October 13, 2004

I had intended, at some point, to write about how the illusion of romantic love (not in the isolated case but as a societal expectation and perceived right) was possibly one of the most devastating and dangerous exports of a western media into societies with non-western value systems ... but maybe Brust already did it better: perhaps not least through the (I think unintentional) irony woven into his implicit universalisation his own culture-based experience.

(I think what he intended to convey was that even understanding of a human phenomenon cannot always - usually? - take away the pain of that phenomenon: which in itself is its own form of wisdom, almost invariably taught by the harshest of lessons. I don't know. For me, I remain at the point where my own experience suggests qualified agreement: but where the understanding most definitely does mute pain, or perhaps only allow a sufficient step back from defensive reaction and thus a mutual escalation of pain. I think it possible that emotional pain could potentially be removed altogether within complete compassion, which might only be possible with complete understanding - but at what cost to personal ability to perceive other emotion?)

Still, for some reason, western objectivism has a way of assuming a rational, objective (and thus implicitly universal) reality of even the most irrational states of the human psyche. From Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grille:

Let's talk about love.

I sat in my room with my back to the door, my legs straight out in front of me, my feet limp, and I stared at the ceiling and thought deep and profound thoughts from which wisdom emerged, as by magic. Well, okay, maybe not. But answer this for me: Why should the end of a fling with someone I hadn't even met two months before leave me more dejected and, well, alone, than the destruction of the birth world of the human race, the place imprinted into my psyche and very genes as being and containing everything that was my home?

Imprinted into my psyche and very genes. Aye, there's where it's used as a polishing cloth. Exactly
what has been imprinted into my genes and very psyche? I dunno. Standing here, at the door to yet another epoch of humanity, with a view that spans from one end of the hall to another, I say to you that I have no idea in the world, or worlds, what this thing is, except that I got it and I can't shake it. But some things are learned, and, in fact, are learned so thoroughly that they'll never be pried out of the mind in which they have taken root.

Love, to pick an example at random. Romantic love.

To be a human being born into the mid-twentieth century is to inhale ideals of romantic love with your first breath, to drink it with your mother's milk, to eat it with your Gerber squashed peas, and to have it drummed thoroughly into your skin and vital organs by every children's tale, television serial, Hollywood movie, work of popular music (and unpopular music), and back-alley conversation.

But here's another one, just to confuse you: To reach maturity in the late twentieth century is to learn that romantic love is a myth, created by the needs of the spirit and the skill of the songsmiths and the confusion of a spiritual being left, for a time, with nothing spiritual to believe in. Perhaps I overstate the case, as most people of that time were not aware of all of this - certainly not consciously. But nevertheless, romantic love was in the process of being discredited, even though the generation of man doing the discrediting was its slaves.

It's quite a concept, all in all. It tells us that love must be hot instead of warm, or the sharp peak of a mountain instead of the gentle slope of a hill. yet we all know that too much heat can burn, and that mountain peaks, while pleasant to stand on for a while, do not make good dwelling places as hillsides. At least, for most of us.

We are a very creative race, you know. And an imaginative one, even when we don't know it. It seems that those individuals who most bemoan their own lack of imagination are the ones who think they have met the perfect mate and spend hours spinning daydreams of how it will be and what it means. These people, along with their spiritual brothers who are waiting for the perfect mate who must be out there somewhere, are using their imaginations to find new and ingenious ways to hurt themselves.

I'm referring, of course, to myself.

We could tell ourselves that what we wanted was the warm familiarity of the lover we knew, who knew us, with whom we had grown together and could continue to do so, that security was part of love, rather than its anathema. We could tell ourselves this, but even as we did, a persistent voice whispered from our souls,
This isn't right. There's something more. And there is the other side, perhaps worse: When we achieve, out of nowhere, the explosive infatuation reflected in a hunger that cannot be sated, the voice says, Yes, this is right, it must be like this forever.

Infatuation, as a phenomenon, can never be fully exorcised. Infatuation, with a person, an idea, a flower, a mountain, a starship, will exist as long as man. People who find their reason to exist in other people will exist as long as man. But be grateful, you who stand with me at the end of man's infancy and the beginning of his adolescence, that no longer are such things held up as a virtue for which we all ought to strive.

All this I have learned, and much of it I learned there and then, as I sat and thought deep and profound thoughts, from which wisdom emerged, as by magic. I am thus immune from causing myself needless pain over what cannot be and should not be, and I am able to go on with my life and with those things that are inarguably far more important than who is sleeping with whom at any given moment.

I sat with my back against the door, my legs straight out in front of me, my feet limp, and I cried until I was exhausted, and eventually I slept.

I'm so fucking wise.

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