Saturday, August 05, 2006

Love by numbers

Why is it that we are so afraid of love? So fearful to let it master us, so desperate to possess it, control it, own it for ourselves? That we feel the need to cage it like some wild animal, trap it in limits of definition and role, classify and label it, force upon it our arbitrary categories? Why is it so hard for us to believe that a human being may simply cherish or care for another that we insist on defining a relationship to go with the feeling, that we insist on locating the emotion on a map, on what Vikram Seth calls "the mesh of reference"?

Is it just that in an age obsessed with menus, with choices, with the drop-down box, we have turned even love into a multiple choice question? "How do you feel about this person? Are you a) a friend b) a lover c) a brother or d) a father". What about none of the above? What about Other (please specify)? What about feelings that are open-ended?

Or is it that we have been so poisoned by reason, by our quest for explicability, that the apprehension of another human being in his or her specificity has become impossible for us, and that we can only love people (as we may only hate them) by converting them into abstractions, into the idea of the other rather than the other itself? That having to face up to the reality of who the other person is, to their infinite humanity, is more than we are capable of, so that just as we must ignore what is human about someone to hate him or her, we must also ignore the details of the person we care for, in order to love them? Is this why we give names to our feelings - because we cannot experience them unless they are made intelligible to us, like a child who cannot eat his dinner unless it is cut into bite sized pieces?

Or is it more than an existential choice - is it, perhaps, an aesthetic one? Is our will to definition a way of mythologising the people we live with, of converting them, not only into ideas, but also into ideals? In classifying people into roles vis a vis ourselves, are we perhaps disguising the weaknesses we do not want to see in them, excusing ourselves from paying attention to these flaws, or justifying our own compromise in accepting these shortcomings, if only because of our desperate need not to be alone?

And if so, where does this search for perfection come from? Why must we require those we love to be flawless? Most lovers I know will insist that their beloveds are paragons. Yet even if this were true (and not sheer delusion) what would be the virtue in it? Surely the real achievement is to care for someone not because they are perfect but inspite of their imperfections? Not for their qualities but for their faults? A love that celebrates the perfection of the beloved is a trophy love, one that is more interested in showing off its own 'achievement' than in the enjoyment of its object. If we see relationships as something more than a path to status, why must we pretend that the other person is not silly or immature or ugly or unversed in order to acknowledge that that we care for his or her welfare? Why must we judge people in order to love them? (Or, for that matter, why must we limit ourselves to a single individual and evaluate him / her in his / her entirety, rather than seeking out what is worth loving in a multiplicity of people?)

Or is this need to define, to retreat into a kind of social shorthand, simply a recognition of our own inadequacy? Do we recognise that we have neither the energy nor the imagination to constantly innovate and renew our relationships? That, in Blake-ian terms, we must reason and compare simply because we cannot create? That we are merely players, and need our set scripts - we cannot invent, we can only enact?

Or perhaps the truth is that we could create, but that we need guidelines to ratify our creations. Without the benchmarks of stereotypes, we have no way to judge the affection of others or be judged for our own affections. Do we then lapse into these set relationship roles only because the way to communicate and prove our feelings to one another is by classifying them?

Or, finally, is this desire of ours for relationships that are easily translatable simply a pragmatic recognition of the mutability of the feeling, of the ephemeral nature of its intensity? Because we know that the strength of our emotions will not last, because we see them turning into a lie even as we experience them, we are therefore driven to capture them forever in the snap-shot of a word that we can place on our mantelpiece, display proudly to others? That we freeze frame ourselves into language as a way to deny the wrinkles and weakness that all our feelings are heir to, hoping to use these classifications of ours as a means to both memory and denial?

Isn't it strange that we, as mortals, should despair so over the transience of our feelings for each other? That we should so long to believe in eternity, in permanence, that we would betray the truth of our feelings to their cause, giving the name of 'relationship' to what are, after all, only stray instances of mutual sympathy, occasional accidents of connection. That we should sacrifice the perfection of the moment to the slow decay of forever.

