless and infinitely submissive, like a dim sea under the moon, and yet full of fierce, remorseless energy (134).
What I did not know was that Lawrence wrote and published three versions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and John Thomas and Lady Jane is the second one (the first is aptly titled The First Lady Chatterley). It is fascinating to reread any book, but to read a different version with all the changes, some obvious, some subtle, or likely imperceptible to me as I read Lady Chatterley’s Lover a few years back, is in many ways more so. In my memory (and I did write a post about Lady Chatterley’s Lover, but I have not yet gone back and read what I wrote at the time) I recall that the emphasis in Lady Chatterley’s Lover was really on Lawrence’s philosophy regarding the potency of a sexual relationship and the effect a true sexual loving connection can have on individuals and thereby on humanity as a whole. It is stunning in its bravery of the subject matter, and its refusal to keep within the bounds of “polite society.” And certainly that theme is present in this version as well.
But the damaged human being in him dreaded more than ever exposing itself to the false thing, the false sexuality, which is of rasping egoism, and the false social virtue, which is utter humiliation (94).
It’s the same book in a different octave. There is a little less discussion, or less detail of the sexual experience per se, and more on social dynamics, politics, and society at large. The book calls for a renunciation of the entire order of the world. Lawrence shows the disgust that a thinking feeling person can hardly suppress in themselves towards the schemes of social and political hierarchies which do nothing to promote life. For societies to promote the potential of meaningful life, inherent in us all, seems to me, when looked at starkly, a reasonable expectation.
‘It’s because we are really all proletarian,’ he said. ‘A German once made that plain to me. The proletariat is a state of mind, it’s not really a class at all. You’re proletarian when you are cold like a crab, greedy like a crab, lustful with the ricketty egoism of a crab, and shambling like a crab […] The proletarian haves against the proletarian have-nots will destroy the human world entirely” (293).
Lawrence thought long and hard about a basic question – what ails the world? His conclusion seemed to be that it was the lack of connection, and the physical realm, in which we all exist, was an excellent starting, middle and end point to understand how we can really touch one another’s souls. But there is existing and then there is thriving.
It is the same disease in the mass as in the individual. The people who count as normal are perhaps even more diseased than those who are neurotic. The neurotic at least show that something is wrong. But the normal consider the very disease part of their normality. They carry on the hideous insanity of acquisitiveness in masses, or in solitary enterprise, with a firm conviction that it is the right thing to do (106).
Thrive then! For Lawrence it isn’t even a choice for most – the passionate will thrive or die, at the very least internally. And it does sometimes seem as though the world is made up of zombies, the walking dead. The ‘right thing to do,’ by which society and governments usually mean- to stay in line, but get ahead, only serves to pull us apart. We become fugitives when we deviate. We are shamed for speaking out, shamed for feeling pleasure, shamed for exhibiting feelings, for crying, for open joy, and under some circumstances shamed for loving, or loving too much. Shame is truly a weapon of mass destruction.
He often felt he’d been a fool, but he never felt he had been wrong. The word ‘sin’ had no meaning for him (123).
This is the very point for Lawrence – we must disarm, even it it is unilaterally.
* title from pg. 93: “She was so tired, so tired! Fugitives from the social world: that’s what it was.”