Rare Messy Love
Love, says France’s greatest living philosopher, “is not a contract between two narcissists. It’s more than that. It’s a construction that compels the participants to go beyond narcissism. In order that love lasts one has to reinvent oneself.”
Love at its best is an act of transformation. It is the voluntary choice to become a better you as a result of sharing your life with other people. The modern mistake is to think of love like a financial asset: something to collect, hoard and sit on.
Everybody says love is about finding the person who is right for me and then everything will be fine. But it’s not like that. It involves work.
This is mostly true. Most of the work goes into yourself: growing into your best self (often struggling to get there) as a simultaneous act of both self-love and sacrificial love. However, you have to do your homework: you have to find people willing to participate in the process. Any relationship with a full blown narcissist always has a very low ceiling of potential and is likely to cave in and fail.
Love focuses on the very being of the other, on the other as it has erupted, fully armed with its being, into my life that is consequently disrupted and re-fashioned.
This is about letting yourself be shaped and transformed by another person, as they are (without trying to change them). It is an act of vulnerability. Caveat: you don’t allow yourself to be shaped by just any random person. As I’ve said in the past: choose your environment wisely… the people you spend time with shape who you become.
One other note: the idea that you must be weak to be vulnerable is grossly mistaken. Soldiers make themselves vulnerable to protect their country. Firefighters make themselves vulnerable to protect the innocent. People fighting for justice make themselves vulnerable to attacks from those in positions of power. But what all these heroes have in common is that they come prepared: they know their enemies and they throw their whole beings into the fight… knowing that they very well might fail.
You can lead a life of integrity, experience the fullest potentials of love (which require that you allow others become part of who you are) without turning into a doormat, or an empty shell. Love is the interplay of attitudes and desires and wishes and skills and behaviors. Love is an act: it is where you say to yourself “I’m going to be the best man that I can be, both for myself and for the people I share my life with.” Love is knowing that there is more to be gained in sharing life with others (and honoring their unique identities) while standing your ground and being fully expressive, than in hoarding pleasure, avoiding conflict, and ultimately being a selfish bastard on the path to hell.
Love is about caring, and being cared for. It is not about pandering or constant flattery. It’s about fighting for the best life you can live, and sharing that with others.
Love is a muddy mess that’s far, far better than the alternative of isolation and loneliness.