Kierkegaard writes:

"As everyone knows, there are insects which die in the moment of fertilization. Thus it is with all joy, life's supreme and most voluptuous moment of pleasure is attended by death."
Why then do we continue to cling to the ridiculous notion that the ideal is something that we must hold on to? Why does it depress us to recognise that perfection does not last, and that what is ideal today could be cloying tomorrow? This is where regret comes from - a sorrow over the loss of something we treasured, that fails to recognise that even had we held on to it it would have changed, turned sour.

If we are ever to achieve happiness as human beings, if we are ever to attain satisfaction, we must recognise that the most beautiful, most perfect experiences are those that do not last and cannot be repeated, and that we can only truly enjoy them by not trying to repeat them. They are precious precisely because they are unique and unrepeatable.

It follows that the categories we impose on ourselves - all this talk of boyfriends / girlfriends, of friends and lovers and siblings - is pointless, because the real meaning of our contact with other people lies in the connection we have already experienced, and in trying to resurrect that emotion by assigning it the mask of some relationship we are only setting ourselves up for failure.

Auden writes:

"Certainty, fidelity
On the stroke of midnight pass
Live vibrations of a bell,
And fashionable madmen raise
Their pedantic boring cry:
Every farthing of the cost,
All the dreaded cards foretell,
Shall be paid, but from this night
Not a whisper, not a thought,
Not a kiss nor look be lost."
Exactly. Love domesticated, tied to the leash of some relationship, is no longer the proud animal we admired for its strength and freedom. Love tamed is a shabby pet, good for company on lonely nights, but incapable of the hunt and therefore of independent survival.

(Okay, okay, so I know I'm rambling. But I'm in the mood to ramble. Plus I've got to the point where conversations with my friends about their love-lives - I, of course, don't have one - seem to revolve almost entirely around the politics of 'relationships' rather than the poetry of feelings. And that annoys and depresses me. So there.)


Categories: ,

25 comments:

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

What the...???
*is all wide eyed *

Frankly you 'lost' me many times in there...maybe it's just me but I felt there were lots of ideas there which was antithetical to what you had been hinting on the 'idea of love' in some of your previous posts (which incidentally I totally acquiesced with)

..Surely the real achievement is to care for someone not because they are perfect but inspite of their imperfections?

Eh? Pray tell me how is this different from 'Love for the sake of love?'

No it was just one of the lines which made me go 'Eh? Am I reading the right blog?'

Am in a hurry now..will expatiate later...

Falstaff said...

man who wasn't there: No, no, that's totally different from love for the sake of love. The point is that it isn't love or the person that's important, it's the search for something authentic - something you can connect to. Essentially it's about disaggregating the person to focus on the connection.

Let's say I know someone who I really enjoy discussing poetry with. But who I otherwise think is really immature, or whose politics I disagree with. The point is that those 'imperfections' should be irrelevant to my ability to share poetry with him / her. But the minute I start using the poetry connection to define a 'relationship' (in which I include friendship) I instantly run into the problem of having to deal with a person rather than an attribute.

The achievement then, is not to say: I will overlook these imperfections because I care about this person, that's what I call delusion / compromise; the achievement is to say: he / she is not a friend, not someone I love, not any of those normal categories, just a person I share poetry with - nothing more, nothing less. And the fact that we may disagree bitterly the next time an election comes up or that I may think his / her choices in relationships are really silly, doesn't need to mean that our connection over poetry needs to be less intense.

We can't hope to find the one perfect person who will be all things to us for all time. We shouldn't even want to. We should simply seek the intensity of accidental connections to other people and treasure them as and when we find them. Continuity and certainty are overrated.

km said...

Wow. This is a hall-of-famer post.

The Zen/Mysticism tradition often talks about the desperate selfishness that lurks behind every act of our so-called love. We love something "because".

Our "everyday love" is driven by a need to strengthen and affirm our ego.

i_am_not_who_i_am said...

lust rules ;)

fida . . .

shamash said...

"I've got to the point where conversations with my friends about their love-lives - I, of course, don't have one - seem to revolve almost entirely around the politics of 'relationships' rather than the poetry of feelings. And that annoys and depresses me.?"

Ditto.

Elements of your provocative post remind me of this.

I have been deeply affected momentary connections and meaningful conversations I’ve had with strangers on planes, at pubs, or in airport waiting lounges.

In some cases, these conversations have affected me more deeply than then conversations I've had with boyfriends or lovers- they are burned in my memory, and affected me deeply.

