Sunday, August 08, 2004

The Dynamic Equilibrium of Love

The Dynamic Equilibrium of Love

I've mentioned in a previous blog entry how we are all creatures of connection. We yearn to connect to other people; that is why we always want to catch up with friends and also the reaon why we bother to read or watch the news. We want to know what's happenning in the world, we delight in the latest gossips.

As long as information continues flowing between us and the world and vice versa, we are contented. Someone who is permanently disconnected from the world, risks despression and even mental disorder. At the very least, we need to interact with people; even at a very superficial level. The advent of the Internet has provided more avenues for lonely people to connect. Internet chat-rooms are filled with some of the saddest and loneliest people in the world. But at least they are connecting.

Connection--be it physical or virtual--is stage one or "layer one", in geekspeak. Simple acquaintance. But people are usually not contented with that. They need additional "services" on top of this layer. They need care and attention. I'm not talking about love yet--that's layer number three. We want to care for friends and be cared for. People progress from layer one to layer two over time. We know we are in layer two when we belong to a close circle of friends or a clique. Members of a clique will not hesitate to help and support each other.

Layer two works well when there's balance--when everyone gives and takes. Problem arises when individual selfishness rears its ugly head. They are people who do not have a sense of balance or moderation. When they are used to getting something, they want more. They exploit friendship. They seek favour after favour and they end up being parasites. Over time, through their indiscretions, they end up eliminating themselves from their circle of friends.

Layer three is the most complicated one: Love. All families are by definition, layer three systems. Lovers sink and swim in this layer. Here you go beyond the caring and sharing of friendship; it is a stage where the simple accounting of give-and-take does not seem to apply anymore. One gives and gives, unselfishly. That's the ideal state. Everyone gives and does not think about returns. You do whatever it takes to provide for your loved ones and make them happy. That's true love, pure and unselfish. You will sacrifice your entire wealth to bail out your family and loved ones--something which you will never do for your friends. It is as if, your loved ones and you are one organism. If any harm comes to them, your suffering is as great as theirs. Lovers understand this feeling so well.

But imperfections can and does occur all the time in this layer. Why do you think lovers quarrel and families have arguments? It happens when members in a layer three system have not transcended the imperfections of individual selfishness. Sometimes we expect our loved ones to give, but they don't. Or we have been giving and giving all the time and suddenly realise that we haven't been receiving. We feel unloved, even short-changed. Some lovers think the onus is on the opposite party to give, and they, merely to receive. That's an unbalanced and selfish relationship. You see that all the time.

A woman thinks his man is not spending enough time with her. The man gets irritated that his woman does not understand how critical his work is to the well-being and survival of the family. He claims that he is doing it because of love. But to the woman, time and attention is love. Men would want to argue that the woman is unreasonable and not being understanding enough. But then again, the man could be driven by his personal ego and desire for success in his career. He wants to prove to himself and to his peers that he is capable of achieving. He fails to realise that material success may not be everything that the family wants; time and attention is also important. There could a hint of selfishness on both sides.

And because love is such an emotional thing, most of the time, it is difficult for lovers to see clearly whether they are behaving selfishly. You want your partner to behave in certain ways and when they don't, you get mad. How innocently childish we are when it comes to love!

Again, balance is the key. There's no perfect equation. Love is a process of finding that balance, that point of equilibrium where everything harmonizes. At best, it is a dynamic equilibrium--not a static one--requiring constant effort from both sides to maintain it.

Is it possible at all for lovers to even come close to that perfect balance and equilibrium? Well, like what I've expounded in a previous entry, it is a dialectic process that takes time. The important thing is for both parties to understand this and to commit to the process. There will be ups and downs along the way but you take it all in your stride. Then only can this quest for equilibrium become a wonderful journey of exploration for two souls, bound by a sacred bond which we call love.

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