A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Day After Valentine's Day

The experience of loving, that now disappoints so many, can actually change and be transformed from the ground up into the building of a relationship between two human beings, not just a man and a woman. And this more authentic love will be evident in the utterly considerate, gentle, and clear manner of its binding and releasing. It will resemble what we now struggle to prepare: the love that consists of two solitudes which border, protect, and greet each other.

RAINER MARIA RILKE Letters to a Young Poet

I ain’t lookin’ to compete with you / Beat or cheat or mistreat you / Simplify you, classify you / Deny, defy or crucify you / All I really want to do / Is, baby, be friends with you.

BOB DYLAN All I Really Want to Do

Monday you can fall apart / Tuesday Wednesday break my heart / Thursday doesn't even start / It's Friday I'm in love.

ROBERT SMITH (from THE CURE) Friday I'm in Love

Our history books refer to it 
In cryptic little notes, 
It's quite a common topic on
The Transatlantic boats; 
I've found the subject mentioned in
Accounts of suicides, 
And even seen it scribbled on
The backs of railway guides.

Does it howl like a hungry Alsatian, 
Or boom like a military band? 
Could one give a first-rate imitation
On a saw or a Steinway Grand? 
Is its singing at parties a riot? 
Does it only like Classical stuff? 
Will it stop when one wants to be quiet?
O tell me the truth about love.

WH AUDEN Tell Me the Truth about Love

Love is not vain because it is frustrated, but because it is fulfilled. The people we love turn to ashes when we possess them.

MARCEL PROUST  In Search of Lost Time: The Guermantes Way

Sickly-sweet Valentine's Day is now over. Did your relationship survive it? Roselle at Qualia and Other Wildlife has some wise words to say on the subject:

Eleven Things to Give Up in Relationships

Here are some things that commonly block our ability to give and receive love. Giving them up can only make you happier!

The idea that your partner or anyone else is here to make you happy and to meet your needs. Your partner is here for his or her own journey on this earth; if you can support each other in your journeys and adventures then you have a chance of real happiness. 

The view that you and your partner sail in the same boat. You are, always have been and always will be in two boats; the choice is whether you steer side-by-side for the same open sea, or shore, or not. What you have in common is the ocean. 

The need to merge or fuse with your partner. True union isn’t possible except when two individuals are clearly differentiated, knowing themselves and their partner as distinct entities. Work instead on knowing who you are, and seeing clearly who your partner is. That way, there’s a chance of real love and interdependency rather than co-dependency. 

The need for that Other to be like you and to agree with you. Showing another who you really are, and engaging with who the other is, is an act of love; needing their agreement and approval before you can be who you are can be narcissistic, egotistical and insecure. 

Controlling, whether by fault-finding, withholding, blame and coercion — or by praise. All are manipulations, and driven by fear. That doesn’t mean to say you can’t appreciate, out loud, who your partner is, nor ever express something that's pissing you off — it's more whether you are co-opting this to serve your fears. (There's an associated issue here: that of self-disclosure. This is a prerequisite for intimacy, but it's important to be aware of whether we use this as a manipulation to have the other reveal him- or herself to us, or as a genuine desire to share who we are with that Other without necessarily expecting reciprocity.) 

The association of love with mind-reading: 'If you really loved me you’d know without my telling you what I need.' Instead, commit to knowing for yourself what you really need, and be willing to show that to your partner. Equally, learn from him or her what s/he needs. 

Expecting the other to always 'be there’ for you'. It’s simply not possible when the other has his or her own life and journey, and s/he is not your mother/father. 

Taking everything another says or does personally. While you may be offering him or her a 'hook' to hang their stuff on, another person's 'stuff' remains their stuff, and probably says more about them than about you. 

Reacting. Instead, learn to respond. What this means is denying yourself the momentary satisfaction of blowing the other out of the water with emotional heat (you might feel it, but that doesn’t inevitably have to lead to exhibiting it), instead seeing clearly what the situation needs from you. You may still find you need to raise it with your partner anyway; if so, it helps if you can give yourself time to calm down so it isn't merely an attack. If you take time out, you may find you don't need to launch anything at him/her, but adjust an expectation of your own, or at least trace the roots of your reaction and its previous baggage (because there usually is some). 