Sometimes, a brief, meaningful conversation with someone you will never see again is life-changing.

Space Bar said...

so many million rupaiyya qs...

The way of love is not a subtle argument.
The door there is devastation.
Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom.
How do they learn it?
They fall, and falling, they're given wings.
--Rumi


:D

amit varma said...

Agree with km, this is "a hall-of-famer" post. I've been thinking on related matters the last few weeks, and you said so much that expressed just what I felt, but better than I could have written it myself. The second and third paras of your past are especially beautifully put.

Waj said...

got to know about ur posts from a friend..
read it..and i must add..ur brilliant! :)

Hiren said...

Good write up. If I may put things in a practical perspective, real unconditional love is there only till you start working because there is no vested interest.
J.krishnamurthy says that you must be compeletely free of conditioning to actually experience what is normally labelled as love.

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

Ok Falstaff looks like there is hung jury out there regarding this post..:) there are a lot of points I would like to make but then considering you have moved on to other posts (have you realized/ your posting frequency in fact could work against you...before we could have a decent discussion in the comments section the spotlight moves on to another post...:| )

Falstaff said...

km: Thanks. And yes, though 'love' stemming from chance encounters can be fairly ego-satisfying too.

fida: Ah, now that's a whole other post.

shamash: Agree completely. Your post actually reminded me of similar encounters I've had over the years. It's amazing how something can remain so clear in one's head over such a long period of time.

spacebar: :-). No fair. How does one disagree with Rumi?

amit: thanks.

waj: Thanks.

hiren: Ah, but this is emphatically not about unconditional love - which I entirely disapprove of. We should love people for who they are, not because of some abstract principle, just that those conditions should be positive, not negative. You love someone because they have some qualities / attributes that appeal to you, not because they don't possess any qualities / attributes that you dislike.

man who wasn't there: We need comments from four other people to make this a hung jury, you know. :-). And please don't let the fact that I've gone ahead and posted other stuff mean that you don't engage in this discussion - I'm certainly not unengaged.

Anonymous said...

loved the article. wish it was around the time when i had to let go the one person i really "loved" .. i really couldn't explain how i felt about her, this article could have helped .. :)

v

gauravonomics said...

"Or, finally, is this desire of ours for relationships that are easily translatable simply a pragmatic recognition of the mutability of the feeling, of the ephemeral nature of its intensity? Because we know that the strength of our emotions will not last, because we see them turning into a lie even as we experience them, we are therefore driven to capture them forever in the snap-shot of a word."

That, to me, is the real reason why we label love. We label love for the same reason that we label pictures in a photo album, as an aid to memory.

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

Why is it that we are so afraid of love? So fearful to let it master us, so desperate to
possess it, control it, own it for ourselves? That we feel the need to cage it like some wild
animal, trap it in limits of definition and role, classify and label it, force upon it our
arbitrary categories? Why is it so hard for us to believe that a human being may simply cherish
or care for another that we insist on defining a relationship to go with the feeling, that we
insist on locating the emotion on a map, on what Vikram Seth calls "the mesh of reference"?


I have never considered you a Sophist ( as in the original Greek Sophists not the modern
connotation..:) ) but the above lines appeal more to emotion than to reason (which again I felt
was unlike your previous posts ). Let me get a bit Socratic and ask 'what do you mean by Love
here?" and when we are at it would you also define 'emotions'? If I claim I 'feel' no emotions
and that perception of a emotion is just a mental state how wrong would I be?

Is it just that in an age obsessed with menus, with choices, with the drop-down box, we have
turned even love into a multiple choice question? "How do you feel about this person? Are you
a) a friend b) a lover c) a brother or d) a father". What about none of the above? What about
Other (please specify)? What about feelings that are open-ended?


Well even this I found a bit strange...what is wrong in 'classification'? I cannot presume
everyone does it sub consciously but I definitely do it. If 'feelings' (kindly define it ) are
open ended then they simply go under 'non classified'.

