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“Have Fun Storming The Castle.”

May 13, 2010
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If you ever need an example of the damage that influential Hollywood films can cause look no further than me. I’m not talking about action films dulling my reaction to violence, nor am I talking about busty starlets falsifying my image of women. No, I’m talking about romantic films twisting my theories on love. Like many I was am obsessed with the film “The Princess Bride”. Great acting, amazing script, and a touching story. A man falls in love with a woman and does everything in his power to conquer that love. He fetches her water jugs, he sails the world for her, he suffers through torture devices, he even fights ROUSs (rodents of unusual size) for her love. The movie influenced me so much that I was certain that’s how all love stories should happen. You meet a girl, you fall in love, and you woo/fight/suffer for that love. Those theories on love later manifested themselves in love letters/flowers left in cubbies, sentimental sayings etched into the snow outside of windows, and braving doberman-infested backyards to slip mixed tapes under windshield wiper blades. Then I got older, and I suffered a traumatic blow from a love lost. I became jaded, and realized that life doesn’t always give you a Hollywood ending. I healed, but my romantic notions stayed. Yet when I re-entered the singles scene I found myself older and in a new era of finding relationships called “the game”. I hate the game.  It was the opposite of everything I had believed in. You don’t chase, you play hard to get. You don’t let her know how you feel, you play it cool. You don’t dedicate yourself to dating one person, you play the field and keep your options open. I wondered if they were right. I do find that sometimes my overly romantic gestures do scare people, it’s too much too soon. And the older I get the more I realize that the chase is not always the best approach to love. This is not to say I don’t believe in romance anymore, nor am I against the concept of breaking down castle walls to win over princesses. Like everything else in life I think context is important, and I think there is a time and a place for everything. So today I wanted to look about fighting for that “true love”. The reasons why we do it, and some reasons for why we shouldn’t.

So why do we choose to pursue someone in the first place? In the case of Wesley, Romeo, and most any other fictitious lover they pursue because they feel like the person they are pursuing is their “true love”, the one and only person that can make them happy and complete. By pursuing we are perpetuating this prophecy. But like my friend says, “In the pursuit of perfection there can never be happiness.” We set up this impossible standard of that loved one, and when we do acquire what we’ve been chasing we realize that the luster is no longer there and that brightly colored object we’ve been chasing is really just a paper bird with a coat of paint. Another danger with chasing is that our human nature often has us chasing for all of the wrong reasons. Deep down we’re still animals, with animal instincts. We’re like a lab can’t help but chase a tennis ball, even if it leads to dying of exhaustion. Lust, the human desire to have what we cannot have, and romantic notions cause us to chase something that is not there. Love should be an ends, not a means. Or in the words of Erich Fromm, “Immature love says: ‘I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says: ‘I need you because I love you.” When we pursue for the sake of pursuing we are letting passions drive us, and we become no better than a that lab chasing the tennis ball. I believe in fighting for love, but only if it’s truly there.

Another problem I see  with pursuing someone is that chasing and wooing ultimately (and paradoxically) defeat the purpose of love. I think one of the biggest elements in the formula for love is chemistry. By chasing someone who is “not interested” or “isn’t feeling it”  you’re squeezing a rock to get water. Most of us have written that love letter; that one listing the activities, hobbies, and interests we share. The way we’re attracted to their hazel eyes. The way we want to venture around the world with them. We try to prove to them in logical terms why we should be together, and why the love would work. Yet love is anything but logical. Love doesn’t make sense, and stems purely from feeling. I’ve heard stories of couples getting together because the man was persistent, constantly pursuing the woman until she gave in and they became a couple. And I’ve seen it work before, but I argue that this path is fundamentally flawed. By forcing things you’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The square peg may fit if you shave the corners, but ultimately you’re changing the integrity of the piece. As I mentioned in a previous meditation we should be with someone who we identify with. Someone brings out the best in us while challenging us and showing us the world in a new light. Fundamentally we change ourselves to be more compatible for our partner. We become interested our partner’s activities and hobbies because we love them. By chasing someone who’s “not right for you” you are changing who you are for all the wrong reasons. And when you change yourself in that manner you’re not being true to yourself, and unhappiness is soon to follow. We need to become the best version of ourselves that we can be, and let that person attract a partner- not the other way around.

So how do we know when we’ve found that right person? And how can we know we’re not just chasing someone for love, lust, or simply because we’re drawn to something we can’t have? I don’t think you can ever really know. It’s like trying to navigate through canyons. If you’re in the canyon you can never really know where you’re going. It’s only when you remove yourself from the canyon that you can see the right path. I find that the older I get the more I start prescribing myself to the “if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be” path. Maybe it’s the Taoist in me, but I don’t think forcing things is the right way to find love. Love should grow by itself, and happen so naturally and organic you don’t even realize its happened until you’re up to your neck. When I was in one of the darkest parts of a battle for  love my Mother gave me some great advice. She said, “love takes a lot of work. But it shouldn’t be this hard right now.” It’s true. The honeymoon period should be just that- a honeymoon. After much thought on this I think the answer is a fairly simple one. I don’t want to be in a relationship with anyone that I have to convince to love me. I don’t want to be in a relationship where I’m a consolation prize. And I don’t want to be in a relationship where I win through perseverance and determination. I want to be in a relationship where our love unfolds as naturally as a poppy’s petals in the morning sun. One of my favorite true life love stories takes the shape of a couple that never even dated for the first ten years. I’m rusty on the exact details, but roughly they met each other somewhere, yet lived across the country from each other. They each went back to their lives, and their respective cities, but kept in good touch over the years. Ten years later they decided to give it a real try and now they’re going on their fortieth some year of marriage. I love that story because they had ten years to find someone else, and even after ten years of being apart they never found anyone else they’d rather be with. It’s way more boring than most Hollywood films you see. No epic cross-country flights, sweeping romantic gestures. It may sound boring and pedestrian, but I think it’s just as romantic as anything at the box office.

Yet even as I write all of this I have a hard time listening to my own advice. I find myself constantly wanting to chase those I desire. Writing love letters in my head, mixing playlists and listening to them relentlessly, playing out imaginary and intricate scenarios in my head. I think in principal we become addicted to love, and the idea of love. We love love stories and happy endings. And I always worry that I may missing out on something wonderful. But the truth of the matter is that the meeting part, those first few months of romance isn’t what relationships are about. It’s a called a honey moon period because that’s what it is- it’s a honeymoon, it’s easy. The true test of love is time. The true story of success is how you stayed together, how you fought through the rough patches and worked things out. But we always ask people how they met, not how they stayed together. It’s like the ending of the “Graduate” (SPOILER ALERT). Ben storms into the wedding chapel and steals Elaine away from her groom in a sweeping romantic move. They fight their way out of the chapel, and run to a bus for their getaway. But as soon as the bus begins to pull away the you see just the slightest amount of distress creep onto their faces. It slowly grows into serious concern, as if they were saying, “fuck, now what?”

I think we need to be careful about the chase. Lest we end up like the lab who has returned the tennis ball with no one to throw it anymore, becoming anxious as we nudge it forward, whining because the game is over.

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