Thursday, December 15, 2005

"What Is This Thing Called Love"

It's a pop tune written by Cole Porter in 1929. The truth is that
"Love" in the abstract has no meaning. It is only when we put the word
in some context that it has any meaning, and then it has so many
different meanings (depending on context) that it's still meaningless.

Last night, my wife and I celebrated our thirty-first wedding
anniversary with a quiet and very pleasant dinner at home, just the two
of us. I had prepared a special dinner for her, just the things I knew
she liked, prepared the way she liked them. I made her a card and gave
her a gift. Something she would have never think of buying for herself
but that I know she enjoyed. After dinner, my wife went straight to bed
and I finished cleaning up the kitchen, watched TV for about an hour and
then went to bed myself. It was a pleasant evening that we both enjoyed.
I went to sleep at around midnight and then woke up about 5:00 A.M.. I
had a strange dream. As I lay in bed after waking I thought about my
dream and what it was telling me. In my dream, my wife told me that she
was divorcing me, almost in the same manner as she might have said "I'm
stopping at the gym tonight so I won't be home 'til eight" There was no
emotion or anger just simple, straightforward "matter of fact" in my
dream, I did not react emotionally either.
In another part of the dream, or perhaps in another dream, (I'm not
sure which) a very close friend tortured me until I gave him information I had
that he needed to give to the "enemy" (unknown, unidentified in the
dream) that he was secretly working for.
The details of my dream aren't particularly important but what I
realized after I woke up was (at least I think so).

My dream was talking to me about attachment and perhaps how I no longer
felt very much attachment to anyone and that not feeling attachment is a
positive thing. I recently came across something in my dharma studies
(and I can't recall either where, who it, or the exact words) but
something that cautions us to avoid being "attached" to any particular
person or persons but instead to try to feel love for all sentient
beings. I remember my reaction to this at first when I read it.
I thought "But what about my wife, my children?' and now I do understand
the real meaning of the teaching. I am certainly no holy man or saint by
any stretch of the imagination but through the process of aging,
experience and most of all circumstances, I have become almost
completely "unattached". I do feel love for many sentient beings (not
all, not yet) but I am no longer "attached" to anyone.

It occurred to me as I was thinking about my dream that perhaps
attachment is a natural instinct as when a mother cat, bird wolf or lion
etc. will fight to her death to protect her young and the way a human
mother will sacrifice almost anything for the good of her children. This
is a form of "attachment" that is natural and necessary but when the
children become adults and are ready to fend for themselves,
attachment becomes inappropriate and unnatural. There are many other
cases where attachment is "normal" as when the child is attached to his
parents- he "loves" and depends on them for survival because he or she
is unable to survive without them until the time when his wings are
strong enough for him to fly from the nest.
Another example of "normal" attachment would be adolescents and young
adults who attach themselves emotionally and physically to another
person in what they would describe as "love". They "can't live without"
him or her; they're in a state of depression when they're not with the
object of their affection and in absolute euphoria when they are. In
this case it's probably two parts lust + one part physical dependency
and one part narcissism that constitute the prime "active ingredients"
of this kind of "love". Eventually, the early stages of adolescent
emotional dependency and attachment wear off and the relationship grows
into a real friendship, complete with respect, compassion and sharing or
it dies or turns into something ugly.
It is possible that "attachments" become addictions in the sense that
when we are free from the feeling of attachment we feel "empty" but
that's the way we should be shouldn't we?

So, is this thing called "love", and here I'm referring to the real
thing, a feeling of tenderness, caring and compassion for other persons,
places or things that is devoid of grasping covetousness, lust, control
and attachment?

What do you think?


B. Q. Chan said...

Attachment probably go hand in hand with impermanence. I am in my second marriage now. Sometimes when I look at my wife, I wonder too if one day she will say: that's it, I am leaving. I love the Buddhist teaching, at midlife, it makes sense to me.

1000myths said...

The teachings are truly wonderful but sometimes the rites interfere with the "Right"