i'm a romantic by nature. i love to love. i live to love. love is everywhere, love is everything, LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE. so imagine my chagrin when i pick up a lovely buddhist periodical, ON VALENTINE'S DAY, and read this:
"Romantic love, no matter how delicious, is the primary symptom of cultural malaise, the central neurosis of Western civilization.
By romantic love I mean that which focuses upon the loved one as an object of passion, devotion, and fixation. The loved one becomes the answer to all of life's problems, the source of all our happiness, and potentially, the source of all of our woes. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we can see that romantic love is deeply unhappy love, addicted to misery and suffering, cloaked in fantasy and separation."i have enough experience with meditation and yoga to "understand" this message, but my heart, frankly, yelped like a puppy being kicked when i read this. i tend toward the dramatic, but doesn't EVERYBODY need love? what is love if not complete and utter surrender to another? well, some might say it's a healthy relationship...the idea behind the article i found is that pumping up love, or the object of our love, to be the cure-all in our lives is a recipe for disaster. therefore, we should use meditation to cut through fantasy and illusion to relate to life as it really is, in order to create REAL magic. well, if you put it that way, creating a relationship to something real is undoubtedly more fulfilling than relating to an illusion. but letting go of fantasy and romance....well, where's the fun in that? i'm torn between these two seemingly distinct beings within myself who approach love from entirely opposite ends of the spectrum- reason and passion, and i'm determined to reconcile the two. or maybe introduce them for the first time...
let's be clear that we're talking about romantic love here. we've all felt love, in the general sense, whether we classified it as such or not. that light, lifting feeling when you're surrounded by people you love, laughing, standing two feet deep in the crashing waves with the sun on your face, or having all the wind sucked out of you while listening to a certain piece of music. that sense of awe and wonder, to me, is the definition of love. in those moments, love is big and beautiful and wondrous and life-giving. but when that feeling is caused by one other person who makes your nether-regions tingle, well you better watch out because here's where it gets confusing; here's when we have to ask, what does it mean to love, and who decides?
i remember being in a yoga class and the teacher said, "when you give support to your heart you can open up without risking getting hurt." she was referring momentarily to a back bend, but obviously relating to real life scenarios. she always spoke so beautifully about the importance of having boundaries in order to be truly open. but without a full explanation i imagine the real meaning was lost on most of the class because, in our culture, any reference to the heart is either medical or entirely poetic. we have movies and music talking about the ecstasy of love and the 'ONE' and all that other poetic perfection, and then experience the real life instances of saying 'i love you,' and having the object of our affection turn on their heels and run for the hills. how then do we deal with the emotional aftermath of rejection? listening to sade on repeat, staring at the phone, driving slowly down the other person's street with the headlights off...or whatever...with 'Grey's Anatomy' polluting society's collective mind about the 'shoulds' of relationships, people end up going through life either exposing themselves and their emotions to the point of indecency, or walking around with electrified barbed wire fences around themselves.
if you've seen the movie, 'UP,' there's a scene between a man and his dog that illustrates my heart's understanding of love; Dug, the dog, knocks on the door of his master's house (Dug decided this man would be his master, while the master refused...classic dramatized love story.) then he says simply, "i was hiding under your porch because i LOVE you.....can i stay?" in Dug's world, love is something automatic, and mindless. Dug doesn't THINK about it, he just loves his master because that's his master. and even when the master says over and over again, 'i'm NOT your master,' Dug persists. it's adorable, it's heartbreaking, it's a cartoon. it's entertaining because we know it can't end badly. put that into the context of the real world it's slightly pathetic. and painful to watch because, unfortunately, in real life, the Disney producers aren't guiding the story line to ensure a happy ending for the love-starved dog named Dug.
i don't believe the heart can be controlled. but it can be reasoned with, to some degree. if you live your life in a 'protective' state of mind- not expecting anyone to be able to understand your heart, or to fully appreciate and protect the gift of your love, you're not going to believe in or even recognize the miracle of that person when they show up. the balance point is to be present enough to recognize the butterflies and skipped beats, AND protective enough to realize that YOU are ultimately responsible for the fate of that little heart. it's up to each of us to determine whether or not the object of our lust deserves that pink pulsing muscle in our chest. love is a gift, and sometimes we give gifts that are appreciated fully and sometimes we give gifts that WE really like, but the significance is totally lost on the recipient. believe in the possibility of shared love, fall in love with your own heart first, and when the time is right you can spill your guts in a tidy way. magic is real, but we have to give it REAL LIFE context, because it can be really not fun, too. in that way, loving someone is just like anything else- let's say a shower- it's something you need regularly, it's something that can go from hot to cold in a split second, it can make a big difference in your day and your health, and it's something that can be easily taken for granted. but we all need to shower.
in the game of love, there are bound to be casualties. involuntary manslaughter. homicide. suicide. if you know the content of your own heart, if you talk to your heart regularly, know its secrets, its desires, its needs, you will learn how to feed it and care for it. and then when someone comes along who might be worthy of the gift of your love, the two of you can share it. i don't know that i'll ever completely get over the impulse to rip my still-beating heart out of my chest and wrap it in a big pink, bloody bow for my lover, but i guess i just have to take that risk, one love at a time.