I Dependency p.6
II Limits p.8
III Sexuality p.10
IV Male and Female p.13
i) Male p.15
ii) Female p.16
V Permutations p.17
i) Marriage p.17
ii) The Art of Power p.19
iii) Narcissus p.20
iv) Passion and Discipline p.21
VI Loneliness, Solitude and Individuality p.22
VII True Love p.28
VIII Conclusion p.33
Individuality and Love
Standing as we do at the end of the twentieth century, it is clear that through this century's opportunities, we have chosen to search for freedom. During the twentieth century people came to realise that it is impossible to know others unless one knows oneself first; therefore, humanity entered a time of great loneliness and isolation, in order to put each individual's entire attention on himself. Rilke illustrates this whole feeling when he says, "At bottom no one in life can help anyone else in life; this one experiences over and over in every conflict and every perplexity – that one is alone."
People in this time have been on a search for individuality. This search has been lonely and heartbreaking, but has allowed man to respond to Socrates' dictum "Man, know thyself". Through this search, a greater consciousness is beginning to emerge that sees that the further path to the self requires finding a way to relate to others in a true fashion.
If you had an instrument that was out of tune, it would be very difficult to tune it in an orchestra in which everybody else's instrument was also being tuned. For this reason, people took their own souls to a quiet place to see how each string sounded in perfect interval. However, no matter how beautiful a single melody may be, you can only take it so far – and real music is to be found in the interplay between two perfectly tuned instruments, each crafting melodies in harmony with the other.
Deciding to find the true light in another person demands great courage, and, to find that light, one must end up finding it in oneself and in the world. However, the more one searches, the more one discovers that this light does not require seeking – instead, we need to examine in ourselves what blocks it out.
The quest of our time has been to find ourselves – this cannot be completed until we discover ourselves in relation to others.
I - Dependency
"They say the loving and the devouring are all one, don't they…"
Dependency occurs quite often within the search for one's self and others. People need stability in relationships, and so they tend to attach themselves to their partner. One of the most common 'romantic' images is the aphorism "I cannot live without you." This, as Peck says,
When people fall into a dependent relationship, they are most often regressing into the patterns of infancy, in which mother and child live in symbiotic union. To the child, the mother is indistinguishable from him. If he is hungry, his mother feeds him. If he cries, his mother comforts him. This is, indeed, how most dependent relationships begin. Each of the pair feels "My beloved knows and fulfils all my needs as if he/she were a part of me." Then later, when the realisation occurs that each of the pair has different needs, they either whirl away, looking for someone else to lean on, or get into a power struggle, each trying to control the other's needs and actions. The third and only alternative is for their relationship to move into maturity through a free choice by both of them.
In the case of the Eros and Psyche myth, the two characters are a double metaphor for the archetypal journey from love to true love.
When Eros first takes Psyche away to his mountain castle, they live together in a state of contented bliss. Through her sister's jealousy, encountered on her visit back to her prosaic and ordinary 'home', she realises that she cannot accept this world of dramatic, poetic darkness. Feeling Eros in the dark is not enough – she wants to see him in the light. She wants to drink him in with her conscious eyes as well as her body. As the god of love, he also encompasses her own feelings, and this means that she is prepared to look upon her own feelings in conscious light, no matter what the consequences.
When she does this, lighting a lamp by the bedside when he is asleep, she is awe-struck by his beauty. Thus, she is beginning to see her lover in a more realistic light, and she has a moment of reverent joy as she sees him more clearly. She is also looking on him as a personification of her own feelings, which she finds, are, indeed, beautiful. However, she is so affected by this revelation that she leans over him and spills a drop of hot lamp oil on his chest, and he awakens. Her lover is forced to expose himself in a way he had never intended, and he flees from her; he cannot endure her striving to know his true self, so he leaves the one person to whom he is not solely a 'god' to. In his role as a metaphor for her feelings, he is the idealised, romantic, 'Eros' love, which cannot survive awakening. She quickly realises that her desire for unity with him springs from her need to fill an emptiness inside her own being.
She is then thrown back into the world to search for her self, to scratch for her own worms – to find in herself something worthy of true love. She does not abandon the search for what seemed to be her completion, but tries to find him by undergoing trials which test her own faculties, so that when she finds him again, she will be able to share with him the things she so loved about him instead of only desiring to take them from him. Before she can stand with him, she must learn to stand alone.
