Posts Tagged ‘love’

Dropping the L-bomb

Under what circumstances do you say, “I love you,” also known as “dropping the L-bomb,” when you enter a new romantic relationship?

In considering the matter, one digs into a veritable sundae of sociological, psychological, and spiritual issues:

  • What is the vision of romantic love in the society?
  • What phrases, if any, in the society indicate a person’s belief that he or she is feeling romantic love of a particular level for someone?
  • Regardless of a particular society’s vision of romantic love, what actually is happening in “love” on various levels: sociological, psychological, physical, and spiritual?

One could write a book about how love has veen viewed through the ages and what phrases were used to indicate one’s recognition that love is present. Here, however, I’d like to talk about how things are in the US and Japan and how they jibe with my opinion of things.

Whereas in the past love and marriage were viewed in a more (but not necessarily exclusively) sociological context (i.e., marriage was more for practical and economic purposes, such as procreation and bringing families and even countries together), in the US we see marriage as existing for personal fulfillment: i.e., we want to find the person who complements us and experience love with him or her. The experience of love is primary; procreation and other aspects of the partnership are definitely secondary.

The following seem to me to be the basic principles of feeling love and using the phrase “I love you” in the US:

  • People in a loved-based partnership or relationship (e.g., marriage, living together, girl/boyfriend) ought to be feeling love for one another. Contrariwise, people who don’t have such feelings ought not be in such a partnership. For, there is a general belief that married people that don’t “really love each other” should get divorced and find partners they “really love.”
  • People who feel love for each other ought to express those feelings verbally (“I love you”), and something is wrong if they don’t, either with the relationship or with the partner or partners who won’t say the magic words.
  • Mutually saying “I love you” is a major milestone in the development of a relationship.
  • One ought not say “I love you” without really meaning it (whatever “really meaning it” means).

How about in Japan? The vision of romantic love in that country is not tremendously different from our own, and the way people approach dating is roughly the same as well. Furthermore, the phrase “ai shite iru” (literally, “I am loving [you], with the object of the verb usually left implied, as is common in Japanese grammar) has approximately the same sociological import as “I love you.” Once people are in a relationship, however, there seems to be much less of an expectation for verbal reinforcement.

So, according to the unspoken rules, we need to feel love for someone before we say “I love you.” We know as individuals what it’s like to feel romantic love for someone, but what is really going on? What neurological patterns are at work? What is happening in the spiritual dimension? We must confess our ignorance.

Furthermore, we cannot assume that a person who says “I love you” is necessarily feeling the same things that we are. We may try to judge through our five senses and even through senses beyond these whether the person is sincere in his or her words, but I have yet to see anywhere a table or chart that tells us what what degree of love goes with what facial expression or amount of light shining from the fourth chakra.

No, here we are definitely working in a world of fuzzy logic, in which a person must self-assess his or her feelings of love to decide whether to release the three-word trope, and we must in turn assess through uncertain signs whether that trope has been released appropriately. To complicate matters further, people drop the L-bomb even when they do not “really feel” love. For example, they may drop it in hopes of placating their partner now and “really feeling” love later. Or they may, like myself, be willing to say it under a rather lax standard, in which romantic love is conflated with altruistic love.

It’s true: I drop the L-bomb rather easily and retract it rather cautiously, as I try to “love everyone,” and hey–even if my romantic feelings for you are deceased, still “I love you,” right? I need to ponder more whether it is proper for me to use these words in this way.

All that said, there are of course times when the feeling of love is so strong on both sides and the energy working between and emanating from the persons in combination so great that only a fool would say, “We don’t know what’s really happening here in the hidden dimension; therefore we cannot say if they are really in love.” I would even venture to say that most of the time, when people say, “I love you,” they are expressing something sure and true, an apt symbol of something important and mysterious. Although I may be lax in dropping the L-bomb myself, I am no cynic when it comes to this most important of things.

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How can we deserve love and caring?