Or is it that we have been so poisoned by reason, by our quest for explicability, that the
apprehension of another human being in his or her specificity has become impossible for us, and
that we can only love people (as we may only hate them) by converting them into abstractions,
into the idea of the other rather than the other itself? That having to face up to the reality
of who the other person is, to their infinite humanity, is more than we are capable of, so that
just as we must ignore what is human about someone to hate him or her, we must also ignore the
details of the person we care for, in order to love them? Is this why we give names to our
feelings - because we cannot experience them unless they are made intelligible to us, like a
child who cannot eat his dinner unless it is cut into bite sized pieces?


'poisoned by reason'??? what is your point? Isn’t everything else an 'abstraction' depending on
one's perspective?

Or is it more than an existential choice - is it, perhaps, an aesthetic one? Is our will to
definition a way of mythologizing the people we live with, of converting them, not only into
ideas, but also into ideals? In classifying people into roles vis a vis ourselves, are we
perhaps disguising the weaknesses we do not want to see in them, excusing ourselves from paying
attention to these flaws, or justifying our own compromise in accepting these shortcomings, if
only because of our desperate need not to be alone?


But ofcourse..isnt this a no brainer? I mean if I have to live with a person I need not
necessarily romanticize the other person should I? I mean what is the whole point of deluding
myself when I know I am deluding beats me.

And if so, where does this search for perfection come from? Why must we require those we
love to be flawless? Most lovers I know will insist that their beloveds are paragons.

Says which kind of people? I guess it depends on the kind of people who claim their 'partners'
are a quintessence of 'perfection' .Like hell I don’t even know what 'perfection' means.

Yet even if this were true (and not sheer delusion) what would be the virtue in it? Surely
the real achievement is to care for someone not because they are perfect but Inspite of their
imperfections?


Ok fair enough. I raised this in the first comment and your explanation was quite adequate. But
then again isn’t it quite obvious?? Say when you want to discuss poetry it is the 'subject'
which takes precedence 'Who' is discussing it shouldn’t matter. (Assumption being the person is
intellectual honest with his/her viewpoints ) but the line is quite misleading though....anyway
it is just 'your perception' with respect to the 'imperfections'.

Not for their qualities but for their faults? A love that celebrates the perfection of the
beloved is a trophy love, one that is more interested in showing off its own 'achievement' than
in the enjoyment of its object.


Again the definition of 'perfection' is assumed and why should we judge if someone wants a
'trophy love'? It is his/her's moral code.

If we see relationships as something more than a path to status, why must we pretend that
the other person is not silly or immature or ugly or unversed in order to acknowledge that that
we care for his or her welfare?


Because not all people are rational (Yes I claim to be one ). if the 'person' in question is
our 'partner' it is common sense to pretend some stuff. but then again it depends on the
maturity of the partner in question.

Why must we judge people in order to love them? (Or, for that matter, why must we limit
ourselves to a single individual and evaluate him / her in his / her entirety, rather than
seeking out what is worth loving in a multiplicity of people?)


Sure there is no reason why we should. But lets blame it on the frigging society. We are far
from the Brave New world anyway.

Or is this need to define, to retreat into a kind of social shorthand, simply a recognition
of our own inadequacy? Do we recognize that we have neither the energy nor the imagination to
constantly innovate and renew our relationships? That, in Blake-ian terms, we must reason and
compare simply because we cannot create? That we are merely players, and need our set scripts -
we cannot invent, we can only enact?


Shouldn’t we be asking why the need for a 'relationship'? is there any other universal reason
(spanning across civilizations and epochs) other than 'because it is easier to procreate and
nurture the offspring that way'

Or perhaps the truth is that we could create, but that we need guidelines to ratify our
creations. Without the benchmarks of stereotypes, we have no way to judge the affection of
others or be judged for our own affections. Do we then lapse into these set relationship roles
only because the way to communicate and prove our feelings to one another is by classifying
them?


Maybe it's just me but have never been able to think of 'love' beyond an interplay of
pheromones and hormones. As one of my friend had remarked, 'Does a man who is emotional and
intellectually self-sufficient (self-reliant? ) need to have something called 'love'?'

Or, finally, is this desire of ours for relationships that are easily translatable simply a
pragmatic recognition of the mutability of the feeling, of the ephemeral nature of its
intensity? Because we know that the strength of our emotions will not last, because we see them
turning into a lie even as we experience them, we are therefore driven to capture them forever
in the snap-shot of a word that we can place on our mantelpiece, display proudly to others?
That we freeze frame ourselves into language as a way to deny the wrinkles and weakness that
all our feelings are heir to, hoping to use these classifications of ours as a means to both
memory and denial?


