Thirty years ago, I took a course called “Images of Man” in which we studied and discussed some seven different models of human nature. That was a very exciting time of life when I was discovering all sorts of grand ideas.
I was discovering ideas that I had until then only heard rumors about — such as what time was to a physicist, what the subconscious was to a psychologist, or what culture was to an anthropologist. It had not occurred to me before taking the “Images of Man” course that our notions of human nature were human inventions. Indeed, when I look back on my growing up, I am astounded at how many very obvious things I had to learn.
Naturally, there was a woman involved.
No one at 19 should be forced to learn about time, the subconscious, culture, or any of a hundred other grand ideas without being in love. That would just be cruel. Worse, it could lead one to become a neoconservative.
Until I fell in love with a woman in my “Images of Man” class, I was very confused about love — I really didn’t know the difference between simply loving and possessively yearning. So, to me, love was heartbreak, a miserable state, something to be avoided, and when impossible to avoid, to be cursed. Then, of course, I met Alison and discovered the extraordinary affirmation of life that naturally comes from loving without expectation of any reward.
One of the models of human nature we studied that term introduced me to the concept of enlightenment. Have you ever considered how close enlightenment is to love? I don’t think I really grasped much of the concept of enlightenment from that one class, but I would have grasped far less of it had I not been in love.
When compared to the torturous confusion of mere yearning, love is simple, clear, non-possessive, and straight-forward. When compared to the torturous confusion of non-enlightenment, enlightenment is simple, clear, non-possessive, and straight-forward. Perhaps the two are even inextricably entwined.
It even seems to me now, thirty years later, that I learned more about certain aspects of human nature from loving Alison than I did from studying the various models of human nature presented in the class.