In The Lost Weekend, Ray Milland plays Don Birnam, a writer who sold a short story to a prestigious magazine long ago and who has spent the last several decades in alcoholism and failure. Released in the year 1945, it is still a very uncompromising and difficult-to-watch portrayal of addiction. I’d probably put it in my top 20 favorite movies.

One affecting aspect of the movie is how much Don’s girlfriend, father, and others care about him. They support him financially, try to help him get and stay sober, and generally love and care for him. While World War II raged and millions of people died for no good reason, Billy Wilder made a movie about a drunk that continually hurt others but received love and care in return.

To me, this is interesting and piquant. I look at Darfur, I look at Iraq, I look at all the places where people suffer, and die, and see their life’s work go up in smoke and their loved ones slaughtered right in front of them; and I find it curious that here in the United States I can, in relative security, cry over my relationships and breakups and other things that seem trivial in comparison.

This is not an original thought or feeling on my part. In the acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize he gave on December 10, 1950, William Faulkner said,

Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only one question: When will I be blown up? Because of this, the young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.

Faulkner most likely imagined nuclear war when he spoke of the fear of being blown up, but I suspect that the average person (in the US or in the world as a whole) carries with him or her greater fear than the average person of 1950. In am not a pessimist about the time in which we live, nor do I feel that 1950 was a better year overall, but I do think there is a different kind of tension in the year 2008 that begs for resolution. If the people of the US at the present moment are not particularly afraid of being blown up by terrorists, they are still worrying about health care, job security, retirement, and a host of other things. Our country seems to be saying, collectively, “When is the breather coming, the time of rest?” My impression is that people in 1950 did not worry so much in this way, that there was a clearer path of job, family, and life in general that let them to go to bed at night feeling that tomorrow would more or less make sense.

The first half of 2008 offered me not very many such nights. In January, my self-described soul mate left me after I had invested significantly in making her life in Indy secure and comfortable, and one of my important clients was unable to pay me, putting me in a serious cash crunch. I was broke with a broken heart.

If Don Birnham could receive help, couldn’t I? Who would be my salvation?

The world came through for me. Relatives and new friends and old salved the pain of failed soulmatehood. An old client put me on retainer, and now I’m doing better than ever. It was not easy and it took a lot of thought, effort, and patience on my part, but I made it through one of the most difficult times of my life. Let me here express thanks to all who supported me.

If I may venture an answer to my question based on my experiences and studies, I do not think we deserve love and care. We do not deserve food, we do not deserve medical care, we do not deserve love, we do not deserve peace, and we do not deserve our lives. We cannot earn these things, nor can we forfeit them through our actions. Further, accepting Faulkner’s wisdom, the wars, slaughters, and other horrible things of the world cannot compel us to view the struggles of our heart as being small in scale, and we ought not let them.

I do believe in the law of karma, but I do not see our actions (which is what karma, in Sanskrit, literally means) as a kind of electrical charge upon us that must eventually be released as a negative or positive current flowing to us. Rather, building upon the wisdom of Edgar Cayce (although the following metaphor is, for better or worse my own), our actions are like threads in the cloth of our being, altering our pattern not as something that happens to us, but as something we are. To extend the metaphor, the love and care we give to others and receive from them are not threads in the cloth, they are the cotton from which the threads themselves are spun. (To be tiresomely precise, I think there are other materials in the cloth, too, some of a less pleasant nature. Such is Reality.)

My message to you, then, is this: you cannot earn the love and care of the world or other people; you can only accept them. Love is not merely an emotion that an animal feels; rather, it is something deep in the code of Reality, something that builds and supports and takes joy in doing so. It calls us to end the genocide in Darfur, to stop harming the planet, and, as Jesus taught, to love our neighbor as ourself. Moreover, your love and care of yourself, your desire and efforts to resolve the struggles of your heart, have deepest meaning: your edification is the edification of humanity, and your aligning yourself with the light does nothing less than illuminate the world.

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