Theories about Love

March 3, 2013 at 6:11 pm (Uncategorized)

There’s this story I like (and that I will not do justice) but it goes something like this: A senior monk and a young monk are going on a long journey, during which they have taken a vow of silence. They are a part of a strict order, and have many rules about what they can and cannot do. They are walking through the countryside and eventually come to a river crossing. A women is standing there, and she says that she needs help crossing the river. The older monk picks up the woman and puts her on his shoulders, and they cross the river. He puts her down and starts walking away, the other monk trailing behind. The young monk is furious because they are forbidden to have any contact with women at all. They continue walking for miles, with the young monk fuming. Eventually he stops the other monk and confronts him. “What were you thinking?! You know we are allowed no contact with women!” he shouts. The older monk replies: “I put her down on the other side of the river. How long have you been carrying her for?”

I like this story because it always makes me think about what I’m carrying around at any given time. Buddhism is about letting go–and philosophically it makes a lot of sense to me. You can’t live in the present if you’re constantly in the past (or the future). As much as I try to let go, however, I know that I am constantly carrying people from my past around with me.

Why write about this now, you ask? Well, when your parents go through a divorce you are forced to reevaluate your opinions about love and relationships–it just happens. What I once thought was forever is now not. The idea that “other people have marriage trouble, but not my family” is dead (and frankly has been for a while). It didn’t really become real to me, though, until I helped my dad move into his new apartment recently. So I sat down and thought a lot a whole bunch about life and love. I am tired of those ideas rolling around in my head, and so I have decided to write them down.

I guess that the first thing I would say is that writing about love in English is both fantastic and challenging because of the ambiguity of the word itself. I mean we do have other shades of love–infatuation, attraction, compassion, care, in love vs loving; but the word love encompasses all of that. You’re just supposed to know what version is meant purely on context. How ridiculous is that? So that makes it fun. I feel that the distinction between loving and being in love is a critical one that is often overlooked (and one that is necessary to understand). Spanish, for instance, has encantar, amor, and enamorarse.

In any case, love is complicated thing. So here is my first thought about love: you are capable of loving just about anyone, and I think that you should try to cultivate love for everyone. This isn’t a romantic type of love, but an awareness of the inherent worth of others. That kind of love I have talked about at length before and I am leaving for another time. It’s critically important, but it doesn’t speak to why we fall into or out of love with others, and is in this case not particularly helpful.

My second thought: My main idea about love goes something like this. Love is kind of like standing on the edge of a cliff and deciding whether or not to jump off. You can’t really help being on the edge of the cliff for whatever emotional factors, but where the choice lies is in taking that final plunge and saying “come hell or high water, I am jumping into what is over the edge of this thing.” I’ll be honest, every time I’ve jumped it’s eventually landed me in the briars, but for some reason I continue to believe that I will find the cliff that is bottomless where you keep on falling forever. I think where my metaphor goes astray is in the idea that you only jump once. It’s a decision you make everyday not to try to grab onto something else, but to let yourself keep falling. That can be scary, because you are falling. I am a fairly logical person, and love is by its nature illogical. So it can be scary.

My third thought: You never really stop loving the people you’ve already loved before. When I fall in love, I give a person a piece of my heart, and if they return the sentiment, they give me part of theirs. So if you can imagine this heart with chunks ripped out willy nilly here and there with patches of other hearts sown on in a few places you might understand how I see it. So my heart has this kind of quilt-like quality. But all the pieces of my original heart are with the people that I’ve given them to, and I can’t ever get them back. Love doesn’t go away, it just changes. It becomes platonic, or it gets a scab over it and hardens into pain or anger, but it doesn’t go away. The people you love leave imprints on you. They have literally ripped out chunks of you and sown their own bits on. You’re you, but different.

I have been lucky to have been in love several times in my short life. There were times when that love seemed like it might be forever, but eventually I found out one way or another that it wasn’t meant to be. I have been the one to break a heart, and the one whose heart has been broken. I like being able to have both perspectives, but either way it hurts like hell. I don’t think you can let that pain get to you, though. The only way love works is when you put your whole self into it (at least that’s my running theory, clearly my track record is littered with relationships that didn’t work out). You have to account for the fact that both of you are constantly changing. It’s like doing calculus on the trapeze, whether you are thinking about it or not. I guess what I mean to say is that love is easy and relationships are hard.

Personally, I am the kind of person who likes being in a relationship. Being single is fun in its own ways, but I enjoy having someone to have at the end of the day. It’s all a matter of finding the right person, though. I have been fortunate before to have not had a lot of time between one relationship ending and finding someone else who made me feel that spark. Being at home and being less social there are fewer opportunities to meet people, and so it might be a while before that person comes along. It’s probably “good for me” or something along those lines, but in all honesty I don’t like putting arbitrary timetables on things. Either things are right or they’re not, and it’s not a matter of waiting 3 days to call or x months to date again or what have you.

So, those monks had rules in place against women not because they are evil or romantic relationships are bad, but because for someone living a dedicated life moving towards enlightenment attachments distract from letting go. It’s not the other person but your own mind, constantly reliving moments and thinking in “what-ifs.” The older monk knew that, and he was capable of just carrying a person across a river. The younger monk was still working on it. For laypersons like myself I don’t doubt that my sometimes preoccupation with love gets in the way of me reaching nirvana anytime soon. However, so do about a billion other things in my life, so I’ll try not to assign undue weight to it.

Besides, relationships are fun. It’s the ultimate human experience. We are hardwired to love, to care about each other. The first smile, saying hello, the first kiss, the electricity you feel…that stuff is awesome. I am lucky enough to (knock on wood) get to experience it again someday, along with the transition into a stable loving relationship that comes later. And I’ll keep on doing it again until it works.

I wish I could tell you with 100% certainty that I’ll never get a divorce. Honestly, if you had asked me even a couple years ago, I would have told you there was no way–I would make it work. Even now my number is probably 95% sure I never will. I want to think that I am capable of understanding and loving a changing person while I change myself through the years. For better or worse, though, that number will never get to 100% again. Things happen, lives change, and people don’t always work out. I don’t think it’s any major flaw, it’s just being human. So cherish what you have, and remember that if you’re in love you have to work on it.

This is sort meandering, but so is love, I guess.


“We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.” –Orson Welles


“Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.” —Albert Einstein





“Come live in my heart, and pay no rent.” —Samuel Lover


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: