Sunday, April 29, 2012

My New Philosophy on What it Means to Be In Love

Love: The Universal Language
I read somewhere that the Sanskrit language has over ninety words for the word "love."  In American Sign Language, there are at least three different signs for the word "love."  I'm curious as to why the English language, which has such a broad vocabulary, still only has that one word: Love. Love really is a difficult word to define.  The kind of love you can have for a spouse is very different than the kind of love you have for your child, for your dog, for you favorite food, or for your Heavenly Father.  I sometimes think of love as this giant disco ball, with thousands of little facets that send thousands of independent beams of light on the surrounding area.  Sometimes I find myself asking the question, "Do I really love this person?  If I do, how do I know?"  Things especially get complicated when dealing with romantic love.  "Am I really in love with him, or is this just a fleeting feeling of lust or infatuation?  Can I really see myself spending an entire rest of my life with this one guy, or do I not love him enough for that?"  I am positive that others out there have felt the same confusion.
Swans:  They mate for life.

There is one aspect of romantic love, however, that I think I've gotten a handle on.

When you read a book or watch a movie, or even talk to other married couples, you often hear the phrase "falling in love."  I have always been under the impression that "falling in love" with someone was something fundamentally different than just "loving someone."  That being "in love" was a whole 'nother kind of love altogether -- another facet on that giant disco-ball.  I still maintain that argument.  Being "in love" with someone has its own place on the grand spectrum of human emotion.

However, I don't believe being "in love" is all it's cracked up to be.  I believe you can fall in love more often than just once or twice in your life.  Falling in love is pretty easy.  I think it's just as easy to fall in love as it is to fall into anything else.  Falling into debt, falling into a rain puddle, falling asleep -- to fall is a natural process because gravity exists.  So, while love doesn't really have anything to do with gravity, it does have to do with the natural desire of all human beings to not live this life alone.  No man is an island.  We are social creatures.  We all want to BE with someone else.  EXIST as a unified whole rather than just a lonely part.  So when you suddenly find yourself emotionally careening off a cliff because someone has suddenly shown up on the scene, you've fallen in love.  Happens to everybody.

I still don't entirely know.
I do not mean, however, to debase or cheapen this emotion.  Being in love is definitely a big deal. What differentiates the feeling of "in-loveness" from other, more petty emotions like lust, infatuation, or just "liking" someone is a matter of great importance.  When you are in love with someone, I believe that the way you see that someone deeply changes.  When you are in love, you don't just see that someone as just a simple human being anymore.  Being in love has the power to transform a regular, everyday person into a Godlike figure in your life.  Nothing -- nothing -- is wrong with him.  Others may bring up his faults and his shortcomings, but to you, he is perfection in human form. Suddenly, this person is incapable of making mistakes.  He's put up on a high pedestal of the ideal that all other layfolk can only dream to become.  This person becomes the epitome -- the encapsulation -- of everything in your life that makes you happy.  Even if he's got a huge nose, it is the most beautiful nose you have ever seen in your life. If he likes baseball, then there MUST be a good reason for it.  Often, the feelings of being in love are accompanied with feelings of submission, tolerance, even unworthiness.  You put your desires and beliefs on hold to cater to his, because he is everything that is good and right and perfect.

The delicate condition of In Love
Now, ideally, this really isn't a bad thing to feel about a person.  It's good to see the good in people, and it's definitely good to consider and accept the values and opinions of another human being.  When my mom married my dad, she had to sacrifice a lot of things for him, but for her it was all worth it because she was in love with him.  Yes, there are times when these feelings can get out of control and you have no personal autonomy of your own, but that's a different discussion.  My main point is:  When you are in love with someone, you become blinded to that person's weaknesses and foibles and see only perfection in that person. I think this happens to people all the time, whether they are aware of it or not.  Even if they do realize that the item of their affections has a flaw, people who are in love simply gloss over that flaw and either pretend it isn't there or they don't think it's important.

Now that's all well and good -- in the beginning.  But I truly believe that you cannot hope to maintain a lasting relationship like a marriage if all you ever feel for someone is "in-loveness."  I have already said that it is very easy to fall in love.  I also argue that is it equally as easy to fall out of love with a person.  Let me explain.

