Chapter 3: The slavery of Romeo and Juliet. What comes first, the line or the dots?

Even done unwillingly, even done as a ‘failure’ in the system, we will burst out of the custom we ourselves have made to fit in.

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In the previous parts, I briefly presented the argument that romantic love is a necessity for our society and how this is coupled with the notion of love as a knowledge system, as sharing information. In plain words, you need Cubic to spare you from choosing between a million people and you invite him in, by sharing things you don’t share with anyone else.

Despite the fact that what brought the partners together may be a social or biological mechanism, they are at least free to exchange personal information about themselves so as to create a unique system with the other person. Not really, says Mr. Gell:

“If the structural essential, but individually arbitrary, relations between modern couples repose on mutual confidences and shared indiscretions, what are the raw materials for these histories? Are they as individual and personal as they seem to participants? Here we have to introduce a fresh scheme […]. This is the fictionalization of love, the fact that the confidences that couples exchange are provided for them structurally, because it is structurally necessary that this confidences be exchanged. Modern love would be unthinkable without fiction, romantic fiction in particular. [..] Each modern couple has to device for itself a history that will justify its existence as a couple on the basis of zero personal experience.” (emphasis added)

And he goes on to say:

“It is not a condemnation of modern society to remark, as often has been done, that popular fiction proceeds and guides the actions of real-life lovers, rather than representing real life after the fact. […] Fiction is, where modern societies are concerned, what genealogy is in those societies which have marriage rules, i.e. the means of producing relationships on which social life depends. […] Thus, despite the apparent arbitrariness of modern love, and the theoretical substitutability of lovers, in the end modern love is no more generated at the level of individual and the personal than marriage is in Umeda.” (emphasis added)

Ouch. And to think that our society praises the freedom of the individual. It is harsh, isn’t it? To say that all we do when we think we are pouring ourselves out to a person so special to us, that has shaken our soul, is nothing but playing a role, reading a script that someone else has given us. Be aware, we are prone to defend any attack to romantic love’s sacred nature, because as Roberto Unger has remarked, the ideal of romantic love ‘is the most influential moral vision of our culture’. Personally I recognize that I have a tendency to defend it too, a personal interest if you like. However, I will pose that this view of love is limited because of real life, and not because some idealistic dogma dictates so.

It is true that our ideals and fantasies about love are largely shaped by fiction: novels, movies, poetry, you name it. When two people first meet, it is their fantasies that meet. These ideal prototypes haunt us and determine by a great extent how we play our part in romantic interactions. But what this analysis fails to show is that during our exchange of fluids, information, experiences, we can’t adhere to a prototype role perfectly, even if we wanted to. Finally our own truth, our own self emerges. For some this takes days, for others takes years. Even done unwillingly, even done as a ‘failure’ in the system, we will burst out of the custom we ourselves have made to fit in. If we are to see love as a knowledge system, then this moment of ‘bursting’ is of the essence. Even when people are not aware of this as a system failure, they see that they need to change, or adapt to something that doesn’t fit. In this way our own experience in romantic love may lead us to change: our perceptions, our hopes, our image for the other, our self-image. So that the next time we fall in love, we are not quite the same anymore – or are we?

Easier said than done.

Needless to say, we are far from capturing love in all its aspects here. There are many other notions for love: love as power, love as a means to perfect ourselves, love as surrender and sacrifice, love as a disease, an agonizing painful emotion and so forth. However, there is some light shed I think in considering love as knowledge, as secret sharing of information. There’s a final point I want to make in this view. In the end of the first part, I mentioned the hypothesis that as two people:

spend more time together and they get to know each other, they grow – if they’re lucky enough – another kind of love, more grounded on the ‘real’ qualities of their partner, more informed, more knowledge-based. Now their actions- maintaining the relationship or not – is based on rationally evaluating the other person according to the information they receive.

Capture

Imagine now that there are two kinds of love-growing processes. The first would be the Cubid one, where people flirt, exchange secret information about themselves, create the history to base their choice upon etc., as discussed. The other end is the love-after-marriage. Many couples, from couples in India to my parents, never got the time to fall in love before marring. Nevertheless, they grew love for each other, as they share their lives, kids, experiences, and the unique fact that each one is the partner of the other in this. Lots of couples have a mix of this two love growing processes, starting with the first and moving on to other.

Returning to the aforementioned hypothesis, is moving from one into the other and maintaining a relationship really a decision based on rationally evaluating the information received about the other person? In both cases, pre- and after-marriage love, we find a process of sharing and exchanging, though it’s about very different things, done in different ways. Maybe what matters for generating and sustaining love is not really the experiences themselves, the information and bits of knowledge people share, but the very flow of it. The bond lies not at the ends, on what the lines connect; rather it’s the line itself.

But is it that the line connects the dots, or the dots that draw the line? Do we share therefore we love or the other way around? Perhaps both..go figure.