Is love automatic?

“Love begins when you fall out of love” – M.  Scott Peck

“Human love is this miracle which can defy all dry theorising about the hopelessness of the world” – Andrei Tarkovsky

When I am driving in the evening I usually like to listen to the radio show on Meow FM hosted by Ginnie Mahajan. Ginnie is definitely the best radio show host I have heard – she is intelligent and lively, and unlike most radio show hosts, wonderfully thoughtful. Perhaps the best thing about Meow FM and especially about Ginnie’s show is that it exposes one to a rich amalgam of human experience – angry people, people confessing secrets on radio, people sharing some very personal memories and many others just talking about what comes to their mind. It’s a slice of life.

Yesterday Ginnie asked the listeners whether it is possible to never fall in love with someone after getting into a marriage or a committed relationship. There were several yes’s and nos, but what I found interesting is the idea that one “falls” in love, that one cannot really control this, that love happens spontaneously, else it’s not love. And those who feel it happens only with one person are hopelessly naive.

So is it really possible to not “fall” in love with someone else once you are committed? Speaking for myself and some of the persons I really appreciate, I suppose that one of the major reasons we live our lives the way we do is the feeling that to love is something one chooses to do. Rather, to put it more clearly, love is the basic human emotion in a deeper sense, and persons can choose to direct it towards certain others. And now we are not really talking about romantic love of sweeping your girlfriend off her feet,  but those moments of affection where there is someone to hold your hand, or someone whose eyes say that she understands when you feel nobody would.

Perhaps the distinction can be made more clearly. It seems that in those moments of life that feel most meaningful, I have a certain feeling towards more or less everyone, to varying degrees. It is a feeling of valuing the other as a person, of being happy that that person exists and wanting to be nice to them irrespective of what they do or feel, but just because they are. Perhaps this is an alternate definition of love. This, I feel, exists in every human relationship but is brought to consciousness in very few. When it really is brought to consciousness, it takes on various expressions to suit the varied needs of the psyche – the caring love for my baby, the happy love for a friend’s success, the unsaid but always present love of companionship with my male friends. And then romantic love would be the most intimate of the various relationships through which this feeling flows. In this sense, monogamy is indeed a goal possible and worthy.

And we all know this way of loving, don’t we? Perhaps we mix up attraction, infatuation, grasping and attachment with this feeling and call that “falling in love”.

One of the most wonderful authors I have read is Martin Buber. His notion of the I and Thou relationship, wherein I value you not because you make me happy, or you give me something that others cannot, but because you just are a living human being. In other words, one values the other’s essence, and not the other’s accident – things like personality, looks, motivations, etc. being conditioned by their own personal history. The way I describe love is  in sync with Buber.

To not think of love as a feeling that we choose to direct towards certain persons more than others, and considering it something that just happens, something we fall into, we are saying something quite intriguing about ourselves: “I am not in control of my own life. I float around like a leaf in the wind and perhaps the most important aspects of my life – my intimate relationships – are not chosen but decided by chance. Because I have a certain personality and another person happens to be on the same wavelength, I ‘fall’ in love with him/her.”

But one perhaps should wonder that the way our personality is – which is what decides compatibility – is not a matter of choice. We end up the way we are, largely owing it to our childhood and genes. And then we let these accidents be the defining factors of our life. Existentially speaking, this is living on the basis of accidental factors, and having no free will. Love, on the other hand, implies freedom.

Perhaps you are tearing your hair out from an overdose of idealism. If Ginnie reads this blog I can imagine her doing that :). Yes, it is idealistic, as long as one doesn’t take idealistic to be synonymous with impossible. If I had no ideals about how my life should be I would just be another leaf, thrown into the windy Earth, where I didn’t choose where and to who I would be born. To live life by ideals that are not conditioned by one’s own personal history, is perhaps the great challenge inherent in living. Of course, I am another ordinary person who often fails in this pursuit. But those little degrees of real love that I attain at times make the pursuit more than worthwhile. Also, it is only through striving towards this way of life that one may transcend what is otherwise an insignificant and unhappy life, and live freely with a sense of meaning. Else we are unfree and unfulfilled, entirely subject to our own fate.. that is not who we were meant to be.

Perhaps Gulzar says it best, in some of the most beautiful words written about love:

hamne dekhi hai in aankhon ki mehekti khushbu

haath se chhu ke ise rishton ka ilzaam na do

sirf ehsaas hai ye, rooh se mehsoos karo

pyaar ko pyaar hi rehne do koi naam na do

pyaar koi bol nahi, pyaar aavaaz nahi

ek khaamoshi hai, sunti hai kaha karti hai

na ye bujhti hai na rukti hai na thehri hai kahin

noor ki boond hai, sadiyon se baha karti hai

sirf ehsaas hai ye, rooh se mehsoos karo

pyaar ko pyaar hi rehne do, koi naam na do

muskuraahat si khili rehti hai aankhon pe kahin

aur palkon pe ujaale se khile rehte hain

honth kuch kehte nahi, kaanpte honthon pe magar

kitne khaamosh se afsaane ruke rehte hain

sirf ehsaas hai ye, rooh se mehsoos karo

pyaar ko pyaar hi rehne do koi naam na do

~ by tdcatss on August 12, 2009.

2 Responses to “Is love automatic?”

  1. awesome.

  2. :)

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