jeudi, mai 19, 2011

Your love is her drug: faith, and evidence

A few years ago, I was sitting at a bar in Wayne, Pa, sharing drinks with a divorced professor.

He was really a nice guy -- but he had the chip on his shoulder about religion I've come to expect from some guys with initials after their names.

We had an amiable conversation, but agreed we weren't a match -- in part because (and remember, these were the years of the war on science) there was no way he could tolerate the dissonance between having someone who had good academic credentials and a faith in a higher power around. Too jarring. Much safer to pull up the moat, and set out the alligators again.

But I have noticed something very prevalent in online dating, at least among guys. They may or may not believe in God -- but they give full-throated allegiance to the idea of redemptive love. Whether just past their first marriage, or sailing on through many relationships, they seem to believe that love will redeem their lives.

As I've said before here, I believe that we all have to have faith -- whether it is faith in a person, or an ideal, or God. And the arguments for and against these kinds of faith are remarkably similar.

Such faith, whether it is in the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition or the god of love, is the triumph of hope over experience, say opponents. It requires extraordinary sacrifices -- sometimes the sacrifice of the self. It is a crutch so that one doesn't have to stand on one's own two feet. It is a drug, an anodyne, to take away existential fear.

Take the creed you oppose, and those put-downs seem to fit, don't they? But what testing them out on yourself?

I couldn't find much to back up my thesis, until I stumbled onto this article about addictive love relationships. Yes, it's just another Internet article, so take it for what it's worth. But I thought the ideas were intriguing -- and there are lots of books out there that explore the whole power of addictive love (love as transcendence?) further.

In a few paragraphs, the writer connects love, addiction and our hunger to transcend:

n a rational, left-brain dominated culture such as ours, where opportunities for transformative, visionary experiences are limited (and are even consciously suppressed by some individuals and institutions), love and addiction have become two of the most common vehicles of modern life for experiencing powerful, ecstatic, altered states of consciousness, temporarily removing us from the mundane routines of everyday life and seemingly opening up powerful new dimensions of reality and possibility. With addictions, of course, these new dimensions turn out to be wisps of smoke, mirrors and illusion, as the reality of the addiction eventually crashes down upon the user's life. And even with love, which has its own set of illusions and tricks, we can start out by honoring a strong, compelling inner pull yet end up in pain and isolation.

Together, however, love and addiction are an even more dangerous combination, feeding multiple illusions and fantasies about who we are and what we are capable of. The dynamic duo of denial and discounting of negative consequences can help us rationalize any unhealthy situation. We may reframe a desire to constantly be with our partner as finally having met our true soul mate. We may rationalize our isolation and avoidance of others as a need to deepen our connection. While our egos may tell us that we are genuinely in love, in reality we may be in need, in lust or in addiction.

What I get from this, in part, is that the denial of need, our need to feel connected, can lead to all kinds of weird rationalizations. Part of the problem is that some of us deny the power of unreasoning emotion (and then it conks us on the noggin), and others act as though reason has no part in love (very romantic, very deluded).

I really liked the quote here from Buddhist psychologist John Welwood: " But intimate relationships unmask and expose us and bring us face to face with life in all its power and mystery. Unless we are willing to explore the unknown in ourselves and in our relations, we will never advance very far along the path of love.''

What works for me (at least in theory, though it hasn't yet worked in practice) are a few core principles. Love is a decision. Love is a choice. Love is one differentiated self meeting another. Love is holding on to yourself, and sharing it with the other. Love opens you up -- it doesn't shut you down. And it is still incredibly mysterious.

They sound a little addicted, don't they? But we still love the song -- you gotta have faith!

I'm a believer. You are, too. Whether it's the big God, or the little guy with the arrow, he's got you.

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