Written By Malin Jörnvi
Integrity and Love
Published: February 2, 2017
Revisiting places and memories and what I wrote in an essay about integrity freshman year:
Stemming from Latin’s integritās, integrity also means integer (the arithmetical term for a whole entity, a complete number such as 0, 1, 2). And in being a characteristic of individual completeness, a mathematical perfection of the singular self, integrity seems to be the ideal quality of an independent, sound human being. But is it really?
“Growing up, I assumed I was the word that rhymed with none other – like ‘silver’ or ‘orange,’ glistering bright, but sonnet foiling, and always solitary traveling. Somewhere love happened, plausible as a catch of a distant conversation. But not in the self’s way” (75). In Covering, Kenji Yoshino writes about his relationship to Paul and how we all think we’re that exception, the person who’ll never meet somebody, who will die alone surrounded by a dozen cats – until the moment when we discover that we no longer play for the single’s team. When we find ourselves in somebody else’s arms: “No one has written adequately of what happens when enough of the body’s naked surface is pressed against another human being’s. It is a slow dismantling of the ego, a suspension of the instinct to distinguish me from not me” (75). In the most intimate and strongest moments of love, it’s impossible to imagine a world, sometimes to even breathe, without that other person. You’re no longer a complete individual, you’re part of a greater whole. And where’s the integrity in that?
Yes, falling in love may be a deviation from an unimpaired individual condition, but is it really the deviation? What is normal and what is queer? Reproduction is at the very core of life. And so, even though love might arrive with someone, as with Kenji and Paul, not enabling biological offspring, it’s in the purpose of life to pass experience on. To somebody else. Thus, the individual completeness of integrity is a protection covering the fact that we as social beings need others. It’s not so much a character trait of standing up for oneself as an act characterizing the individual who wants to pass for being independent in a world dependent on dependency.
Williamsburg Bridge and the East River, New York City