The need to blame — self or other. Instead, take responsibility and change a pattern for the better. We’re all human and we all get it wrong sometimes as we learn, and that is simply how it is. Learn to love yourself; then you can love another. 

Struggling — with yourself or another — to be anything other than who you are/the Other really is. 

But you don't have to believe me; just try it for yourself . . . And no, of course I don't manage it myself all, or even much, of the time!

And this list clearly could go on and on, and no doubt at some stage it will.

ROSELLE ANGWIN Qualia and Other Wildlife


dritanje said...

Well, there is a huge amount of wisdom in this post, from various sources. I particularly like Rilke's 'what we are struggling now to create' because I suspect there will always be some element of struggle in human life on earth. Also 'tell me the truth about love' because of course no one can definitively do that though one or 2 wise people like Buddha or Christ maybe did. And 'what you have in common is the ocean'. It reminds me of Rumi's 'to be held by the ocean/is the best luck we can have'. He doesn't mention love in those lines but it is utterly implicit so I think. Because although we've been thinking about love between 2 people, there is the love-as-world within which we can live. Anyway, thank you solitary walker for all the inspiring words.

George said...

An absolutely brilliant post, Robert, with much to reflect upon. Such a nice departure from the all too saccharine aspects of Valentine's Day. Yes, "O tell me the truth about love." In my view, Rilke has given us the perfect description of "authentic love," and Roselle Angwin has provided a fine, detailed map as to how we might reach that lovely destination. We try, we fail, we try again, we fail again — but, with time, I think most of us get better at it. Whatever the case, we must continue to walk in the direction of "two solitudes which border, protect, and greet each other."

am said...

Yes. The day after Valentine's Day and the ongoing wonder and humor in the giving and receiving that makes a relationship.

“Love, that moves the sun and the other stars - L'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle.”

-- Dante, Paradiso

donna baker said...

Well, one would think after 43 years of marriage, I'd have it down pat. I did enjoy the post though.

Susan Scheid said...

I particularly like "Reacting. Instead, learn to respond." So wise of you to point up the different in terms.

Vagabonde said...

There is much truth in everything you posted. She says “11 things to give up in a relationship.” It depends on the idea of what one expects in a relationship. The 11 things look to me as what a young, youthful bride might dream of, but not everyone think that way though, thankfully.

Relationships are so personal. I do think the 3rd thing – “the need to merge or fuse with your partner” is somewhat unhealthy. I am thinking about two French literature giants, Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir who had a bond that was stronger than marriage but were totally free, living in different flats all their lives, but needing each others intellect as much as oxygen.

The Solitary Walker said...

Morelle (Dritanje) — I thought people would like to read the whole of Rumi's wonderful poem, so here it is, translated by Coleman Barks:


Love has taken away my practices
and filled me with poetry.

I tried to keep quietly repeating,
No strength but yours,
but I couldn’t.

I had to clap and sing.
I used to be respectable and chaste and stable,
but who can stand in this strong wind
and remember those things?

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself.
That’s how I hold your voice.

I am scrap wood thrown in your fire,
and quickly reduced to smoke.

I saw you and became empty.
This emptiness, more beautiful than existence,
it obliterates existence, and yet when it comes,
existence thrives and creates more existence!

The sky is blue. The world is a blind man
squatting on the road.

But whoever sees your emptiness
sees beyond blue and beyond the blind man.

A great soul hides like Muhammad, or Jesus,
moving through a crowd in a city
where no one knows him.

To praise is to praise
how one surrenders
to the emptiness.

To praise the sun is to praise your own eyes.
Praise, the ocean. What we say, a little ship.

So the sea-journey goes on, and who knows where!
Just to be held by the ocean is the best of luck
we could have. It’s a total waking up!

Why should we grieve that we’ve been sleeping?
It doesn’t matter how long we’ve been unconscious.

We’re groggy, but let the guilt go.
Feel the motions of tenderness
around you, the buoyancy.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, Amanda (Am), Donna and Susan.

And Vagabonde — 'I am thinking about two French literature giants, Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir who had a bond that was stronger than marriage but were totally free, living in different flats all their lives, but needing each other's intellect as much as oxygen.' What a great and inspiring example!

The Solitary Walker said...

George — I'm reminded of Beckett's 'Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.'