Stop Looking For Your Soulmate

Words of wisdom from Oliver Burkeman at the Guardian. Should I say “my parents were right all along”? No, not really, because of the limitations of what this is actually saying. This is worth keeping in mind, though.

Relationship gurus expend enormous amounts of energy debating whether “opposites attract” or, conversely, whether “birds of a feather flock together” – largely, it seems, without stopping to reflect on whether relying on cheesy proverbs might be, more generally, a bad way to think about the complexities of human attraction. Should you look for a partner whose characteristics match yours, or complement yours? The conclusion of the Pair Project, a long-term study of married couples by the University of Texas, is… well, neither, really. “Compatibility”, whether you think of it as similarity or complementarity, just doesn’t seem to have much to do with a relationship’s failure or success, according to the project’s founder, Ted Huston: the happiness of a marriage just isn’t much correlated with how many likes, dislikes or related characteristics a couple does or doesn’t share. Compatibility does play one specific role in love, he argues: when couples start worrying about whether they’re compatible, it’s often the sign of a relationship in trouble. “We’re just not compatible” really means, “We’re not getting along.” “Compatibility” just means things are working out. It simply renames the mystery of love, rather than explaining it.

According to the US psychologist Robert Epstein, that’s because a successful relationship is almost entirely built from within. (He cites evidence from freely entered arranged marriages, arguing that they work out more frequently than the unarranged kind.) All that’s really required is two people committed to giving things a shot. Spending years looking for someone with compatible qualities may be – to evoke another cheesy proverb – a classic case of putting the cart before the horse.

Quote of the Week: This is why I love Murakami

“Sometimes when I look at you, I feel as if I’m gazing at a distant star. It’s dazzling, but the light is from tens of thousands of years ago. Maybe the star doesn’t even exist anymore. Yet sometimes that light seems more real to me than anything.”

–Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun

He can describe exactly what I’m feeling-or a more poetic version of it-even when I think it would be completely indescribable.

Ain’t so Easy to Write a Bad Romance

This is my contribution to my hostel’s entry for the inter hostel creative writing contest, uploaded mostly as a backup.   We were supposed to hand in one broadsheet with certain required elements. The basic idea for our entry is that it’s a scrapbook kept by a woman in New York whose fiance went off to London to be an editor at a newspaper at around 1911-1912, consisting mostly of letters that he sent her and lots of other little tidbits. There’s really not a whole lot else in the story that you need to know, I think. We took a bit of a gamble in having the real weight of the entire theme rest on the last sentence of the last letter, which I wrote and which is posted below. There were two other letters and a clipping from an editorial that the man wrote (it was one of the required elements). Warning: It’s quite a bit over the top with the lovin’, so if you’re in a particularly cynical mood you might want to give this post a miss 🙂 .

April 9th, 1912

Dearest,

My landlady does not believe in the luxury of a log fire come April, and so I write with shivering hands on this unnaturally cold night, longing for the warmth of you held close to me… ah, the memory is enough to lift the cold. Things are going quite well. I remember your apprehensions about my journey here, and how silly they do seem now-the people are ever so kind, and the opportunities ever so much more here than they could be for me back home.

Mr. Davis at the office has very kindly allowed me 2 whole months off, as there are no pressing matters at present. The suffragette movement is in full swing here, but it does not appear to have much popular support, as evidenced by the increasingly desperate acts of its supporters, and in any case my employers do not think anything will come of it. I am less skeptical; it seems rather outrageous to me that women have been denied the vote even this far into the Age of Reason, and sooner or later this must be rectified. Perhaps I speak from liberal naivete and my inexperience of city politics, though, and this is just another ill-fated movement that nobody will remember ten years hence.

Lord Sheperd, my father’s friend (you will recall my mentioning how helpful he has been, helping me navigate through the absurd theatre that is London society, as appreciative as it is of my humble talents) took me to see the house I hope we can call our own. Of course I cannot yet afford one in his neighbourhood, but it is a charming area nonetheless- indeed, it is quite ideal, a haven of quiet in this crowded, smog-filled city, with the only disadvantage being the rather bohemian neighbours, whom we should hardly mind. Indeed, they will be a welcome change in this stodgy city. It is small, but it should be sufficient for our needs. It has the most wonderful little yard; no sooner did I enter it than a vision appeared to me of a sweet young child, our own if God grants it, playing on a ramshackle swing, and I knew that this was the place we should call home. I have already made an offer, and I feel we should be quite happy there.

Tomorrow I will board for “back home”, as I still call it. Yet I hope that this soon may change, for home is where the heart is, and my heart is ever with you; and when I return you will at last be by my side, as my wife. Every hour, every minute, every beat of my heart I long for you, and the closer I come to meeting you the harder it gets. I try to work, but my mind will not stay- I care not for my thoughts, unless they are thoughts of you. Blake was right- there is an eternity in every hour that I am apart from you, and I have been condemned to this lonesome purgatory for all of them. I find your likeness in everything I see; your face lies hidden behind every cloud and you dance in every flame. Every note I hear sings out for you; every robin’s trill, every nightingale’s song. I keep telling myself that you cannot possibly be as fair as I think you to be, that my mind is simply toying with me, that no mortal woman could be to mortal man all that you are to me, and yet it will not be quelled.

You will wait for me on the pier, won’t you? I will wait as long as I must, but to wait an instant more is sheer folly. Your friends will call it eagerness, I suspect, but what if it is? There are worse sins. Tomorrow I shall board the Titanic, and in a week my torment shall be at an end.

Love,
Yours in every way,
Lester

Yes, I know: Lester. But whatever. Also, read that last line again.

There’s also a poem that I wrote for inclusion in another letter, because the guidelines required a poem.  I’m actually quite proud of this, considering I wrote the whole thing in little over half an hour.

Love catches up to me in the middle of the street
and strikes me down,
and carries me away across the water.
Love guards my back as I prepare for bed,
fighting off Time as it gnaws away at my memories.
Love knocks me off my feet as I rush to work,
and overwhelms me with your sweet scent
(lavender, and jasmine, and something I can never place)
Love sets me afire and takes no note of my objections;
it knows nothing of delayed gratification,
and it is never in mind to learn.
Love is in no mood to wait, yet wait it must,
and it is tearing me apart;
and I can do naught but watch.

Comments?

Quote of the Week:Love found, love lost, love found again

an overflow of words. (“What does it matter that love is lost? Love is a…)

“What does it matter that love is lost? Love is a song that trembles in the air and is caught by another. Love is a sweet melody that haunts those that like your singing. Let it go, and it will come again in another form. If you don’t let it go, it will never return, for a vessel that is full can never be filled. But a vessel that is empty can be filled with a rich new wine that you have never tasted before. And the new wine doesn’t destroy the memory of the old, but enriches your palate and your sense of having lived much. Unused palates don’t know good wine from bad.”

–Ben Okri

Is this not awesome? I had to resort to plagiarism on the title, though I forgot where I got that from. Any ideas?

Mush

I am childish in my deviance;
chaotic, but obvious.
I am all buttons and knobs,
exposed,
to any passing stranger’s whims.
I cannot let you in
or you will play around
and change
these precise adjustments

these delicate proportions
of love and greed,
lust and anger, joy and fear,
that function;
that, if nothing else, survive.

Cupid waits for me at the bottom of the garden.
He is less willful now.
The years have tamed him.
He asks for consent.
I shake my head, and choose Identity instead.