Meditations: Falling in Love - Whatever That Is
Falling in Love - Whatever That Is
As the worldwide marketing blitz for Valentine's Day kicks into high gear, I propose taking a look at the universal, if typically temporary and tempestuous condition termed "falling in love."
I realize I'm breaking the first rule of the game... I'm talking about it. The name of the game is love, or rather romantic love, since they are two different animals altogether. Even so, eschewing analysis, here's some questions to chew on.
is romantic love? Is it:
a) a hard-wired emotional pre-program driven by sexual instincts serving the biological imperative for perpetuating the species;
b) nature's dysfunctional appropriation of human alienation, replicating the ego through babies;
c) a relic of the Middle Ages generally adored by women and abhorred by men; or
d) all or none of the above?
I once heard a well-known and highly respected religious teacher, talking to an audience of young people flush with hormones a-raging, dismiss the question by saying, "Šbeing in love, whatever that is."
But romantic love is too old, universal, and powerful an emotional predisposition to dismiss, and since most people experience it, illumination is no short cut to transcending it. The problem is that being in love is a driving force, when it works only when it's the icing on the cake. (And I'm not just talking about men's need to seed, or women's Meg the egg syndrome, AKA the "Sleepless in Seattle" sappiness).
Gazing out upon one of the busiest corners in town from the café where I sit sipping my Earl Grey as I pen these words, I see a jeweler's shop with a red, heart-shaped balloon and a sign reminding men of theirŠbeloved's fondest desire. The windows of another storefront are completely covered in small dark hearts forming the shape of two large hearts in the open glass.
Down the street, flower shops are gearing up for their biggest day of the year, a day when a year's worth of feminine expectation and masculine negligence converge, producing far more personal train wrecks than expressions of true love. (The reflexive, derisive laugh at the very phrase "true love" says everything about the state of the sexes in 2004.)
The net effect of all this Valentine nonsense is a set up for all parties that don't belong to the recently ga-ga in love, or to the 1% lifetime-in-love club, or to the merchant class ringing up sales. As with so many other holidays that once held some semblance of meaning but now are hollow imitations of themselves, the marketing machine goes on perfecting and perpetuating disembodied myths for global consumption with astounding effectiveness.
But alas, if being in love is the icing on rare, bygone wedding cakes, what are the ingredients of the cake, if men and women are to match at all? Friendship obviously, that all too often cited and all too rarely practiced dynamic consisting of equal parts caring, honesty, trust, and self-less concern for the other's well being.
Therein lies the rub. Friendship, as so defined, is based on character, and character, at least in the West, is an increasingly rare commodity these days. It's all about meeee. But even subtracting the post-modern worship of the ego, there is an inherent tension, and perhaps contradiction, between the selfishness of being in love, and the selflessness of genuine friendship.
Being incomplete, I seek "my other half," and thereby lose all anchor. But being complete, could one even fall in love?
Perhaps it boils down to which feeling one actually puts first... love, or being in love. They are as different as day and night, or rather, when confused, light and darkness.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.