People who are in love live in a fantasy.  It sounds harsh, but think about it.  They believe in a person that doesn't really exist.  There is no perfect human being in this world.  Everyone makes mistakes, big or small.  And because we all make mistakes, there are such things as pride, anger, hurt, misunderstanding, depression, and even abuse.  In the world of In Love, such feelings cannot be tolerated.  In the world of In Love, a person can only yield feelings of happiness.  The person is perfection and cannot be anything otherwise.  If negative feelings begin to grow, something must be wrong and there goes the In Love.  Now we are in the land of Out of Love in the blink of an eye.  We see it all the time these days.  Couples who looked so happy on their wedding day end up divorced or separated in a matter of months, simply because they fell Out of Love with each other.  I predict that these couples start having problems when these other emotions -- pride, anger, and selfishness being the big ones -- start to enter into their perfect equation of happiness.  It's like they are living in a delicate little bubble, and with the slightest faulty move, the bubble pops and there is nothing left. Then they come to the horrid realization that their spouse (*gasp*) ISN'T PERFECT.  Those flaws and mistakes and weaknesses then stick out like huge wine stains on the white fabric of the relationship, and that's all they end up seeing.  There is no other form of love there to keep the relationship alive, so it dies.
This is not a good place to wear your heart.

I, myself, have fallen in love at least four times.  The first time I could safely say I was "in love" with someone was back in high school, when I met a guy in theater.  He was a year older than me, had a beard on his chin and crooked teeth, and he eventually became one of my closest friends.  I wasn't in love with him right away -- I do think you have to substantially get to know someone before you can safely say you are in love with them -- but as time progressed, I realized that this guy was not all that I imagined him to be.  He was pompous, rude, and disrespectful towards my core values and beliefs.  For a while, I thought maybe he was right.  After all, if he was PERFECT to me; how could I disagree with what he said?  But my self-deception did not last long, and soon I broke.  I felt angry, confused, and very very lonely.

It happened to me again -- this time at an even bigger extreme -- during my sophomore year of college.  I realized I was in love with someone very early on, and I let that In Love feeling run wild on me.  I was already imagining our wedding and how many kids we would have and what a perfect life we would lead within months of just knowing -- not dating, just knowing -- him.  But all my fantasies and dreams completely CRASHED when he made a big enough of a mistake for him to be sent home from a mission.  For a long time, I justified it.  I said, "This guy is different.  He's special.  I can forgive him. It's not that big of a deal."  But the mistake left a huge hole in my perfect world that was just too large to ignore, and eventually I cracked again.  I didn't want to admit that I no longer felt the same way I did before, but could not hide my anger or disappointment.  In time, I realized that there was something missing from my feelings for him that needed to be there in order for our relationship to survive. I had been in love... but that was it.

Life ain't just a walk on the beach.
That's the sad truth.  Being "in love," as I have heard it described, is not enough to make a marriage.  It's not enough to make a family.  It only results in a short-lived fantasy happiness which usually ends in heartbreak if not founded and stabilized by another, more enduring emotion.

And what is that emotion?  You could call it love.  But as we have already seen, that word can mean so many things. It took a while for me to find a fitting term, but I finally decided on the word DEVOTION to describe this emotion I am referring to.

DEVOTION, as defined in the Oxford Dictionary, is a feeling of love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for someone.  Often, it is seen in a religious context.  Now, I don't mean to say that we should worship the person we love, but I do detect a sense of lasting allegiance that can easily be tied to the way we DEVOTE ourselves to God, even in trial and adversity.  DEVOTION transcends disappointment and failure.  It extends itself beyond the feelings of simply tolerating a person.  Along with the need to not be alone in this world, I think all human beings also have an inherent desire to find something that lasts.  DEVOTION LASTS.  

DEVOTION requires faith.  Faith that even though things are hard and your spouse isn't perfect, that you'll still get through it and there will be blessings in the end.  Faith, as many of us know, is the belief in something hoped for, but not seen -- at least, not immediately seen.  Faith is built on the principle of patience, trust, and longsuffering.  If you take a look at any relationship that has really worked, you will see these things.  I guarantee that.  If being In Love is a bubble, then DEVOTION is a rock. Instead of living (dare I include another Mormon reference?) on SAND, these couples live on a firm foundation.  They have accepted the fact that their marriage will not be perfect.  In fact, there will be days when they will downright piss each other off.  A wife may wake up one day, turn to face her husband sleeping next to her, and seriously wonder, "Why the heck did I marry this guy?"  But the faith and DEVOTION will still be there, deep in the core of her soul, and it won't be moved.  It's like the deep strong undertow while the weaker waves crash on the surface.  It's okay to be angry.  It's okay to make mistakes.  It's okay to not be perfect.  Being In Love is great.  But there must -- must -- be more than that when you decide to get married.  Love is not easy.  But DEVOTION makes it possible.
Don't have a hard heart, but build a firm foundation.

I don't think I have yet felt this way about anyone.

I don't really know how this is going to apply in my life, yet, but I do know that I have become more aware of my own feelings as I have developed this whole philosophy, and it has changed the way I feel about other people.  I guess I've become more accepting of myself when I do fall in love with people, because now I know that that's not the end of the journey.  I suppose that means I can invest in someone a lot less if it's just this In-Loveness and nothing more.  And if I fall out of love, that's okay, too.  No need to make a big deal over such a simple feeling.

