India Uncut

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Relationships and straitjackets

Relationships are strange things, and sometimes it baffles me that they exist at all. When everyone's pretty much the same messed-up piece of work, with variations, how can we actually love somebody? And when the expectations of any two people in a relationship are inevitably different, how remarkable it is that any common ground they find is sustainable. And isn't it a paradox that you could be involved in a beautiful relationship in which you love unconditionally, but because it is trapped with a straitjacketed category like 'marriage' or 'platonic friendship', it has limits enforced on it, artificial constraints that distort its truth?

All apropos of nothing, of course, and not stuff I'll write more about on this blog. But I was rather pleased to find a great post by Falstaff in which he expounds rather well on similar matters. He writes:
Is it just that in an age obsessed with menus, with choices, with the drop-down box, we have turned even love into a multiple choice question? "How do you feel about this person? Are you a) a friend b) a lover c) a brother or d) a father". What about none of the above? What about Other (please specify)? What about feelings that are open-ended?

Or is it that we have been so poisoned by reason, by our quest for explicability, that the apprehension of another human being in his or her specificity has become impossible for us, and that we can only love people (as we may only hate them) by converting them into abstractions, into the idea of the other rather than the other itself? That having to face up to the reality of who the other person is, to their infinite humanity, is more than we are capable of, so that just as we must ignore what is human about someone to hate him or her, we must also ignore the details of the person we care for, in order to love them? Is this why we give names to our feelings - because we cannot experience them unless they are made intelligible to us, like a child who cannot eat his dinner unless it is cut into bite sized pieces?
Actually, we view not just relationships but all the world around us in "bite-sized pieces," because of our "quest for explicability" and an inability to fathom the true complexity of the world. So we see patterns where there are none, and fit all kinds of phenomena into a worldview we use, in part, to define who we are. But all common worldviews are somewhat simplistic, and putting a finger on who we are, is, well, a rather complex matter as well.

This is the paragraph where I could start to ramble self-importantly. Before that happens, I'll end this post.
amit varma, 5:43 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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