(About a 5 minute read)
Some people have time machines. They take you back a few decades, maybe more than a few. This morning was hardly past first light before a man I know had posted on a forum a long-winded sermon, self-righteously confident that women (“especially in California”) have turned love into “a temporal thing”.
His ex “moved on too fast”, you see, and he resents that about a woman he no longer wants anything to do with — beyond still control her every move, apparently — should now prove to him that all her words of love were false when she once was in love with him.
This is a man in his late twenties with a masters degree. I personally haven’t seen anything like it in years, but I’m pretty sure there’s still enough of it going around.
Least you think this man is one of today’s willfully confused conservatives, he’s a self-professed liberal who only agrees with conservatives on just one thing: He wishes this were the 40s when “the value of family was still of value to women”.
Of course his thoughts raise the question: How can he think that way? How can he think men are virtuously steady and women wickedly flighty when in love? Aren’t both sexes equally ruthless in the pursuit of love? Equally amoral about it?
Granted now, it would be a trap to take my metaphor of a time machine literally and think this is solely a matter of cultural changes. I’m sure there’s more to it than that. Much more. “All’s fair in love and war” was not coined yesterday.
I suspect women (and men) have been moving on from failed relationships too quickly for one or another person’s tastes since our species first began showing our displeasure with each other by flinging real poo, and not yet nuclear missiles. This isn’t a matter of cultural change, but neither is it ultimately a matter of morality.
Regardless of whether it’s right or wrong to quickly move on, it seems to be perfectly characteristic of the dynamic most of us call “love”. For what most of us call love is indistinguishable in practice from co-dependency.
Humans do love, but it’s often as brief as a lightening strike. The moment we realize we must be in love is the moment love is replaced by the ruthless pursuit of pleasure and the fearful desire to avoid pain.
I don’t like being brutal, but there aren’t many ways to make it clear: For whatever reason, most of us don’t cope well with loving other people. And I think that’s in large part because it is so easy for us to slip from loving to the pursuit of pleasure, and avoidance of pain, without noticing that we have.
Typically, we love before we know we love. We can dance for hours, days, weeks, or even months thinking no more about it than what an unusually nice person he or she is to be around. Seems like he or she brings out the best in us, allows us to be ourselves for once — but that’s because they are such an easy-going person, isn’t it? Not because we love them. What could that have to do with it?
It’s curious how we don’t think about our past with them — how we don’t review our memories of the time we’ve been with them since we met. Until one day we do.
That’s when it hits us with surprise. By the gods, we’re in love. We must be. It doesn’t add up any other way. Never saw that one coming.
And at the same moment it’s over. Our desire for pleasure and our fear of pain immediately dominate love itself. Instantly, we become greedy: We can’t live without him or her. We want to “love” him or her forever, and tellingly for the first time, it’s important to us that they “love” us in return.
All sorts of things now happen at once or follow closely one upon another. That look she gave John last week that so amused you at the time and made you happy for her that she might take a bit of pleasure in his beauty? Now the memory of it brings pangs of jealousy and alarm. Does she love him? But where does that leave you?
Love is over and we should know it now, if for no other reason than our pleasure and pain have abruptly come to mean more to us than he or she do.
Only we refuse to see the honest truth. And that conviction is helped along by the sudden and alarming strength of our desires and fears. How on earth can we not be in love — we are certain we will die without them. Certain of it! If that’s not love, we don’t want to know what love is.
It seems most likely the first lie any member of our species told himself or others was, “I’m in love”.
You might ask, how can we have such pleasant memories from just a short time ago if it’s not true love we feel? But those memories are of the past and this is the present, the past is gone. Still we now yearn for that past to forever be our tomorrow. We believe now true love lasts forever. At least we insist it does. But that’s just valuing quantity over quality. Valuing eternity over living itself.
It’s all easy enough to see if you’re attuned to it, but just as easily dismissed if you’re not.
Love might come again, we might get a second chance. But if we do not see and see clearly what kills love, the brutal reality of the method whereby it was murdered, we will repeat the same crime again and again, forever hoping something different will be the outcome. Our one chance of doing things differently lies in our awareness of what we have been doing. Of the mistake we’ve been making.
Love sometimes is
Too softly spoken
To be heard
Above the wind
Hearts sometimes are
Too softly broken
To be heard
Love sometimes is
Like a dance
We don’t think