I also resolve to find someone out there that I can find myself falling in love with again and again and again.  My mom and dad have that down to a science.  When the spark begins to fade, they go on a romantic date, or one of them does something nice for the other, or they take some time to just be together, and that gets the fires of passion and In-Loveness burning once again.  I would highly suggest that all married couples continue to date, even though the courtship process is over.  Maybe that's easier said than done.  I don't know, I'm not married.

BUT... when I do run into someone that will stick around for a while, I can start building the foundation of DEVOTION right away. Brick by brick, date by date, experience by experience, the two of us can create something that lasts forever.  Isn't this the main goal?

Listening to:  "Once I thought" by Aaron Copland
Things going on today:  Ward Prayer.  Homework.
Blessings:  A great sacrament meeting talk, a good long nap.
Learned:  The word anangalekha in Sanskrit means "love letter."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Summer Goals

Today, I begin summer classes.  Five for spring term.  Five for summer term.  But that does not mean I can't spend a little time for myself and get some summer goals checked off my list...

-- Finish Anna Karenina AS WELL AS finish the next book on my 100 Books list.
-- Read the entire book of Mormon before the first day of Fall semester.
-- Of course I want to go on dates and hang with boys, but I resolve to spend a little more time getting to know the girls in my ward.  Last summer, I was in the Relief Society Presidency, so I couldn't help but learn about the girls.  During this summer season, the female count is a lot lower than Fall/Winter.  I have no excuse not to at least learn all the girls' names and have a few conversations with them once in a while.
-- Magnify my calling.  I am the Humanitarian Service / Spiritual and Temporal Welfare council chair.  There's quite a lot on my plate, and I sometimes feel a little overwhelmed, but really, the goal of my council is to help people.  I hope to find service opportunities both within my ward and out in the "real world."
-- Write some more songs.  I have three swimming in my head and they need to come out soon or else they never will.
-- CLEAN ALL THE THINGS.  And keep things clean.
-- Play more sports.  Maybe some Ultimate, volleyball, basketball.  Maybe I should learn something new...
-- See Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers.  Also watch three other movies that I haven't seen yet, but should see.
-- Spend some time with my old friends that live in the area but I don't see very often.  There are a few friends I know from home in Minnesota, as well as some friends from Freshman year that I just don't see as often as I should.
-- Write in my journal more frequently.  That way I don't get overwhelmed when I have to go back and remember things that happened like four weeks ago.

I may add things, but these are the important ones.

Things Going On Today:  First day of classes.  Ward Organizational Meeting.
Blessings:  Not having to work at 7 AM EVERY morning this summer.
Listening to:  Tina Fey and Tracy Morgan on 30 Rock.
Learned:  The poor Spoonbridge and Cherry was vandalized by a Kony 2012 Activist this week.  Fortunately, someone was able to scrub it off, and now the mark of ridiculousness is no more.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday, April 14: A Playlist

This weekend in a playlist:

Little Less Conversation -- Elvis Presley
Something to Talk About -- Bonnie Raitt
Take a Chance On Me -- ABBA
All These Things That I've Done -- The Killers
Anywhere -- Evanescence
Why Won't You Touch Me? -- Capercaillie
Girlfriend -- Avril Lavigne
Hard on You -- Rob Thomas
Better Than I Know Myself -- Adam Lambert

Things Going On Today:  277 Final.  Mexican Food.
Blessings:  Nothing 'til noon.
Learned:  A little more about Twyla Tharp.  I like her.
Listening to:  "Better than I know Myself" by Adam Lambert (see above)

"It's a turtle... looking up the girl's skirt??" --Courtney

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Today, I cleaned all the things.

Today, on a whim, I decided to go through my room and organize every piece of paper documentation that I own.  'Twas quite a feat, taking well over four hours and it's still not entirely done yet.

My cousin Taggart calls me a hoarder because I keep generic birthday cards from when I was fourteen and I find meaning in the smallest little doodle drawn by a boy I used to like.  Call me what you will, but I sort of like how little things can carry such powerful stories and memories.  I'd love to someday tell those stories in full somehow.  Write about them, enshrine the physical evidence in words and pictures.  All those notes I took in sacrament meeting over the years?  I'd like to someday compile them, organize them, and publish them in a way that I can reference them in the future... maybe my progeny can do the same thing?  And all those tags from clothes, magazine scraps, doodles i drew in the margins... someday those things could make a great addition to an awesome decoupage, a killer scrapbook, or just a fun little scrap you can tape to your wall or copy onto a birthday card.  You never know when wrapping paper can come in handy.
So I keep a lot of things.  I did throw some things away, but I kept a good chunk of it.  But now it's all organized.  I have my churchy pictures, fashion pictures, memoirs from freshman, sophomore, and junior years (all in their own file folders).  I've collected and sorted all my choral music.  Chronologically ordered all my photographs.  Put everything away in tight boxes so that they don't take up much room.  I'm quite proud of myself.  Someday those things will come of use.  Someday.