Or in others words more than 'Love' it is the 'idea of Love' which fascinates us. The former
being an illusion.

Isn't it strange that we, as mortals, should despair so over the transience of our feelings
for each other? That we should so long to believe in eternity, in permanence, that we would
betray the truth of our feelings to their cause, giving the name of 'relationship' to what are,
after all, only stray instances of mutual sympathy, occasional accidents of connection. That we
should sacrifice the perfection of the moment to the slow decay of forever.


Well we humans believe in more weird stuff. At least a temporal love is excusable than the
inscrutable divine one!!




It follows that the categories we impose on ourselves - all this talk of boyfriends /
girlfriends, of friends and lovers and siblings - is pointless, because the real meaning of our
contact with other people lies in the connection we have already experienced, and in trying to
resurrect that emotion by assigning it the mask of some relationship we are only setting
ourselves up for failure.


why the need to 'connect' with people anyway? Because the world is absurd and I am bored? :)

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

Apologies for the long comment but then my response would make more sense only in relation with particular paragraphs of your posts...

Prerona said...

really big post - in terms of the subject. i must confess i had to stop reading abt halfway through and start skimming, but i liked it enough to note down the link and promise myself to come back ...

wow. well written :)

my gut reaction on reading the first few lines ... "why are people afraid to ..." was that i dont know about people but i would be afraid bcz i am not sure what it is, what involves, what it commands, what it demands, justifies, extracts ... and i have a vagueish idea that it, the real stuff, in all its glory, would be massive, huge, unhandle-able.

besides, true love blurs the between self and others. i remember this one time when someone i loved (my dad) lost someone he loved (his dad). i didnt care that much abt his dad. but blv me i grieved for days, couldnt rest, work, eat ... bcz i could feel his grief. someone else i loved, my sister. when she was going through a bad phase, and i was abroad, i practically freaked out, ditched everything and came back. i tried not to, but i couldnt bear to be away when i should be there for her.

so point I am making is, imagine if we felt like that for .loads of people? we wouldnt be able to lead normal lives ...

also, there another angle i had thought of - to do with needing to admire/respect/think well of people we love & consequently what if we had that kind of expectations of everyone ... but I am out of time

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

mmm...I wonder..you did expect a varied kind of reactions to the disputatious topic of 'love' didnt you? I am curious ..what do YOU REALLY think about it? do you espouse many/some of the interpretations of Love hinted at in the comments by the varied readers? the reasons would be many..just like why people believe/want to believe in GOD..shouldnt we be looking at the psychology behind why people 'love' and want to be 'loved'?
mmm....

Qais said...

Well written! congratulations. It was a nice reading about love. But I was not sure why you did you mean love as requited love. What about unrequited love, unexpressed love? Nobody associate a name a category to these.

I think people have to put their lover into a category to specify the relationship because love in itself is not any particular emotion. It is a state, and so a mixture of emotions. (At least I think so).

Falstaff said...

v: Ya, I figured sooner or later I'd get to the point where I'd be in that situation again, and it would be useful to have it all written out already. :-).

gauravonomics: Right. Fair enough. I tend to agree.

man who wasn't there: wow! I asked for this didn't I? Here goes:

a) A lot of your comments come down to saying 'yes, but that's obvious'. Maybe it is - though in my experience the 'obvious' is often not so. At any rate - this is a rambling blog post written to tide me over a dull weekend morning - I'm not claiming this stuff is profound or pathbreaking

b) A whole other set of your comments are essentially saying - 'well, people / societies do stupid things / are not always logical'. Fair enough. But obviously when I ask "why" I mean that at least somewhat rhetorically - as long as we agree that what people do / say doesn't seem prima facie 'logical' (without going into the endless loop of what is logical) that's all that really matters.

