Thursday, October 21, 2010

*Sophia's Curse

A week or so ago I wrote a blog post about online dating, which I said I was starting to check out in order to fulfill the mandate given to me by Austin the Actor and JJ the Chef to "learn how to be friends with women I find attractive." A little while later I deleted the post because, as my Californica friend Seth wisely remarked when I told him what I was up to, "yeah, right."

You don't going on a dating website where the context is always the possibility of romantic entanglement and then try to claim that all you want is friends - that's just ridiculous. I knew it, too, which is why I deleted the post. It seemed disingenuous, and an important attribute that grows symbiotically with a love of truth (to which I aspire... or at least to which I want to aspire... most of the time) is a hatred of lies and  pretension.

The truth, of course, is that I am also often fabulously annoyed by my pesky dedication to the truth. It forces me to admit that on a subterranean level I got on a dating website because I wanted to drown out the anxieties and angsts I've got hovering over me by overwhelming them with the sort of electrical charge a fella like me can only get from a living, breathing woman.

I knew at that subterranean level that I was lying to myself, hoping to be able to disregard the facts of my life: like the fact that I am tied to a specific location and schedule by relationships with people whom I love fiercely; or the fact that I have a responsibility to give the kids I teach my utmost attention when I'm on the job; or perhaps even the reason that I sorta-kinda tacked onto that post about online dating - that I already have a lover, Art, who is jealous and demands my sweet, sassy ministrations on a regular, timely basis. I know these truths - feel them shaving off the seconds of my life and keeping them for themselves - but there are times when I don't want to know them.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and it is always only a little knowledge. No one ever knows much and the best they can hope for, I think, is to have a little bit of wisdom as well - enough to distinguish between actions that increase love and those that decrease it. That, I think, is what wisdom is - nothing particularly spectacular, just the occasional flash of insight into the relative love-producing value of any given course of action.

I may be wrong, but I tend to think of myself as being a somewhat wiser-than-average person. I don't know why this might be - whether it's because I wanted it more than most; or happened to read a few of the right books; or if, perhaps, God just decided to drop a couple of extra wisdom-anvils on my head. Because make no mistake - that's what it is. Wisdom is an anvil dropped on your head from a great height. Wisdom is pain. As far as I can tell, wisdom is a gift God gives to other people... you, the wise one, are just the heavy-laden pack horse.

That, I think, is why the Bible tells that story about Solomon, where God offered him anything and because he asked for wisdom, God honored him by giving him and power and wealth as well. Because let me tell you this, people: wisdom is as much a curse as it is a blessing, and the Bible is all about cheering for the guy who takes a curse on himself for someone else's benefit.

You're doubting me, aren't you? That's okay - it makes perfect sense to doubt a crazy person.

Let me try to explain it differently, though. If, as I have said, wisdom reveals to you which path will lead towards the most love, then as a creature for whom love is the highest pleasure, aim, and object of yearning (which, I am convinced, is a core human reality), it would seem that you would be thrilled to have greater insight into what that path is so you could take it. The problem arises, however, when you realize that Greater Love always includes in it Greater Love for Other People, and as much as you may want that love, there is another, strident yearning in your nature to just say, "Y'know what... screw wisdom and the horse it rode in on - I'm frickin' tired of looking out for what's good for other people in the big-picture-of-love sense. I wanna look out for me, right now! Big-picture love is a costly, time-consuming enterprise and I don't live in long time-stretches, I live in the right now. And in this instant, I want some frickin' mind-erasing pleasure!"

Back and forth it goes, these two elemental forces battling for dominance. The more you learn - the more wisdom you get - the greater the conflict. Selfish, right-now thinking is the oh-so-natural path of least resistance and only creates conflict when wisdom's love-o-scope blinks into operation. The presence of wisdom is not an inevitable precursor to wise choices.  Although wisdom may reveal the way of love, it does jack-bo-diddly to actually move you towards it - all it really does is make it exquisitely painful to step in the opposite direction. Wisdom happens in the head, while the real battle rages on in the heart.

I find that no matter how much I might sometimes want to spend some non-thinking time with a woman, making myself feel better without a thought in my head for what it will take to increase the love in her life, the more time I spend getting to know her, the more wisdom reveals the more loving alternative.

Casual dating, then, becomes a painful proposition, as does casual sex, casual conversation, and casual emailing. I don't feel that every person I say "hello" to on the street has to become my best friend, but I do feel as though each human contact is an opportunity for real love and an opportunity to make another other-centric connection. Love is not satisfied with casual... it wants more, every single time.

And here's the kicker. Wisdom keeps insisting that women are all these amazing, wondrous, mysterious creations and demanding that I love them all. It has been suggesting to me that the best way to love them all is to make art. To write; to sing; to paint, and in so doing to throw my love out, un-exclusively, to them all.

Maybe, just maybe, there will come a day when my situation will shift and I will be able to afford the time to love all of them through my art and one of them in a more focused, interpersonal way as well. This does not, however, feel like that day. It feels, rather, that this is a day in a long continuum of days in which love will have to grow slowly, by inches, between me and a larger world. As much as I may want to live exclusively in the ever-selfish now, wisdom keeps insisting that I at least attempt to live a broader, more expansive love.

I am, as usual, only fumbling towards clarity. I may be horribly wrong and I it is just as likely that I will ignore the insight that I am giving, now, to you. Nonetheless, this is the way it seems to me to be. So curse you right back, Sophia... curse you right back. I'll do what you say but, dodge gambit, I don't have to like it!

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* "Sophia" is Greek for "wisdom."

2 comments:

  1. I think society in all its various forms, puts a great deal of constraints and beliefs on "love". I am of the opinion that many of these were put in place as a matter of survival and control, perhaps even out of fear. I think we are meant to love one another (plural). If we could do this without all the beliefs and constraints that we have set up, the world could be quite a lovely place for the most part. I'm with Seth.

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  2. I love this post, Josh. Love it. It really resonates with me. Especially the image of wisdom as an anvil dropped on your head. I can't tell you how often my prayers are desperate, exasperated cries for a rest, a break from making hard choices and doing the bigger, more loving thing.

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