II - Limits
"The calculus equation is used to find where a relationship is at any one point by means of its limits."
There is one aspect of human relationships that is not always, or even often, clear to the people involved. This principle is quite well known in calculus: relationships have limits, places they cannot go. Human relationships reach these limits when people realise that they are as close as they can get to another person— or that there is something they just cannot be to that person. However, the more the harmonies of a relationship are explored, the more you find out which intervals sound better. Closer, more intimate, is not always more wholesome. In musical terms, closer intervals do not necessarily sound better; for no readily apparent reason, a third sounds better than a second does. People can often find each other more in a seemingly less intimate friendship than they could, for example, in marriage. The added space lets them see both their friend and themselves more clearly. Also, what is symbiotic in an erotic relationship can be simply complementary in a friendship. Friends tend not to have as unrealistic expectations of each other as lovers do. As Madeleine L'Engle states:
Erotic love does not need to take time— in fact, it tends to want to waste as little time as possible. Friendship tends to take the time necessary to examine intents and motives. This is beginning to sound like erotic love is not very desirable, but that is not the case at all. Erotic love is a flame, transitory, consuming; it becomes something in itself and forgets about the human beings who began it. However, that does not make it any less necessary or beautiful. But it is not how all relationships should be, even if it is possible for them to be. Just as all the spacings in a scale are needed for music to be created, so people move through the harmonics and dissonances of a relationship, finding where they are in relation to each other and discovering how close it is important for them to be.
And what is a kiss, when all is done?
A promise given under seal— a vow
Taken before the shrine of memory—
A signature acknowledged—a rosy dot
Over the i in Loving—a secret whispered
To listening lips apart—a moment made
Immortal, with a rush of wings unseen—
A sacrament of blossoms, a new song
Sung by two hearts to an old simple tune—
The ring of one horizon around two souls
Together, all alone!
Some people would argue that this difficult subject does not belong in a project on love. Sex, it is true, is not love, or even a manifestation of love. While it is true that, when sexuality is joined with love, immense beauty and wonder are created and experienced, when sex becomes an object of its own, it leads to social disaster and desolation of the soul.
One of the greatest challenges faced by societies throughout history was to find a place for Man's lustful side. Other civilisations dealt with this with varying degrees of success through myths, religion (either sanctifying or oppressing sexuality), or social conventions; it has become evident in modern times that this does not work anymore. Today's society is sex-centred in an attempt to bring sexual matters out from the complete darkness where they had been for the first half of the century. However, sex is still very frightening for most people, a wild and seemingly uncontrollable force that makes us do things we otherwise would not, and so we have attempted to isolate it and view it apart from any reality or emotion. By trying to look at sex by itself, we tear it free from its moorings in heartfelt emotion, and it drifts on the wind. This dislocation allows it to be abused, used for selling or promoting a multitude of commodities and ideas, which further moves it away from its proper home in emotion. This unhealthy societal sexuality clearly shows the need for each individual to discover her own relationship to her sexual nature. Rilke foresaw this at the beginning of the century in his letters to Franz Kappus:
Rilke goes on to explain that lust does not preclude innocence, but that innocence is lost when people use sex, or anything else, as a distraction, an alternative to spiritual growth. Scott Peck, a contemporary psychotherapist, explains the use of sex as an attempted replacement for spiritual growth. He argues that human beings have an impulse to unite in oneness with the universe. Romantic love (as a reversion to a symbiotic childlike state), certain drugs, and sex all provide an easily gained glimpse into this oneness. Sex is probably the most potent of these three, as it involves the most intimate and immediate unity available to a human being. Peck describes this "collapse of ego boundaries" as a necessary "foretaste" of a more lasting mystical ecstasy that can be gained through the work of love. This foretaste gives us incentive to make necessary commitments to others in order to found lasting relationships in which real love can occur.
Sexual desire has an innate element of cruelty. Heightened desire can bring with it a venting of destructive emotion. The very picture of bodies passionately entwining has inherent violence. For this reason, couples who have long since ceased practising love in their relationship can still be physically intimate; this seeming contradiction is caused in part by the divorcing of sex from love which I spoke about earlier. The phenomenon of loneliness heightening sexual desire is a concept that Erich Fromm explores; he maintains that while the moment of union that sex provides appears to hold the promise of escape from our ego-barriers, when the moment is over, we may end up despising the person we shared it with because the estrangement is now felt much more acutely than before. Sex can also be tied to any strong emotion, not just love. The combination of all of these elements makes sex a potentially very dangerous force.
