Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
Love… the force that can launch a thousand ships! For centuries, men and women have fallen under its spell, acted like fools or given up their lives for it. Innumerable stories have been written about love. From ancient cave art to Greek mythology to modern day novels, short stories, plays and movies, love has controlled our thoughts and minds for millenia.
Of all the varieties of human emotions, love is counted as the most powerful one, perhaps second only to fear.
Freud once said: “Human beings are funny. They long to be with the person they love but refuse to admit openly. Some are afraid to show even the slightest sign of affection because of fear. Fear that their feelings may not be recognized, or even worst, returned. But one thing about human beings puzzles me the most is their conscious effort to be connected with the object of their affection even if it kills them slowly within.”
We have all read or seen performances of the great tragic romances, such as Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare), Madame Bovary (Gustave Flaubert), The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (Victor Hugo) and many others. These are stories of how love ends in great tragedy, death, separation or sorrow.
This Post presents the view that every love relationship which the ‘I’ gets involved in is destined to fail or remain unfulfilling.
And this is not meant to be a pessimistic view of relationships or human interaction. It is meant to be a deeper look at ourselves and to question whether we should put any hope at all in ego-based relationships.
I will be borrowing heavily from my previous Post titled, ‘Empty And Fake Relationships’ (Parts 1 to4). This is almost like Part 5 to the same Post, but I needed a different title to focus more on the tragic nature of modern day love. Hence, this separate Post.
In ‘Empty And Fake Relationships’, we have talked about fake love which comes from the ego and which is nothing more than a give and take, a commercial transaction.
And then we also looked at another kind of love which arises only when we can move beyond the ego. This is the love in which there is nothing to be given and nothing needed to be received. It is a natural outcome when the ego, along with all of its images, separation and divisions disappears. This love is the relationship I have only with myself. Because there is no ‘other’. It arises when the ‘other’ / the world apart from me has disappeared. What is left is me and myself. All around me is my own self, in different forms.
However, as long as the ego is there, we are just separated and scattered parts of the same reality. I am just one small part. And you are another part. And so is everyone else. When I meet you and I fall in love with you, I think that you and me together can create a wholeness, a complete picture, a perfect union. And, to some extent, that is true. We can come together to create a perfect union. However, the problem is the separation / the images / the ego. As long as ‘I’ exist and ‘you’ exist, the world of images exists, divided into billions of pieces. And just two out of those billions of pieces cannot create a wholeness, a completeness. It will remain a relationship of the two egos, a relationship of give and take, a relationship arising from separation and division and, by definition, it will be doomed to remain unfulfilled.
Take the example of a mirror. If it gets broken into many small pieces, we cannot take just two of those pieces and put them together and pretend that those two pieces put together now present the same view as the unbroken mirror did earlier. No, it cannot.
And that is the inherent problem with human love. It is destined to fail, to remain unfulfilling, to always keep us looking for something new, something in addition to what we already have.
I can judge this tendency and call it greed or I can try to understand from a deeper, more spiritual point of view and see it as a deeper, more spiritual need for wholeness which cannot be fulfilled be getting into a relationship with another person. As long as there are other persons, such wholeness or fulfilling relationships are not possible. We will remain broken pieces of a mirror, unable to see ourselves completely.
In Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the two feuding families cannot resolve their differences which eventually results in the lovers’ death. However, in Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, which is considered to be one of the fines pieces of fiction ever, the main character, Emma Bovary, remains unfulfilled despite getting almost everything she could have wished for.
To a limited extent, I am trying to make the same point as perhaps Flaubert was. While romantic love and marriage in today’s world can cater to the commercial / ‘give and take’ model of love prevalent in modern human society, it will not create emotionally satisfied and fulfilled individuals. Despite everything we get, like Madame Bovary, we will keep searching for something more. And that search for something more will be never-ending as long as the ego remains, as long as ‘I’ and ‘you’ remain, as long as we don’t bring together all the broken pieces, as long as we don’t arrive at a vision of the whole.
The great wisdom teachers all tried to make us see that wholeness, that vision of oneness, transcending all artificial boundaries and divisions.
To some extent, we all have a vague sense of that oneness and wholeness and when we are going out into the world to acquire relationships or material wealth or even some sort of spiritual attainment, we are actually searching for that oneness and wholeness, but we are doing it in a way that will only leave us in the same spot as before or may be even worse.
The path to true love is the same path as that of oneness and wholeness. It goes through stillness and a letting go of the broken fragmented world we are holding on to. This stillness and ‘let go’ happen together. And once it happens, there is true love and this love is not for one or more specific individuals, but for everyone and everything around us. And once that love happens, nothing else is needed.
Until that happens, love, and not just romantic love but any other kind of love too, is bound to end in sadness, loneliness, sorrow, bitterness or separation, to whatever extent.
That, for me, is the inherent tragedy in love as we understand and experience it today.