13 January 2008

Living Love

A good friend recently told me it seems like I'm in my head all the time, possibly at the expense of other important learning. "What else is there?," I questioned. And I meant it. What matters most is whether something makes sense, or is right. All else is superfluous. Experience for experience's sake? No thanks. And emotions are pretty meaningless in and of themselves. Logic, however, retains its identity and applicability independently, as far as I can see. Of course, logic and reason are...bland without passion and limited without experiential framework. But true intelligence stands on its own. Being "human" involves more than logic, but logic is what frames all else, so why "leave my head"? Why leave reason aside? It makes no sense.

I've had some thoughts on this as it relates to love and relationships.

I have, indeed, felt detached from those who have been closest to me and wondered how to feel love and affection better, outside of romance. Romance has, in the past, brought out some precious parts of me, but maybe that's not the only way? Then again, it seemed so effortless then. And in the aftermath of romantic attachment, it's easy to pine away for that kind of connection again when you're as old as I am and have felt it so seldom. It's then easier to lazily invest less in non-romantic friendships because it takes so much more effort to feel so good in them. But it's also easier to move on once the freshness wears off and its animating influence seems like a distant memory. And you're left to act on your understanding and knowledge rather than the intense motivation of infatuation.

The concrete and discernible things in life are goals and decisions or, regarding relationships, whom I choose to interact with. But in that sense, what, then, is love anyway, besides a decision about where to spend energy? Are romantic attachments meaningless because they're just hollow emotion? Is affection little more than a selfish need to feel wanted or feel "good"? What is the attachment people say they feel? I don't normally get "attached" to people easily at all, but somehow, I have become attached very quickly in a couple of friendships-turned-romantic, and I've also been burned.

While I enjoy the company of some people in my life more than others and appreciate their opinions and value their dedication, I'm most often not sure I understand "love" as some ethereal bond. The bonds exist only as much as actions back them up. "Love", in the ethereal sense, seems meaningless to me, even though I have, a few times, desired it in a romantic form so intensely it hurts. I understand feeling attached (in that exciting way which has spurred me to trust without justification and feel vulnerable but looking forward to exposing more), but it feels shallow and meaningless without action, and unnecessary (but nice) with action.

It would be nice to really know what I'm saying when I tell someone I love them, even though I only say it when I feel like I mean it. Others seem more confident with the expression. Much of the time, I think I mean something like, "I appreciate your presence in my life and feel some kind of affection I'm not sure I can 'explain' other than to say I would miss your presence in my life." When I was a child, I just knew who I liked and trusted: I "loved" them. Now, it seems less cut-and-dry.

During the conversation which sparked these thoughts, I thanked my friend for being patient with me through my self-absorbed times when I seem to think about these dilemmas incessantly and when most of my conversations with him involved my frustrations and my efforts to reconcile different, seemingly conflicted emotions and knowledge. It probably takes someone who really cares to patiently go through this with me or keep spending time with me even when I'm not as "fun" or giving as I could be. During those times, the nature of each friendship is revealed, those who dwindle, those who stand by, those who engage.

A couple of friends have told me they really "value" my friendship, and I'm pretty sure I value theirs. But what do they mean when they say "value"? Do I have friends without whom I would be less happy or fulfilled? And if so, why? And should I? Is it just about selfish fulfillment and what I get from the friendship?

Once you're past the friendship "honeymoon" stage, where you no longer feel excited to spend time with this now-not-so-new person, what keeps you coming around? Or should you just move on? I try to maintain friendships which I believe to be mutually beneficial past the honeymoon stage. Is that "love" because I see reason to dedicate myself to that person even when it's not "comfortable" or "easy" or entirely "natural", anymore, to do so? And if that is love, isn't love more an action than an emotion? But then, that action leads to an increased desire for that person's welfare and happiness, which I suppose I could call love.

And again, if that's the case, is that love a selfless force, or do I want that person's happiness mainly because I have invested my own energy and time and dedicated it to that person, so I want that to pay off so it isn't wasted? Then that love is, at its root, a sort of selfish thing. Yet it was borne of selfless action made when something in me chose to dedicate myself. So in a way, I increase my love by investing myself in and connecting myself--spiritually, emotionally, physically, and mentally--with those around me. Is love both the motivating force and the fruit of becoming one large network of acts of selflessness?

I reject the notion that it's simple, that you love someone or you don't and that's all there is to it. It's a copout, to me, and seems like a limited, self-centered perspective that will simply carry you in and out of shallow, transient relationships your whole life.

No, I don't obsess about these things, except for the 15-60 minutes I spend writing them to get my thoughts expressed with some semblance of coherence. But I have wondered, from time to time, throughout my life, if I have often missed the mark when it comes to love or unnecessarily and detrimentally suppressed my expression of it through many years of "controlling" my emotions. And it seems to me that the best way to increase the love I feel is not just to find someone who finds me attractive and desirable and for whom I feel the same but...to decide and to act and to trust in a more conscious way. To try to show, through my time, through making myself vulnerable to them, through expression, how I value them.

But then, that's just me being heady and logical. Bringing the topic full circle to my original conversation with my friend, there's something for an "over-analytical" fellow such as myself to remember. I believe we, as a society, have the technology, science, and philosophy we do thanks to heady and overly-analytical people who wouldn't accept the surface answers as the end-all and be-all of understanding and reached deeper for more. However, there is something I'm learning, albeit slowly: my analyses will never mean much in my life as long as life passes by while I'm trying to figure it out. In order to increase my frame of reference, expand my paradigm, test my reason, and truly feel the joy, pain, and passion of living which I think we all are meant to experience as complete souls, I simply have to take a break from the deep, dark reaches of my inner world, rest my mental muscles, get off my butt, take some risks, and go gain experience and the strength that comes from exercising my agency by choosing to live life.

So I'm trying. Obviously, I'll start putting that into action after posting my blog entry... *wink*


One of So Many said...

I can't tell you how timely and perfectly said your post was to me. I'm glad I linked from others' site here.

I understand that all too well.

The Impossible K said...

Hmmm... yes. I definitely need to work on this too...
I've found that the best way to learn how to love is to follow Christ's example. It's refreshing to me because His motives are so pure. It's ridiculous to even consider he loved someone because He was sexually or even romantically motivated to do so. (Sounds scandalous even suggesting it!) His love was- and is- completely selfless.
Oh, and I just love it when He calls us His friends. I want my friendships to be modeled like that (though, obviously, I have a long way to go) - I wonder, though: how much place does logic or reason have in His love? And how much of His love is emotion?
Just something to think about... (like you needed the encouragement) :)

Max Power said...

So does this mean you will finally accept my friendship? Geez! I've been over to your house a billion times. :P