Saturday, February 21, 2004

The Void

The Void

Gunawan (not his real name) is an old friend of mine in Jakarta. He is married with a couple of teenage kids. When I was in Jakarta we meet every now and then for dinner--usually at the Furama Restaurant in Kota for some Teochew porridge.

Like many of the rich middleclass Chinese in Jakarta, he and his wife's family owns factories and other types of buinesses. Though happily married with a very capable wife who runs her own business, Gunawan still indulgues in relationships with other women.

Being single, I'm always curious about married men who have extra-marital affairs. So every time I meet up with Gunawan, I'd take the opportunity to try and fathom the motivation behind their acts of infidelity.

Gunawan has been having an affair with a girl (a native pribumi girl), much younger than him for almost six years now. He feels a bit of guilt doing so and has over the years tried to break up the relationship but failed because the pain and was too much for them. So it wasn't just sex, there's love involved.

Which made me even more curious. Why does a married man still seek love outside marriage? Do feelings for one's life partner fade after a certain period of time together? These are questions which I, in my indiscretion, asked Gunawan during those porridge dinners of ours.

Gunawan didn't have a simple answer for me. He loves his wife but somehow there's still a void inside that needs to be filled. As long as this void is there, he will be driven to seek solace in the arms of a woman.

But what is this void? Is this void, loneliness? Can a man who is occupied with the everyday cares of family and business still suffer from loneliness?

Certain men claim that they do not share any common interests with their wives, hence they cannot find intellectual fulfilment with their partners. But if intellectual companionship is what such men look for, why can't they find it in the company of male friends? Why do men seek the company of women, if not for that something which only women can provide? Perhaps Billy Crystal is right in When Harry Met Sally when he said: "men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way"?

Or is this void a spiritual one? Do we feel this emptiness because we lack fulfillment in some of the areas in my four layer stack model? If so, is it possible for us to find completeness on our own, without having to rush headlong into another reckless relationship?

Perhaps there's no easy answers for all these questions; all of us have to spend our lives discovering the 'why's ourselves by plunging into one relationship after another and sometimes jeopardising our marriage in the process.

The oceans of the world are always trying to find equilibrium but they'll never succeed because areas of high and low energy will always be created for as long as the earth goes round the sun. Tides will be churned by gravity; Storms, tornadoes and hurricanes will continue to rage on.

We do the things we do, because we all have voids inside us and we are all trying to seek some equilibrium state. In a sense, we are all "unstable"--we are born with an "original sin", an imperfection that has somehow been injected into our soul. It is this imperfection that drives human affairs. And we spend all our waking hours trying to find that elusive peace and perfection. May God have mercy on us all.

No comments: