I am finding myself drawn once again to the subject of attraction and attachment – commonly culminating in so-called love.
Throughout my 20s I was convinced it was my Achilles heel to my semblance of free will. I worshiped these feelings and made way for them at any cost. But things have changed. Particularly my choice in the matter.
Is love out of our control? Not entirely, I’ve decided. The shock of meeting someone who seems to us to be Just Right may be subject to the imperceptible forces of nature, but thinking of the quality of the impression as the raw material, what we choose to forge it into is more up to us than we have been conditioned to think.
For the self-aware person who has developed the ability to step outside her own feelings so to judge whether they should be acted upon, there is in fact a choice to be made. A choice of interpretation. You feel strongly for this person. You want desperately to be closer. These are undeniable facts of the matter. But you can decide how to regard these feelings; as attraction, infatuation, idolatry, future best friend, or as Soulmate Not Otherwise Specified, and you can indulge as circumstances seem fit (ie: responsible), neither desiring nor expecting more than you have decided it is. Drawn together by mere attraction, you will share the experiences for the relationship to take a safe and satisfying form that is conducive to your own lives and the lives with whom you are entangled.
It doesn’t have to be so sad when the one we feel intensely for is not the one we can be with in that way. The real tragedy, and the kneejerk reaction to the emotionally indulged/entrenched when the only way they want it can’t be had, is removing them from your life, for having them in any other capacity is too painful to bear. That’s some romanticized bullshit right there, and a great loss to what could have been. Deep, intentional friendship is underrated as it is. A friend with whom you share an unspoken physical attraction in addition to everything else is a friend indeed, for little will tear you apart, and if ever the time is right, it will be built upon so much already.
We are not a slave to our feelings. It only feels like it. In matters of love especially, we often know better, but cannot exercise our will either because we haven’t developed it or we don’t believe in it (no no, my free will denial is on another level.) We can’t produce feelings out of nowhere and we can’t make them disappear, but we can tame them by choosing what they mean and how to act. This way we can avoid the suffering and eventual boredom of a love story that was not even our idea.
Bob recently reviewed an interesting book Review – Understanding Love, Philosophy, Film, and Fiction, by Susan Wolf and Christopher Grau (Editors) from Oxford University Press. As we all know LOVE is complex and simple. Do we have any control over it or does it just happen to us like the weather?
Taken together the essays do not argue for a particular unified position on film or on love, but instead are interdisciplinary in approach and each essay points to an engaging aspect of a particular novel or film to draw out some aspect of the theme of love. Wolf writes, “it might be more accurate to describe the essays as non disciplinary: exercises in thinking and writing that, while inevitably reflecting the author’s training and temperament, engage with a text or explore an idea in a way unconstrained by disciplinary boundaries.” Several of the essays in this volume are close readings or interpretations of a particular film, play, or novel. (This includes the essays by Maria DiBattista, Frances Ferguson, Douglas MacLean, Toril Moi, Frederick Neuhouser, David Paletz, Gilberto Perez, C. D. C. Reeve, and George Wilson.) Reading these essays in conjunction with viewing or reading the works on which they focus can be instructive, both about how much is in these works and about ways of reading films, novels, and plays more generally. Overlapping with these are essays that use individual texts or films as a spring-board for introducing a more general idea or problem. (See, for example, the essays by Macalester Bell, Lawrence Blum, Christopher Grau, Rae Langton, Judith Smith, George Toles, and Susan Wolf.)
The essays in this volume are focussed on love. Each addresses some aspect of that complex intellectual/emotional experience that in English we call “love”. This is a book that can be enjoyed in many ways over time by reading the essays and going to the art works discussed armed with new questions and with new knowledge about the meanings of the art works discussed.