Erich Fromm's solution to the potent nature of sexuality is tenderness, which arises from 'brotherly love' — it allows the balancing of sexual urges with true caring for another person, with the acknowledgement of human solidarity. Sex is very important in any intensely intimate love relationship as it allows the people involved to determine the passionate interaction between archetypal masculine and feminine, and the softer, more human love. When these two are reconciled, tenderness appears.
IV – Male and Female
'…Before us lies eternity; our souls
Are love, and a continual farewell.'
There are no easy explanations for the interactions that happen exclusively between men and women. Even with sexual roles being redefined throughout this century, the sexes have remained strikingly different. It is possible that this difference is the result of biology – meaning that because our bodies are different we view things differently. This idea has interesting consequences because it means that our outlook and philosophy are formed by our physical surroundings, particularly by our bodies. This is certainly true in many circumstances – the body has often become a metaphor for larger concepts; the Greeks, for example, based their entire architecture on human proportion. In Platonic philosophy, everything in the physical world stemmed from something in the realm of 'ideals'. In this thinking, our physical forms are the result of thought, and not the other way round. The question becomes a bit vague at this point – do our ideas determine our reality, or do our surroundings inspire our thoughts? The same dilemma is faced when looking at men and women; our perceptions, affected by the filters of our gender-determined bodies, hormones, processes and soul qualities, only govern how we relate to ourselves and the world – they are not who we are. Therefore, one could say that our existential reality gives us the resources for creating our own true reality. This assertion certainly goes against the ideal of objective truth. However, it does not mean that objective truth does not exist; only that objective truth is merely a foundation for our own subjective truth. Thus, everything we experience through our senses contributes to our own truth, which means our senses, our earthly experiences, are essential to a true understanding of 'reality'. So, since men and women necessarily experience life differently, true communion between these and other polarities is necessary for us to find our human truth. This enlightening reconciliation can occur both in a mature love relationship between people, or as a conscious recognition of polarities within one person. These polarities can, with some imagination, be traced back to the polarities of masculine and feminine elements.
"Lying at the bottom of the pond is a large man covered with hair all the way down to his feet, kind of reddish–he looks a little like rusty iron."
Men have historically been the warriors, food providers and tyrants of society. Until the middle of this century, men always had a clear picture of their own masculinity, then things changed:
During the sixties, however, men were forced to look at what this unbalanced vision had wrought in the world. Also, the swiftly rising profile of women not only forced men to look at them in a completely new way, but also forced them to discover their own feminine aspect. Wonderful things have come of this, but most men are still not happy. This is because, although men are now more in balance with the feminine, they have forgotten the awesome power of their creative force – they have abandoned it because of its seemingly dangerous, low and destructive nature. Men still identify their masculine side with the mindless aggression that initiated countless wars. The real masculinity, however, is more deeply rooted than any surface aggression – it encompasses the sacrificial, nurturing, but still very raw, male creative force.
Women, too, have gone through a number of transformations through the century. Women have been breaking out of their roles as the silent, submissive wives, useful only as far as they contribute to forming a family. This transition has required women to form extremely strong individualities, which means that they have not been able to trust any external force. Through this search, women have found important roles as people – as autonomous individuals – but they, too, have lost something; in the past, women had a natural, unconscious, effortless tie to the earth. Because it was necessary for them to cut off all external influences, that part of them has died. And yet, that may have been essential:
As women and men begin to redefine themselves, they come to the realisation that they each need to find an equal part of masculine and feminine within themselves. However, it has become clear that the masculine and feminine impulses must be different in a man than in a woman; for us to have a clear experience of our truth, that polarity must exist – and because the truth exists, the balanced polarity will as well.
When these polarities are reconciled, a third element enters; in our individual searches it is our selves, and in our relationships it is the greater expression of the relationship itself. There is a saying that a child is love made visible; in any relationship where there is love there is a child of sorts – it is whatever great thing comes of a true love.
V – Permutations
"Yet never have two lovers kissed but they
Believed that there was some other near at hand,
And almost wept because they could not find it."
– W.B. Yeats, "The Shadowy Waters"
"Whether it be shallow or not, commitment is the foundation, the bedrock, of any genuinely loving relationship."
– Scott Peck
"By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher."