c) You're right about the fact that I should probably have defined love / relationships more carefully. When I say 'love' I mean an intensity of (positive) feeling for another person - this can range from caring and affection to passionate desire. When I say relationship, I mean adherence to a defined social role / commitment. I know that's not very precise, but hopefully it helps. I don't want to get into the whole debate about whether emotions exist or are just thoughts (or for that matter the debate about whether emotions precede thought or follow it). I think it's safe to assume that most of us experience urges / feelings that are 'irrational' in that they do not involve coherent prior thought / are not driven solely by prior logical reasoning which is what I'm calling emotion.

d) You're right that the introduction to the piece is an 'emotional' one - but so what? Good writing, even logical writing, doesn't need to be unemotional

e) The classification argument is one of degree. Rejecting all categorisation entirely makes the world unlivable, because each object has to be apprehended in its own specificity. The point here is more a relative one - not that we shouldn't classify / categorise at all, but that we should be careful not to fall prey to too rigorous a need for classification, force-fitting everything we feel into a few categories. The point about being poisoned by reason is similar - at some level, all language is an abstraction, so some amount of structure / reason is essential. We cannot deny abstraction entirely, but there are things that simply cannot be broken down into explicable concepts without losing all or most of their richness and I'm saying that this emotion of love is one of them.

f) Again, perfection is not an absolute term. But at least in my experience, very few people have the maturity to accept any criticism of people they're in love with - which I'm saying is a pretty silly attitude. Just because the person I'm in love with can't tell her Bach from her Mahler doesn't mean I need to feel guilty about loving her.

g) 'Trophy love' is not a judgement, it's simply (ironically enough) terminology. If you're in a relationship with someone because it enhances your status rather than because you enjoy his / her company, then I'm
terming that trophy love. I think such relationships are petty and meaningless, but if other people's moral code finds such relationships fulfilling, that's fine. They can say their's is a trophy relationship and feel proud of it.

h) Agree with the point about 'why relationships' - that's actually exactly what I'm saying - we don't need 'relationships' in the sense of stable commitments, we do need (I think) intense connections to other people, if only to keep ourselves stimulated, but that's all. Your friend's question is tautological - if someone is emotionally self-sufficient, he doesn't, by definition, need love. But more generally, I'd say that everyone, no matter how rational, needs external emotional stimulation, which is all I'm saying love is.

Overall, I think you're taking this whole thing too seriously - and trying to apply too strict a logical critique to it. This isn't Plato's Symposium - it isn't meant to be. At worst, it's just an off the cuff ramble (almost a rant) based on my frustration with conversations I seem to keep on having; at best, it's a quasi-literary, half-fictional exploration of the way we see and experience love and relationships. It wasn't intended to be analysed and questioned word by word (though I welcome your efforts to do so) it was meant to be read through and experienced in spirit. Do I agree with it? Yes, with much of it. But as an expression of a state of being, not as a rational philosophy. Plus, of course, it's fun to see how people respond.

prerona: Yes, we couldn't possibly experience every stranger we meet that intensely. Which is why we need categories / definitions. But that doesn't mean we can't experience some people that intensely and need to fit them into those categories as well. Or that, having experienced something that transcends categorisation we have to try to scale it down so it will fit one of our preconceived categories.

Have you ever felt an overwhelming sense of sympathy for a stranger? Someone you saw or read about and whose loss deeply affected you? The fact that there are thousands of strangers out there experiencing a similar loss and you can't feel the same intensity of sympathy for all of them doesn't mean that you should try and stop yourself feeling sympathy for the one person whose grief is affecting you. The argument I'm opposed to is the argument that says it's silly to feel something deep for a relative stranger because there are tons of others like them.


qais: Thanks. Yes, love is a mixed emotion (dammit! now I have a Rolling Stones song running through my head) - but that's precisely why we should try and experience it in all its glorious ambiguity instead of being scared of the mixture and trying to define it before we will allow ourselves to enjoy it.

Alok said...

There is a different side to it too. Many times it is the "will to power" which we disguise under the veil of "feelings" and by straitjacketing those feelings under a set of contracts, what you call a relationship, we are just taking precautions against the abuse of that will to power...

I think modern relationships (and I mean them as socio-legal constructs) overall an improvement over the naive romanticism of the past. this is perhaps one good thing to have come out of the feminist and other egalitarian movements...

Romance looks good in books, real world is far more prosaic. In fact I would argue for more well defined contractual laws to define relationships. The world will definitely be a happier place then.

