Loneliness, Pt. II

TAL:

“Marriage is a blessing that not all of us are fortunate enough to receive.”  A good friend once told me that, and I’m not sure there’s much else that can be said on the topic.  Some people are lucky enough to find true love, and some people see death before they see the end of their search.  All we can do, I suppose, is cherish and appreciate love for what it is if we’re lucky enough to find it, and for those people in our lives who are still searching, to give them the best brotherly love that we can (which pales in comparison to true love, but is still a hell of a lot better than nothing) to sustain them in their search.

“Loneliness is a cost we bear for being complex creatures.”  Friends, if you’re feeling lonely out there, know that I’m right there with you.  And indeed, the depth of our loneliness is both a mark of our complexity as creatures and a measure of our capacity to love deeply, once the conditions for love become right.  So don’t begrudge it!  The more you hurt now, the richer your love will be.  Let’s try not to be overwhelmed by the dozens of bars down the street, the hundreds of names in our phones, and the countless faces that whiz past us every day as we scurry through life.  Let’s remember that no matter how lonely you might feel in any given moment, you only need a moment with the one you love to make up for a lifetime of misery — and, most importantly, in the many moments till you get there, you’ve got each of us here to help you along your way :]

***

Bhavesh:

On true love: Finding true love can be a real preoccupation for the mind, you are right. And don’t get me wrong, I respect your thoughts, but do you not think “true love” is very intertwined with space and time? Why else would it be so easy to fall in and out of love? I also think that it is too much to expect that there will be one person who will completely understand you. Or a person who you can completely understand. More often than not, people love to romanticise the idea of the perfect partner than the partner themselves. I think only when you start to realize that everyone is imperfect do you start finding those imperfections beautiful. Maybe you always thought you liked blue eyes, but now that you find someone nearly perfect but with brown eyes you find brown eyes are not all that bad after all. Finding true love is more about finding yourself than anyone else – finding how many things there are you can love.

On friendship: I would also not think that having just one significant other is the most valuable thing in the world. SOs come and SOs go, who will always be there are your true friends, mostly because they don’t have expectations from you; their love has no terms or conditions. That’s what, I think, makes friendship a stronger bond than anything else. And if you can find an SO who is also your best friend, then that makes you the luckiest person in the world.

On loneliness: “All alone! Whether you like it or not, alone is something you’ll be quite a lot”, says Dr. Seuss in one of my most favourite poems (Oh the places you’ll go). For some reason I feel the English word “loneliness” exudes a very negative light. I prefer the Urdu word tanhaai. It makes it seems like tanhaai is actually an entity that accompanies you at all times, and thus you are never actually lonely. That is not to say that there aren’t nights when I wish someone would just talk to me about silly things over dinner, stroke my hair when we are sleeping and tell me ‘don’t worry love, it will all be alright’. But I feel the more you believe in love, most importantly love for yourself, the more power you give to your tanhaai to mollify any heartbreak or any heartache.

Final thoughts, I wouldn’t worry about finding love, is it not a singular point on the quadrant. It is a really really messy function which is all over the place, and in your journey through space and time, you are bound to intersect with it.

***

TAL:

…maybe this is just a question of some people being like cats and some people being like dogs — i.e., some people being fiercely independent and detached, with others forming intense, lifelong bonds for the most arbitrary of reasons.  You, my friend, are a cat — or to put it in the parlance of my people, an old cowboy.  Love comes and it goes, and while it might sting at times, you take it all in stride.  Me, I’m more a dog.  (Note: Don’t click and watch that link unless you have 20 minutes to kill and really want to cry.)  I can survive just fine on my own — don’t get me wrong — but I feel a neverending, all-consuming urge to be with someone.  This disease I’ve been born with does not seem to be shared by all of mankind.  I think some of us are dogs, some of us are cats, and most folks are somewhere in between.

When you say that love is not a singular point on the quadrant, you’re absolutely right.  Love is a platonic ideal.  It’s a mark that was branded on my brain at birth, an image in the sky that I always run towards, but never actually reach.  (It works kind of like this.)  This point — this vision in the sky — is not a real thing, but I still thirst for it the same as I thirst for food, water, and sleep.

I say all this not to complain, but to inspire.  As someone who is obsessed with the Platonic ideal of love, I think I have a pretty good idea of what it has to offer.  Love, true love, even in its real-world, imperfect form, is our highest earthly calling.  It is, in a very real sense, what we live for.  We are creatures honed by billions of years of evolution to procreate — and by God, we do it pretty well.  The entire human brain, with all its wonders, its nooks and crannies, its surprises, its nuances, its luscious gardens and stunning vistas — all of that exists for one thing and one thing only, to find you a mate.  And we, unlike some of our more promiscuous brethren, are primed to seek not many but just one (or at least, just one at a time).  Every reward our brain has to offer is set up to aid that one search — and to the extent we find happiness without finding a mate, we’re only hacking the circuitry of our brains — not discovering some higher calling.

Consider the words of Plato:

According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.