Marriage has become a very questionable covenant in modern times. Divorce rates are exceedingly high – more marriages fall apart than stay together. It has been recently argued that marriage is an outdated institution that in the past was only used as a way of keeping men and women in their traditional role models and passing the same onto their children. Certainly the traditional 'marriage' has to be questioned in modern times – indeed, it has also had to die to be consciously renewed. Thus, in an appropriately titled article, "Marriage is Dead, Long Live Marriage", Adolf Guggenbühl-Craig offers a solution:
Guggenbühl-Craig compares marriage to religious hermitage. Just as the hermit cannot escape himself, the couple cannot escape each other. This picture makes the idea of marriage quite a bit clearer; just as the purpose of the solitary recluse through the centuries has been to reconcile the dichotomies within each individual, in the emerging new form of marriage, there is a chance to reconcile two individualities to each other, and so find the third that exists between them. The immediate problem with this solution is the idea of having children outside of marriage. In what other possible situation can children healthily develop and grow? One solution is to enclose the parent or parents in a community in which true 'community' and love occur. The communes of the sixties had this idea, but they did not work for at least two reasons: the child did not have strong male and female role-models. Also, those communities did not pass beyond the stage of 'false community', which in a group situation is synonymous with the 'false love', the dissolving of boundaries that occurs in romantic love. Wherever the child is brought up, then, must be a place in which love has been brought to maturity. It is also essential that the child have a strong male and a strong female influence in order to develop both sides of its soul. In these circumstances, marriage could become a sacrament, reserved for those who felt that their further spiritual development lay in developing directly alongside another person.
"Above all, marriage is a new task and a new seriousness – a new challenge to and questioning of the strength and generosity of each partner and a great new danger for both."
–Rainer Maria Rilke
ii) The Art of Power
One of the greatest misconceptions about love is the idea that love requires harmony and pacifism. Great power is granted to those in a love relationship, and not to use it is as wrong as using it carelessly. It is dangerous, of course, to confront a loved one; as soon as you do so, you are placing yourself in a position of superiority, and it is very important, before you do so, to examine your wisdom and motives. This self-examination is an essential element of love as a process of spiritualcreation. The name given to such scrutiny in the Middle Ages was meekness or humility: "Meekness in itself is nothing else than a true knowing and feeling of a man's self as he is. Any man who truly sees and feels himself as he is must surely be meek indeed."
The words are a fourteenth-century monk's, and they illustrate how the same qualities are necessary in both solitary and communal relations.
Confrontation should be a last resort, however. It is preferable to exercise power by showing it, i.e. teaching by example.
As Peck shows, it is risky to exercise power because we are presuming to play God; however, if we do it properly, we find that we, in a way, become God.
"…It is not loved there. Down there is nothing
but the equanimity of tumbled stones,
and I can see my sadness.
Was this my image in her eyes flashing?"
Self-love, or Narcissism, is usually seen as the lowest form of love, mostly because of theperception that self-love precludes love for others. Erich Fromm explains this quite clearly; he asserts that true love loves others as themselves, as human beings, and, since we too are human beings, it follows that we love ourselves as well.
If we do not love ourselves, it is because of deeply hidden flaws of which we are ashamed; how then could we love others, knowing that, as human beings, they must have just as many failings? People who love others and not themselves can only do so conditionally, and their 'love' fades when the illusion of perfection does. The person without self-love cannot love at all – he cannot afford to give love to others if he has none for himself; he cannot extend himself to others if he cannot reach himself. Essentially, self-love is a foundation to all other love. It is parallel to the assertion that if you do not know yourself you cannot know others; if the strings of your own instrument are out of tune, you cannot hope to play in any sort of harmony with others. That is why Narcissus' self-seeing is so important, but beware – a reflection is only a reflection…
iv) Passion and Discipline
"Tis the set of the sails, and not the gales
Which tell us the way to go…"
The overwhelming power and capriciousness of the passionate feelings of love seem to proscribe containment – it seems that if we try to contain them, they will die as much as a caged eagle would, denied the sky. However, left uncontained, the immense power in these forces would drift, beautiful, and yet doing harm whenever anything blindly got in its way. Therefore, it is not a matter of containing passion, but of guiding it. Through this process, the polarities of passion and reason emerge. These are manifestations of the larger forces of energy and structure.
It is difficult to keep passion and reason in balance. If we keep too much of a hold on our faculties of reason, our passionate vitality is kept too much in the dark and retreats back into us, leaving us dim and lifeless. If we act completely at the mercy of our passions, we not only lose control, but we also burn out with great speed, unable to deal with the wild energy flowing through us. The end result is the same – spiritual or physical apathy.
