Aether Song

Our time is not in the grey falling rain nor in the boundless blue-green sea. Our time is in the river that lies between them, flowing smooth and quiet over the sand or angry and roiling over the unyielding stones. Joining and dividing. Choosing our own way for good or ill.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Nature of Love

Love. Love. Love. We pay good money to singers to croon endlessly about it. Poets and authors spill a lot of ink and kill a lot of trees writing about it. Some people live for it. Some people die for it, and many many people say that that is precisely what they are looking for, but what is it really? Is it what you think it is? Are you sure? Well let's explore that question shall we?
Just to give you some background this line of thinking was inspired by something I ran across in Viktor E. Frankl's book 'Man's Search for Meaning' (which I recommend BTW). In it he talks about the deep love that he felt for his wife while incarcerated in a concentration camp. However, it turned out later that the woman that he was loving so deeply (his wife) was dead, and had in fact been dead for some time. That seemed odd to me so I thought about it and came to some conclusions.
Our relationships with others are based on three interactive (and completely internal elements).

The first element is the role that we construct to interact with others (father, brother, lover, friend, daughter, employee etc.). We each have these. They are like sets of clothes or masks that we wear for specific occasions. This role is continuously revised and updated by the other two elements.

The second element is the memories of, and mutual experiences we've had with these others (which can influence our assumed role and our mental image).

The third element (which again can be influenced by our memories, mutual experiences and assumed role) is the image that we have of these others in our minds. So our relationships are based on our roles for, memories/experiences of, and image/expectations of others, but as Mr. Frankl implies these relationships, this LOVE we feel is actually NOT a relationship between you and another person. Not at all. Love, quite simply, is a relationship between you and the image you have of the other person in your mind.
This is all well and good as long as the image of the other person and the reality of the other person are not too much in conflict. The trouble comes (and it seems to come all too frequently) when that carefully constructed mental image is disrupted or destroyed by a nullifying experience. If you find yourself saying something along the lines of "I never knew you were like\thought\did\didn't do\felt that." and then falling out of love with the person then it stands to reason that you never really loved THEM in the first place doesn't it? You only loved your image of them (which is inherently incomplete). Remember, THEY haven't changed, the only thing that has changed (or been revised) is your mental image of them.
This also neatly explains the infatuation phenomenon. You are infatuated NOT with the person, but rather with the image that you have of that person in your mind and when the weight of contravening experience and evidence becomes too great to sustain the image, the infatuation dies and you start again with someone else.
This also explains something which I have always found odd, i.e. the adoration and emotional attachment that people have with celebrities. How many of the people who wept for Princess Di actually knew her? How many had seen her in person? How many had spoken with her? Damn few I'd guess, but they had an internal image of her and they loved that image dearly.
So whose fault is it then that your heart has been broken? Yours. You loved an image and that image either changed or turned out to be wrong. You can blame someone for being deceitful, but no one can make you love.

So when someone says they are looking for "love", "true love" or a "soul mate" what they are really saying is: "I am looking for the person who best fits my internal image and fulfills my physical and emotional desires." (some even want this unconditionally).
Even taking these somewhat bleak facts into consideration you need not be mute on the subject of feelings. There are some things that you can say to people that you have relationships with and some might even be true).
"I love the way that you make me feel"
"I love who I am when I am with you."
"I love what you do for me."
"I love the times we spend together."
All of these are fair game, but 'I love you' isn't. Unless you are a telepath you don't know them, not really, so how can you possibly say you love THEM? How could they possibly believe it?


Blogger Justin Edwards @ The Savvy Time Saver said...

'Man's Search for Meaning' is indeed an excellent recommendation, and this is brilliant work.

Your third element strikes a chord. With 50=60% divorce rates it seems logical that there would have to be more people possessing the mere "idea of love" than those possessing "true" love.

10:07 PM  

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