It’s silly, this idea, but does it not have some force?  Do you not feel something missing in yourself, some pull, always leading you outside to try to find the other half?  Loving yourself is great, no doubt, but it is folly to try to pretend you are complete when you’ve really been cleaved in two.  We have to accept ourselves for what we are, if we’re to have any hope of living life properly.

I see human interaction as a spectrum.  At its most shallow are fleeting interactions with strangers.  These can be wonderful, and given that most of the people we interact with on a day-to-day basis are strangers, these interactions in the aggregate are actually incredibly important to our overall happiness levels (even though each individual one only registers as a faint blip on our emotional radar).  As you move right on the spectrum, towards the deeper interactions, you get to “interactions with friends and family.”  These are more rich, because they grow and change over time — they’re three dimensional, instead of flat like the stranger interactions.  The friendship level of the spectrum is a wonderful place to spend time, but it is not the end of the spectrum.  Because just as friendship is more meaningful than stranger-chat, so too is romantic love more meaningful than friendship.  Without getting too crass, combining physical intimacy with emotional/mental connections wholly transforms the endeavor.  If friendship is three dimensional, then love is four dimensional.  If friendship is lifelong, love is eternal.  And while love can be volatile and at times excruciating, on a level friendship almost never reaches, it’s worth it.  It’s worth it a million times over.  Because in love, we become whole again.  The bleeding from the giant open wound we’re all born with (also known as “the heart” — don’t slap me Aurelius!) is finally stopped, and we heal.  This is why when people speak of marriage (which I understand is not love — just a proxy for love, but a decent one for our purposes), they speak of “two becoming one.”  A human, it turns out, is not a single body — a true human is the union of two bodies.  Every individual you see out in the world walking around in un-united form is not a human, but merely a chunk of flesh pretending to be a human.

Love is a powerful thing.  It unlocks the best in us, and also sometimes the worst in us.  I do not think tanhaai can do that.  While we are physically capable of using self-love to motivate, actually relying on this strategy is a perversion of our nature and is destined to fail in the long run.  It’s a feedback loop, wholly missing the self-regulating aspect that bringing another mind and body and soul into the equation provides.  (It’s analogous to my earlier argument about how using drugs to feel good inevitably fails, while using exercise to feel good is sustainable because it is in accord with our our constitution as creatures.)  We need our thoughts and plans and fears to cycle through the mind of another before returning to us, much like water needs fly through the air as vapor and rain before returning once again to the soil.  A lonely person is a puddle — but a human, a true human, is a planet.


It’s only water
It’s only fire
It’s only love

It’s only slaughter
We’re only lions
It’s only blood

What is lust if it’s not being by yourself?
I won’t be gentle to the body on the shelf.

It’s only water
It’s only fire
It’s only love

It’s only slaughter
We’re only liars
It’s only blood

They’re only thoughts that I’m having;
Thoughts safe within my head.

You’re only crying
You’re only dying
You’re only dead

I’m going to stop now, because I’m pushing really hard on this idea, and I am terrified that I’m coming across as overly argumentative and critical.  Bhavesh, nothing you have said is strictly wrong.  You just had the misfortune of stumbling upon my crusade, the one thing that I think about and care about more than anything else in the world.  To hear someone say “it’s only love” — it kills me to hear that.  I think we each need one person we can share everything with — intimacy, our hopes, our fears, our days, our nights, our tragedies, our triumphs, our minutes and our years.  I think we’re living in a world that increasingly lies to itself about that truth, convincing itself that we can spread ourselves as thin as we want — that we can live in a different city every year, have a million friends on Instagram/Facebook/Snapchat/etc., “love” a new person every day, and somehow be richer for all of that.  Things look great on the surface, we’re getting more dopamine bursts than ever, and yet — what is happening to our hopes?  Our dreams?  Our fears?  Are we stronger than our grandparents were?  Those same grandparents who would wake up at 5am, walk out in the snow, and chop wood for the family every morning without complaint or bitterness or hesitation?  Who would grapple with death and disease on a daily basis, and never once doubt that God is good?  What does it mean that we, who hold in our hands a store of knowledge that our ancient ancestors would weep to behold, use it primarily to pipe in mindless entertainment and to gratify fleeting physical pleasures?  Could it be that we don’t measure up?  I honestly cannot tell.  Because I am a puddle, not a planet, and to the extent I interact with other people, I do not (and cannot) give myself fully to them.  I can’t see them clearly.  We interact only on a two dimensional plane… in a box.  Often literally — on a computer or smartphone.  As the rate of human interaction goes up, we move left on the spectrum, becoming more of a stranger with each new app we download, each new account we set up.  And in this maddening chaos, here I am, alone with my tanhaai, wondering if I’m the only one who still feels the bleeding and still thirsts to fix it.  Wondering if maybe the world at large is right.  Right to say “it’s only blood.”  Right to act as if we were never cleaved, as if there is no second half waiting for us, as if the only way to deal with this wound we were all born with is to distract ourselves from it as best we can.

I wonder, too, if when our folly finally catches up with us and the world finally ends, we’ll reassure ourselves in much the same way as before: “you’re only crying… you’re only dying… you’re only dead.”

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