I’m not a cynic.
You might look at some of my posts and think, “damn, that guy is cynical/skeptical/pissed/stupid/whatever.” It’s not the case (ok, I’m stupid about some things). But I’m not a cynic and notwithstanding that, I hold a very clear perspective: Love is not enough.
“All you need is love” was an awesome song. The Beatles (I’m not really into them – before my time) nailed it. Great job. And not true. Love is not enough. It is not “all you need.” Love is, dramatically, insufficient.
Love moves us, and that is beautiful. Love inspires us, and that is downright glorious. Love can permeate all we do in a way that few things can, and that is deeply reassuring. But love is not enough. Well-intended, inspired, heartfelt, and courageous are all wonderful, but functionally irrelevant if you can’t back it up.
Back it up with what, Chris?
So glad you asked.
First, let me say that I answer this from the perspective of a participant in the game, not a spectator. I’m not sitting in the stands, whining about the price of beer and how everyone else is playing – I’m on the fucking field. Feeling it. Handling things. Getting hit. Crashing into others along the way. My heart has been crushed a few times. I’ve done my fair share of crushing. And here’s what I’ve noticed in myself, and others….
Love, without skills, is well-intended damage. In this game, ya gotta have skills.
I do NOT say that with judgement. I say that from experience. I say that from witnessing. And, strangely, I say that with love.
Love is the first thing we need, but not the only thing we need. Unskilful love can look like ignorance, immaturity, abuse, anxiety, depression – essentially anything but apathy. It’s on the sympathetic side of the equation, rather than the parasympathetic. Love is active and mobile and vigorous – even in its still moments. And that is wonderful, but incomplete. Insufficient.
I’ve missed the mark in relationships sometimes. But I’ve also learned from it, and wasn’t a complete flop along the way. Loving moments are full of freedom and expression and communication; along with restraint, and good judgement and silence.
The Stoics talked about the notion of Entrainment when it came to values. They talked about how no value can stand on its own. For example, honesty without love, is cruel. Love without truth is naive. They roll together. Love needs Skills as its wing-person. It just doesn’t stand alone.
Sadly, lots of people say, “I love you,” and then proceed to do all kinds of awful shit. Or they use it as an excuse. But that’s not the real deal when it comes to love. Love needs to be deeply and well felt, while being skilfully and thoughtfully executed. There is a skill to it, not just a feeling.
So what. So what do I do with this Chris?
First, I don’t have this fully baked because I’m still finding my way, but here are a couple of thoughts:
- Clean up your shit before you drag somebody else into it. If you know you’re a bit of a mess, or you have a pattern that isn’t working in relationships, get some help and clean it up before you become an asshole again. You don’t have to drag people into your crap. You can get your house in order first. It can be tempting to find someone who can make up for your gaps. But other people arent’t there to make up for you not having your shit together – get it handled! Yes, it requires some restraint and thoughtfulness, but oh, look at that, that’s what love needs! Do your work.
- Slow down. You don’t have to rush this stuff. Take your time with people, especially if it’s someone you’re interested in. Why do you want to be with them? No, really, why? Is it because of the way you sync up, or because you didn’t think you could be with someone like that, or because of what it will mean to others, or they fit the picture the world has taught you to believe? What is it? Take your time and know the answer (or recognize you’re gonna be an asshole again).
- Release all the expectations. Buddhism teaches (no, I’m not a Buddhist) that all suffering flows from expectations. So, just be present to the experience of whatever you’re experiencing. You don’t have to write a story about what’s gonna happen next, and you don’t have to relive a story you’ve lived over and over already. Relax and experience the truth of the relationship, along with the feeling of it.
There’s a lot you can do, but here’s the bottom line: Love, on it’s own, is not enough. Don’t delude yourself otherwise.
Love ya – Chris