Let’s talk about love. Because why not, right?
Late night chat sessions always make me introspective. Don’t know why… But last night, talking art and life with a friend, I thought up this allegory that’s still messing with my brain today. It was about two people so totally in love nothing could keep them apart. But they were so totally different, they were doomed to hurt each other over and over again: one too cerebral to be emotionally affectionate, the other too emotional to see reason and logic. So, for the sake of their partner, independently of each other, they went out to change themselves, to get rid of the things that were keeping them apart. The one excised her brain, the other his heart. Both died as a willing sacrifice to love.
So, in the interest of assuaging my inner deepthinker, I’m gonna break down this thing called L O V E.
Are you ready?
Part I: The Good With The Bad
If there was a graph of how people viewed love, it’d be a triangle (how fitting?) with those butterfly-and-unicorn sappy romantic at one point, disillusioned love-haters at the second, and agnostic rationalists at the third. I’m somewhere in the middle of that triangle (though I balance on a needlepoint and lean this way and that occasionally). It’s all about (relative) balance for me. Nothing in this world is all good or all bad, so why should love be any different? Where is it written that once you find true love everything magically works itself out? Nowhere, actually. Even romances always end right at the point where the immediate threats and difficulties are worked out, and the couple finally gets together. The “happily ever after” is left to the imagination, because muddying the waters with marital problems, arguments over money, the kids, even whose turn it is to take out the trash, spoil the fairy tale we have built up for ourselves. The last thing you want to do is wake up from a beautiful dream, am I right?
Part II: Fate vs. Free Will
Question: Do you believe in soulmates?
Short Answer: Yes and no.
Long Answer: As far as religion is concerned, I don’t fit into any particular pigeon hole. My beliefs are all over the place, and seem to feed into my stories, and vice versa. I do believe such a thing as soulmates exist, but in my mind, they’re a complicated phenomenon. I believe in something best described as companion souls, who reincarnate with you throughout history as friends, family, allies, even enemies. Some people are just fated to walk through the universe side by side; and some are doomed to fight each other along that same path through eternity. Sometimes one side wins, sometimes they lose. The cycle repeats. I also believe in the romantic concept of a soulmate, the other half of someone, and the one soul they are destined to be with. With the caveat that such a soul is damned difficult to find… I mean, one soul among billions?
So, while (for me) they do exist, the odds of actually meeting them in any particular lifetime are astronomically against. You are much more likely to meet one of your companion best friends and have a fulfilling romantic relationship with them than anything else. Those are the easy relationships where no matter what you encounter, you overcome the bad by working together. You are each others’ support and anchor, and you’re just…compatible. A true soulmate romance is something all together different for me. Because it’s so unlikely, and because the two souls have probably had lifetimes on their own, it’s like two massive freight trains colliding at full speed. It’s a battle; it’s intense, harsh, and often times painful, because, like the allegory at the beginning of my post, it necessitates compromise to an extreme degree. And as such, it is never easy, but at the same time, it’s the most amazing thing to go through. The good with the bad.
Part III: The Pain of Compromise
Quite a few years back, I read a different take on the saying “Love conquers all.” (Please don’t ask me where, because for the life of me I can’t remember.) Basically, it twisted the meaning from “love overcomes all obstacles and prevails against all odds” to “no one is safe from love–everyone succumbs to it eventually.” In a way, it changed the concept of love from a peaceful, pacifist emotion into something raw, elemental, and violent. Instead of a creative force, it became a force of destruction, dismantling its prey into submission.
Does that make you feel uncomfortable?
To me it makes a sort of morbid sense. Love is making room in your life for someone else, and holding their needs as precious as your own. As children, we are malleable; we’re open to the world, constantly redrawing the borders of ourselves to expand and encompass more of who and what we perceive. But at some point, we reach a boundary that marks the farthest we are comfortable going, and that’s where we begin to build walls. Sometimes, those walls are so strong, it takes a nuclear blast to get through them. Sometimes, the assault makes those walls shrink closer and closer around us until we shut ourselves off from (almost) everyone.
If to love means to open up to someone, then an act of destruction is required to punch a hole through the wall. How can that not hurt on some level? It’s a terrifying concept to think about: in order to be loved, you have to destroy and restructure a part of yourself to accommodate your partner. How do you know how far you have to go? How do you know your partner will do the same? How do you know that once they get inside, they’ll want to stay? What if they leave, and you end up with a huge, bleeding hole in your defense? Do you even have a choice?
Part IV: A Social Construct(?)
Monogamous romantic love is by no means a universal concept. Cultures all over the world play by different rules. They shift the focus onto partnerships, cooperation, social responsibility. In that sense, you could say that romantic love, as sung about throughout history, is nothing more than a social construct. Maybe it was invented to make lifelong marriage a more palatable concept. Maybe it was the most acceptable way for members of an individualistic, consumerist culture to “own” someone. Or maybe it’s the most comfortable balancing point. As a species, humans are social; we live in groups, work together, rely on each other, but at some point, the group becomes so large, individual members get forgotten for the good of the whole. Maybe having one partner, one smaller family unit, is our way of ensuring that we always have that social connection we crave without overwhelming the “system.” If any of that is true, then this emotion we call love is not real at all. It’s just a socially-evolved and indoctrinated chemical glitch, and there is no such thing as love or romance.
Or maybe there’s no such thing as an individual… We could each just be one teeny tiny, wholly irrelevant part of the massive creature that is the human species.
Food for thought. 😉
Until next time!