The One said...

I agree - this is certainly a hall of famer.

But on a darker note- your post seems to imply in relationships we pine for, the best is already behind us. Rather depressing thought, isn't it?

T.O.

The Man Who Wasnt There said...

Ah well let me confess inspite of your explanations am still none the wiser....oh come on a 'logical critique' is inevitable...dont you do that subconsciously? Why even saying something is a 'logical critique' is an implicit exercise of the same :P

Oh I took this seriously because of two reasons
a) It was your post. Even your 'light hearted' posts have an element of impeccable logic to it.
b) I am curious to know can 'Love' and 'rationality' co exist without the latter trying to define the former thereby in the process nullifying it.

What makes you think everyone needs 'external emotional simulation'? Do you need it? Why? That is the moot question....

Anonymous said...

Interesting post..could start many a long discussions. So am avoiding going that way.

[Yes, love is a mixed emotion..- but that's precisely why we should try and experience it in all its glorious ambiguity instead of being scared of the mixture and trying to define it before we will allow ourselves to enjoy it.]

Well said. And speaking of fear, your opening question "Why is it that we are so afraid of love?" can be looked at from another point of view too. This question has been put to me in a slightly different way many times, and given that I've been accused of thinking too much, this is where my thoughts have led me:

Are those of us who do not see relationships as a necessary emotional crutch (and are happy being single), are we in some way afraid of allowing ourselves to fall in love, to make ourselves vulnerable to another human being?

~N.

Falstaff said...

Alok: I disagree. I don't think the world will be a happier place, though it may well be a more stable, more predictable place. Call me a 'romantic' if you like, but in a world where all relationships become mere transactions, governed by well-laid out rules and leaving little or no space for individuality or creativity, what do we need 'relationships' for at all. What possible emotional or intellectual satisfaction could they provide us?

The way to limit exploitation is not to structure the relationship to the point where it loses all human meaning, the way to limit that kind of abuse is to ensure that both sides are adequately empowered so they can stand up for their own rights.

The One: Yes, it is a sad thought. On the other hand, once you recognise that the past cannot be recovered, and give up the bad habit of nostalgia, you then begin to see the millions of other opportunities that still remain to be explored. We can't get the past back, but we can create the future.

man who wasn't there: I certainly do need it. I'm not sure I have a theory for why everyone must need it, I was pretty much taking that as a given, but if I had to hazard a conjecture it would be this:

The path of pure rationality leads inevitably to nihilism and self-extinction. The will to life is not, in the final analysis, a logical one - it is an instinct, a feeling. For those who choose to live therefore, the fundamental truths, the primary causes must lie beyond rationality and logic, rooted in emotion.

We need external stimulation, I suspect, to keep this will to life, this ur-emotion from atrophying. If we are not to lose all feeling and therefore the will to exist, we need to have our feelings stimulated. Whether we need to interact with other people for this is a more difficult question - possibly not - though in the absence of external contact, I think the individual intellect's ability to surprise and challenge itself continously is fairly suspect.

From a more biological perspective, meanwhile, one could easily see why an instinct for social interaction, for entering into exchanges with other beings may be conditioned by evolution.

At any rate, my larger point is that I'm not trying to deal with abstracts here. Let's assume, for the moment, that you're right and it is theoretically possible for someone to live a happy life entirely without external emotional stimulation. Let's even assume that such an "impossible possible philosopher's man" (the phrase is Wallace Stevens') exists, even though I personally don't know anyone like that. You're surely not suggesting that the vast majority of people don't need external emotional stimulation?

N: Perhaps. Certainly a reluctance to make oneself entirely vulnerable to one other human being. Though I'm not sure why fear has to come into it. At some level, it's basic portfolio theory isn't it? You're just diversifying your risk. You may be right - and I've heard people say that to me before - the trouble is, most people who say that seem to be assuming that making oneself vulnerable to one other human being is a good thing, and not being able to do that is therefore something to feel bad about. I think it's just smart. And, let's face it, a hell of a lot more challenging and exciting.

Put it another way - why does "falling in love" have to involve making yourself vulnerable to another human being. Is that a necessary condition? Is it a sufficient one?

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