Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Love and Hate

At least the prefix 'ex-' is used here.

It isn't always. On many occasions I've seen headlines like

Man Stabs Girlfriend 37 Times

Wife Sets Husband On Fire

'Lovers' Quarrel' Leads to Murder, Suicide

I read the articles attached to headlines like this and amidst all the gory, sensational details ("penis thrown in trash can!")  I never find the one detail that seems most critical to me: why?

Or maybe how would be the better question. How does love turn to hate?  There are no words to adequately express the depth of my confusion here.

Let's first remove the "lover" and the "girlfriend" and "boyfriend" from stories like this. I think when you even start thinking about destroying somebody, mentally or physically, words like friend and lover can get chucked out the window. And if you "quarrel" with somebody, you don't then kill them, or I'd have a trail of corpses ten miles long by now.

I can state with certainty that I am not capable of murder in cold blood. I'm not sure I'm capable of murder in hot blood. I could kill in self-defence, and in defence of quite a number of people I love dearly--but provoked murder is beyond me.

Further, I don't think I'm actually capable of hatred. Not the kind of hatred that would motivate me to expend untold amounts of energy, as in the linked story above, utterly ruining someone's life. That just seems like such a waste of time and emotional intensity, and no good can come out of it.

Ah, but that's you being rational, Ken. Love is not rational and neither is hate.

I was told that last night by someone I barely know, but who strikes me as very perceptive. I've slept on it and I have to say that I disagree with part of it.

Hate is irrational, for the reason I've given above. It's a waste of time and energy and nothing good ever came of hatred, even (or perhaps especially) for the hater. Yet it persists and remains a potent force in the world, and that to me is the very definition of irrational.

But love? That which "makes the world go round"? The thing that's "all you need"? The thing without which, according to Corinthians, you are "nothing"? I can't accept that something so essential to the human condition--in many spiritual traditions, it is the human condition--can be irrational.

Certainly lust can be irrational. The kind of lust that leads a man to throw away a wife and life in favour of a hundred punps, a tickle and a squirt (with a woman who is, more often than not, a pale imitation of the wife he's betraying)--that's irrational as hell. But lust is not love, as most (not all) teenagers eventually learn.

It may seem like I'm bearing a dead horse -- go back through this Breadbin and I've probably said this half a hundred times -- but love, actual love, is unconditional. That means it's permanent: it doesn't fade, it doesn't sour, it most certainly doesn't eventually turn to hate.

I still think Shakespeare said it best, in Sonnet 116:

...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 wandering 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 proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

So what does this mean for relationships that do fade, or go sour? We've all had them, right?

 In the first case, it means that in the interest of love, you've seen fit to dissolve the relationship. This is very common and absolutely nothing to be ashamed or guilty of. It's so common, in fact, that often it's not even a conscious decision. Not every partner or friend is meant to share the entire road with you.  Friends and lovers drift in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant, and that's perfectly okay. So long as you've served each other to the best of your ability over the night, or month, or decade you've known each other, you've done your job.
It's not a mistake to marry such a one, either. Yes, in marriage you make a vow, and vows are supposed to be kept. But if both of you agree that your lives are no longer served by your relationship, a vow can become counterproductive. Marriage is not a prison and spouses are neither wardens nor prisoners. If one or both of you feels trapped to that kind of extent, what you're in is not a marriage and should not be treated as one.

Which is not to suggest in any way that bumps in the road should kill a union. Far from it: in many ways they can make a marriage stronger. I'm talking about the kind of existential dread that leads one spouse to wake up one day and say I don't love you and I'm not sure I ever did. And note there the actual disavowal of  love.  In such a case no one's purpose is being served by a continuation of the marriage: not the husband's, not the wife's, definitely not the children's, and not even the deity (if applicable) Who was party to the contract in the first place.

And when relationships go sour? I'd suggest that the driving force in those relationships was not, could never have been, love. Because love is that "ever-fixed" mark, that unconditional emotion that does not judge, does not condemn, does not punish. (To reiterate another point I've made many times, this is why the concepts of "Judgement Day" and "Hell" are wholly incompatible with an omnibenevolent Deity: either the deity or the judgement and hellfire simply can not exist.)

The state most often mistaken for love, in these cases where the "lovers" end up murdering each other or each other's reputations, is simple jealousy. Simple, wrongheaded, awful jealousy, the kind of emotion I'd scrub from the human palette if I had the ability. Jealousy is possibly the most soul-destroying, senseless and disgusting emotion it's possible for a human being to feel. It's monstrously arrogant, for one thing: who are you to feel pain at another's happiness? Who are you to treat your partner as a possession? What gives you the right to exert control over another adult's path in life and love?
It's no coincidence that the few times I've found myself feeling that emotion, I was sick to my stomach. It corrodes everything it touches. It dehumanizes. You get the picture.

But like hatred, it's disconcertingly common in the world, to the point where many people believe it necessary for a healthy marriage! I figure the only way someone can mistake jealousy for love is if he or she has never experienced love. And that thought is, for me, sad beyond contemplation.

I find it very difficult to conceive of a world wherein I felt indifference towards my wife, and flatly impossible to imagine hating the woman. If she were to announce tomorrow that she was leaving me, you can bet I'd put up a fight--but if she made it clear enough that leaving me would best serve her, the fight would go out of me. I'd be deflated, bereft beyond coherence, and I don't want to write about this any more--but hate her? Never. I don't have it in me.

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