Scott Peck compares relationships in which passion alone rules as
A relationship in which passion is controlled and mixed he compares to a Rembrandt painting – still containing the colour, yet used with more meaning and care. As he elaborates, "Passion is feeling of great depth. The fact that a feeling is uncontrolled is no indication whatsoever that it is any deeper than a feeling that is disciplined."
Feelings are our source of energy – our inner flame, what enables us to receive inspiration. As long as we remember that passion means 'suffering', we will be able to accept its power, our own power, with responsibility.
VI – Loneliness, Solitude and Individuality
Not in my grandfather's time, but in his father's, there lived a rabbi in a small Russian town who, through many years of solitary contemplation of the deepest questions of God and creation, had decided that, at the very root of things, one just did not know.
One morning, shortly after making this decision, he was walking across the town square. He was not halfway across when a Cossack, the town's bad-tempered policeman, accosted him.
"Where do you think you're going?" he demanded.
"I don't know," the rabbi replied.
"You don't know? You don't know? For twenty years you have walked across the square to the synagogue at exactly this time. And you say you don't know? You are making fun of me, and I'll soon teach you better!"
So the Cossack dragged the rabbi off to the jail. Just as he was about to throw him into a cell, the rabbi turned to him and said, "You see, you just don't know."
This story illustrates part of the significance of solitude. Choosing to be alone is a very frightening prospect. When we are alone, we are cut off from all assurances, all of the mundane daily interactions that convince us that people are like us and that we can be fairly sure of what will happen when we interact with them. Being alone forces us to accept our individuality – to accept that we are alone, and that we can never be really sure what another person will do. Søren Kierkegaard recognised that this is the case – you can never truly know whether someone forgives you when you wrong him, or if or how someone loves you. This is one of the most frightening and uncomfortable realisations in the area of human relationship. As soon as one realises that one is ultimately alone, loneliness occurs.
Loneliness cannot be cured merely by being around people – once you are made lonely, you will remain so, even or especially around other people, until you discover a way out through accepting your solitude.
Loneliness is a kind of emptiness; it is caused by the longing for a third element to bridge the gap between themselves and the unknowable other. The only way to find this completing element is first to accept the fact that objective knowledge of consciousness outside our own is impossible. Then the search for a subjective experience of and reconciliation with others can begin.
Peck describes this stage of emptiness as "the bridge between chaos and community"; in his theorem, communities move through the same stages as couples do. Therefore it applies here: an attitude of false assurance and unfounded knowledge has to die in order for a new truth, based on subjective experience of the unknowable, to arise. We cannot know others, but we can see their faces, hear their voices; we cannot see a wave, but we can see its effect through the water, hear it through the air; we cannot experience God, but we can watch a sunset, live through a hurricane, or feel love. In this way, the realisation of every conscious entity being inexorably alone can be reconciled with the need to share one's self – through the interplay of our senses and emotions, a third element can arise that is common to all of us. In order for this element to enter, it is necessary for an emptiness to open in us and between us, to give it space.
Solitude is needed to allow us the space necessary to immolate old ideals, feelings or beliefs in order for them to be reborn. Also, being alone gives us the time to go through death-processes uninterrupted by outside interference. When anything dies, we go through five stages of release: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. This is as true for spiritual, emotional or mental death as it is for physical death. When a child receives news that his parents are changing jobs and that he must therefore move to a different city, he goes through the same successive stages: at first he tries to pretend that the dreaded event will never happen, that the job offer will fall through, and that he will not have to go. When it becomes apparent that this is not the case, he becomes angry – at his parents, at the world, at himself. Then he desperately tries to plead with anyone (or anything) that may be able to solve his plight, but when it becomes apparent that this is a fruitless venture, he falls into a deep depression – he turns inward and dwells upon everything he is leaving behind and what it has meant to him. Eventually, as the moving date draws nearer, he may come to a place of acceptance – remembering and then relinquishing everything he is leaving behind, and opening himself to the new possibilities of where he is going. Maybe he realises that he has been miserable in the place he is now, or that a new situation will give him more space to grow. This whole process is one he would not have gone through if he had not been given the opportunity to look at his situation, not been shown that it needed to die. In the same way, we need solitude to examine our practical and emotional lives and see what needs to die – a view that would not be possible unless we moved ourselves away from these situations.