Listening to:  "Unwell" by Matchbox Twenty
Learned:  Zach Van Houten played one of Mark Whitmer's numbers last year at his senior recital!  Connections connections!!  Also learned that gummi worms should not be eaten before a vocal jury, but you can eat plenty after it's done!
Today:  Juries.  Cleaning all the things.  Taggart comes over.
Blessings:  No work.  Rain.  Blue dresses.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Decoration and Heaven and stuff

I have come to a conclusion about myself.  I like decorating things.  I like to decorate my body with clothes and jewelry.  I like to decorate my room with paper and posters and hanging things from the ceiling.  I like to decorate my notes with doodles and unnecessarily frilly handwriting.  I like to decorate a room with art and I like to decorate the air with music.  I like to decorate my computer with pictures and pretty words and rhymes and songs.
I think the arts are a way we add flourish and pizzazz to an otherwise very plain and boring existence.  Art is the addition of beauty and meaning to otherwise banal constructs that exist within our world.  Sound is simply sound, unless it is music.  Color is simply color, unless it is a painting or sculpture or photgraph.  We organize elements of existence around us to make something that is inherently meant to accent or decorate a small part of the world.  I don't think art is necessary for survival... but at the same time, who on this planet has lived without it?  We don't need it, and yet it is such a part of us that we do.
I really wish I could study aesthetics:  What makes something beautiful?  Why do we as human beings appreciate the diatonic scale, rather than, say the twelve-tone system used by Schonberg?  Why do some people feel emotionally moved by a work by Jackson Pollock, while others view it as just a bunch of splashes of workers' paint on a canvas?  Why do some people really connect with a poem, but for others it goes in one ear and out the other?  How does one captivate an audience?  How does one create something memorable?
One of the first things I want to do when I get to heaven is ask to take a look inside God's wardrobe.  I will try on all of the clothes and wear a different outfit every day of my eternal life.  I'm sure he'll have Louboutin shoes and Armani suits and Alexander McQueen relics.  I have a feeling those works have GOT to be inspired.  Then I wanna take a century-long stroll through God's art gallery -- take a look at every work Rothko ever made, and then move on to some more modern things like Warhol or Lichtenstein or David Smith.  Maybe god will have some of his own pieces he'd be willing to share.  And then every night I'd go and hear someone play beautiful music, and I'd sing aloud and not care about what others were saying about me.  That sounds like the kind of Heaven I'd enjoy.

Things Going On Today:  No FHE.  Writing my first cover letter.
Learned:  Ezra Booth was the first man to publish anti-mormon literature.
Blessings:  Shoes.  My hair.  Free food.
Listening to:  Nothing on at the moment.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Happy Easter!!

First of all:  Happy Easter, everyone!  

One of my favorite Easter traditions of all time involves watching Easter Parade (starring the dashing Fred Astaire and Judy Garland) with my mother and sister after dinner on Easter Sunday. (Dad hates movies, so he'd never join in.)  Being the fashionista that I am, I always loved looking at all of the hats and dresses that were worn throughout the movie.  And of course, the music is so much fun.  

This was arguably my favorite scene from the movie growing up.  What a great dancer, that Fred!

Anyway, I thought I'd do a little bit of research about the Easter Parade that happens every year on 5th Avenue in New York.  Apparently it began sometime in the 1800s when all the aristocrats of Manhattan would parade the latest fashions after they went to church.  Apparently flamboyant bonnets were in style back then, and the fad never really died each Easter season.  

Nowadays it's a lot like Halloween, where people have yet another excuse to make all-out spectacles out of themselves and get away with it.  It would be a dream come true to celebrate Easter in one of those amazing hats someday.  To the drawing board!  I'm off to design the best Easter Bonnet ever!!

Listening to:  "Shaking the Blues Away" performed by Ann Miller on Easter Parade.
Things Going On Today:  A light Easter Dinner with my aunt and grandparents.  Also, I sang a solo today in sacrament meeting. 
Blessings:  Not as much homework as you think you have. 
Learned:  Easter Parades have religious significance; they were used a long time ago to represent the processional triumphant entry of Christ into Jerusalem the week before his crucifixion.  Apparently it is also a tradition to wear new clothing on Easter.