2003-03-22 12:05 a.m.
I wrote this at Harbin Hot Springs last weekend, inspired by the solitude and noticing my strong sense of aloneness. I found that, while I wasn't exactly lonely, I did wish I had someone to talk with. I had this feeling that I wanted companionship of some sort at that moment. And I got to thinking about the nature of human companionship. And my mind wandered to two friends—boyfriend and girlfriend—who had been on my mind a lot lately. One of the two tends to be jealous. As I sat silently I started to see an interconnection between the need for companionship and attraction as found in what we call "romantic" relationships. So, this was really written for these two friends.
Nothing exists independently. Each individual thing—tangible or not, and without regard to magnitude—is a sum of many parts, starting with ideas, phonemes, energy and subatomic units, and progressing upwards to cells, the ringing in my ears, bricks, lexicons, mountains, belief systems, planets, galaxies.
Relationships are not exempt. They are also made up of many parts.
Consider the partner relationship—the intimate and magnetic love and attraction bond that often propagates between two people. What are its components?
To start with, there are the two people, each made up of tangible and intangible components. First, each one's body is a dazzlingly complex network of cellular systems, not even remotely understood by the human mind protected within its skull. Then, each one's spirit, mind, or soul—depending on whether or not we choose to differentiate between these terms—is a spider web woven from every experience they have had and every thought they have processed.
This web is unlike those woven by spiders in that it is intimately and forever connected to—or we can say an amalgam of—the web of every other person who is alive and who has ever lived. Ever. This must be the case. Every spiritual/mental "event" has some effect upon something or someone. And, since one event—we can call it this "event" the "cause"—happened in the past and had some affect on another event, we can see that our consciousness exists in a completely dependent state upon the past. The webs are connected—all of them.
So, these are the tangible and intangible components that comprise the two human components in the relationship. But what about the actual relationship itself? What is the nature of it? What are its preconditions?
I searched my mind, but I couldn't find a word better than attraction. Attraction is the strange gravity—this compelling force—between two people that causes them to want to be with one another and treat one another in a way that sets them apart from others.
But then, what are the building blocks of attraction?
I believe that there are three parts of attraction as found in the intimate relationship. First and foremost is the human longing for companionship. This is the feeling and sense within us that compels us to interact with another person. I consider this to be an assumed case, since even the most misanthropic person wants company sometimes. Taken for granted or not, this tendency towards companionship is the precondition for the next two pieces of the puzzle.
After the general longing or urge for human interaction, one must have general attraction to a class of people. For example, let's say you like women—you enjoy their company, long to be around them, want to have sex with them, like the way they smell, and so on. This is what I call the general attraction. Just as it itself must be preceded by an urge or longing for human companionship, general attraction is the precondition for the third component of attraction, the specific attraction.
The specific attraction is the thing that sets apart a very small number of the general class as special. For many, only one instance of the general class at a time elicits this specific attraction in a person—a life partner, lover, or spouse are common examples.
Consider this example: Meet Bob. We can assume that Bob, like all of us, wants people in his life to share his time and thoughts with. This is the social nature of humans. Ok, let's say of all the people he has been around lately Bob especially fancies a girl named Mary. Bob experiences an attraction to Mary above and beyond some of his male friends because she is a woman, and Bob likes women—a lot. This illustrates the general attraction. But then beyond that there is something superlative about Mary and the electric charge that sparks brightly between the two of them. Bob knows that she is special, different, and he treats her differently from the others in the general class which she belongs to, whatever that might mean for their particular situation.
Now, what happens when you try to remove any of the three parts of the attraction? We can't possibly remove the first part, the innate social tendency of Bob as a human animal—it just can't be done. But what about the other two parts?
If you remove the general attraction, then all of a sudden Bob knows that Mary is a fine person, but she is just not his type. Bob's general attraction to women is gone, and Mary is a woman. [Looks like a diet of nothing but hot, veiny tube steak for Bob!]
Or, if you keep the general attraction but remove the specific attraction, then Mary becomes just another woman—as outstanding and unique as a molecule of water in a cloud. So we see that removing any components actually undermines and destroys the whole!
But, in spite of this, many people try to mute, negate, neglect, remove, neuter, or destroy that general attraction. We are all familiar with the situation when one person puts pressure on their partner to extinguish their general attractions. Lots of us have heard, "How could you do that? I saw the way you looked at him!"
It isn't just the "other person" who will try to remove this component of attraction. Out of respect for their partners, fear, and manifold other reasons, many try to strangle their own general attractions! But, as we can see from the simple example up above with Bob and Mary, to deny the existence of one's general attraction is not only shortsighted but also destructive. To do so would dissolve the foundation of the entire relationship!
So, before you go messing with something and try to make it "better", look at it from all angles, understand its preconditions, and consider the interconnectedness of its parts. Perhaps the thing you are trying to "fix" is already "better". What we rush to fix may never have been broken in the first place! In most cases, the problem lies elsewhere. Most things—tangible and intangible—are brain–smashingly more complex than they seem. I would think consider with the greatest of care before breaking things open and throwing out parts. Those parts might be there for a reason.
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