The very fact that we cannot be together with another being is our blessing as well as our curse; once we had achieved union, we might very well recognise it as a step backwards and no longer desire it. As Rilke maintains:
The distance he speaks of is analogous to Peck's emptiness – it is a space for a reconciling element to enter, and for something new to be created. It is also a space that is constantly being filled, and so constantly needs to be renewed; as a forest fire releases tightly locked seeds and makes way for new growth, so elements which have reached their completion need to die to be reborn as seedlings of new aspects. For this process to be possible, we need solitude.
In our modern lives, we are surrounded by a multitude of activities, thoughts, and emotions; solitude allows us to find our centre point in order that we may "be still as the axis of a revolving wheel is still." This centre point in ourselves allows us to hold out the chalice that holds our essential capacity for giving without our hands shaking and spilling our potential gifts. Solitude also gives us the chance to take the time to replenish this chalice, to let our stores of energy rebuild so that we might share them with others and with the world.
The protective measures we have developed to survive the intense trials of this century have made us lose touch, both with ourselves and with others. The more people extend themselves out into the world, the more of a shield they need to protect their increasing vulnerability. This 'cocooning' also results in a loss of self-knowledge – as the individual herself becomes unsure of who she really is. This necessarily makes it difficult to relate to others. As I explained in my project on individuality in the twentieth century:
The solution of depression continues to work as a way of drawing back and examining what lies inside the 'turtle's shell' of defences most of us have built up. Once this is accomplished, we can once again emerge, bringing with us the light of our true consciousness, and meet the world and the people in it with honesty and vulnerability. As long as we can keep this awareness of our own needs and true feelings, it will be much easier to respect the same in others.
It is essential, too, not to forget to leave the fields of relationship fallow once and a while – when you then return, you will give and receive much more richly than if you constantly try to force growth and yield.
"And this more human love…will resemble that which we are preparing with struggle and toil, the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and border and salute each other."
– Rainer Maria Rilke
VII –True Love
"To respect a person is not possible without knowing him; care and responsibility would be blind if they were not guided by knowledge. Knowledge would be empty if it were not motivated by concern."
"The transformed speaks only to relinquishers. All holders-on are stranglers."
–Rainer Maria Rilke
"The difference between involved and committed? It's like bacon and eggs: the chicken's involved – the pig's committed."
Our entire society exists under the myths and stories of perfect love: either the fairy-tale kind, ending in happily ever after, like Cinderella, unrequited, like the Phantom of the Opera, or tragic love, too powerful for lasting physical expression, such as Romeo and Juliet or Tristan and Iseult. These ideals have been able to survive until recently because couples until this century have
Human 'chemistry', or mating cycles, seem to be arrayed against anything but short, child-producing unions as well; our original instincts let us stay in a monogamous relationship for four years – just long enough to raise a child out of complete dependency. Also, infatuation in the chemical viewpoint is true dependency – the hormones involved are addictive. Therefore, if you are addicted to these hormones, it does not matter who you are in a relationship with, as long as it stays exciting. Freud described this type of addiction as the object of love gaining "…possession of the entire self-love of the ego, whose self-sacrifice thus follows as a natural consequence. The object has, so to speak, consumed the ego."
All addictions are formed to fill a void within an individual's being. Love is a very tempting addiction because it can so perfectly fill this gap left by undeveloped consciousness. In this way, it soon takes the place of the addict's identity. The only way he can break out of this is through extreme pain, either self-inflicted through a sudden burst of will, or by the ending of an especially encompassing relationship. The ensuing depression will either destroy him, or lead him to find himself.
The problem of the relationship itself becoming an addiction, however, is only the most base; there are other, far more daunting, less chemical difficulties as well. When we become involved in a relationship during a time where our feelings and self are stable and balanced, we usually begin with the good intention not to put any limitations on our feelings:
However, as soon as a relationship has actually to manifest in the world, and as the relationship becomes more intimate, we encounter our own fears, limitations and inhibitions. All of these limit the extent of our ability to extend our love. If we are worried about being vulnerable because of a past wound, a condition has already entered: I will love you if you do not hurt me, if you do not betray my trust. This seems to be a waste, a defiling of unconditional love. And yet, as we have already learned, both polarities are necessary – the limits are necessary for love to work practically, and the limitless love is needed to persist when the limits are exceeded. The interplay between these two is what makes love human. The place of unconditional love is to support the relationship. If it turns into unconditional toleration, it becomes too permissive, and can even be damaging to the loved one. Unconditional love cannot be used for judgement; it is simply an acknowledgement of the goodness of the beloved's being. If conditional love rules when to support a relationship, the relationship will fall apart as soon as a condition is not met. Erich Fromm characterises these two types of love as mother-love and father-love. He maintains that each person models these types during his childhood and adolescence by
This idea makes apparent the need for a balance of strong masculine and feminine influences in a child's life; in modern times, both can come from either the mother or the father.
The edge between these difficulties is razor thin, and we walk it with a blindfold; how is it possible to traverse it without slipping to either side or cutting ourselves fatally? The answer is old, simple, and yet often overlooked: trust in the goodness of the heart, your own and others'. Find your solitude, and ask yourself what is truly the best thing to do. If your answer is honestly considered, whatever you choose will be the right path, even if it leads to turbulence:
As long as you feel the centre steady within yourself, you will be balanced in all your thoughts, feelings and actions, and above all, you will love truly.
"Although my mind drifts from you
my heart feels your newness–
I walk straight without your hand
my heart knows you are still there
I smile because
Where an angel wings between…"
VIII – Conclusion
As the twentieth century draws to a close, individuals are beginning to find their true individuality. This, however, should not be the ending point, but rather, a point of departure on a journey toward each other.
It does not take a great deal of effort to notice the themes that surface throughout this discussion of love. Indeed, that is not surprising; love is, essentially, the interaction between two polarities. The most obvious names for these are male and female; in the archetypal relationship, the product of the balance between these is a child. However, these polarities have other manifestations within love relationships – in oriental philosophy, the polarities would be Yin and Yang, and the third, reconciling force would emerge as Chi. Some Christians would call the middle path Christ; a musician would call it overtones. In any event, these polarities are not relative, though their incarnations usually are; they are definite objective realities, through which we discover our own subjective truth. In each human being exists both polarities; consequently, we each have the capacity to balance these and find the middle path. It is important to realise that these extremesdo not simply live in us as outer influences, but they are actually a part of us. Therefore, through relationships with other human beings, the effect of both the dichotomies and their reconciliation is intensified, and has a much larger and more profound effect.
Another theme that has emerged throughout the writing of this project is the three social paths towards balance: the individual path, in which the goal is enlightenment, the path of the couple, in which the goal is true love, and the path of the fellowship, or 'family', in which the goal is true community. Each of these paths experiences parallel stages, breakthroughs and pitfalls in its development. Each has its shortcuts that promise an easy way through, and each is necessary for human development.
The last symbol, permeating each section, is the phoenix: the bird that dies in flame and rises from its own ashes. Throughout this century, every old structure has had to die in order to be reborn. The fire in which the creature perishes is consciousness; nothing can be consciously realised without dying. Sometimes these structures survive in a recognisable form, sometimes they are completely transformed.
Each human being in the twentieth century goes through the same process. The pain of consciousness of the infinitely large and the infinitely small eventually becomes too much for all of us – and we each perish in searing flames, to rise up, filled with new understanding.
Love is what gives us the strength to endure that ordeal.
08/05/98 6:26 AM
I cannot quite believe that this project is finished. The whole process has made me a phoenix as well. During the course of writing the project, I experienced every aspect I have written about at least once. I suppose I should have known that I was asking for it when I chose to do a project on love, but I didn't realise that my practical would be as practical as it was. The experiences were amazing – but they also made it very difficult to write; it is not easy to write an objective theory of sexuality a few hours after one's first kiss. Anyhow, with the help of copious amounts of black tea, I finished it within a reasonable vicinity of the deadline – and I think it is the better for having been written after my experiences had been reconciled and I had returned to balance.
I don't know how much I really learned about love in writing this project. It seemed more like I was clarifying my thoughts on my own situations. There is not one friendship, family or passion of mine that has escaped transformation through this labour of…love? Also, my relationship to myself has changed. I have tempered my fear of affecting the world – experience has taught me, the hard way, that being paralysed can be just as great an evil. As well, I have come to the realisation that impatience is the greatest wrong when it comes to love. If something is forced to move before its time, it only shatters, crumbles, and you are left holding dust.
When the fruit is ripe, it will fall from the tree…
David Taylor Gill
Special thanks to:
and Ridgeway's Earl Grey Tea
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