Friday, March 09, 2012

Love in the time of Me

In less individualistic times, people were more conforming and their responses to situations were more-or-less similar. They shared common beliefs, taboos and impulses.

In those times, to commit oneself as a spouse to someone wouldn't have been much of a gamble. Yes, there are idiosyncrasies in people but as long as they are within the framework of a larger system of beliefs and values, and as long as more than two people lived in a house, it would not have been excruciating to live together.

Today, relationships are a minefield. Let me explain why.

In the absence of tradition and history, and due to the increasing influence of short-term trends and media sensations, the mind does not develop in depth. One has an encyclopedic knowledge of shallow matters, but a startling ignorance about the wider or deeper ones. Attention deficit on the outside translates to shallowness on the inside.

Tradition is unfashionable today. The speed of cultural change has become hyper-sonic. Anything more than a few years old is old-fashioned.

In these times, there is an absence of depth in anything one comes across, including people.

And in the absence of depth and of solidity in one's foundations, can relationships be long-lasting? Can they even be expected to last? What is one relating to, if not to someone's depth of character and his/her values and a pattern of behavior which is expected to continue long in the future?

Relationships between shallow entities cannot be expected to last. Gears which mesh with each other only lightly will slip. A depth of engagement requires a depth of the cogs in the wheel in the first place. If you are not deep, your relationships will revolve around shallowness.

And since relationships are no longer strictly required (given the advances in civilization and civic institutions and merging of gender roles), to form a long-lasting pair-bond with someone can only be due to a deep sharing of values and passions.

Remove the pragmatic need for relationships, remove the ability to engage deeply with each other (since there is nothing there to engage with), celebrate freedom and choices, and is it any wonder that people are complaining about a lack of deep feeling for anything or anyone?

Without there being any external needs or pressures, can you commit five decades of your life to someone who you know only superficially, who you CAN only know superficially because there is nothing there except superficiality?

Maybe love was always of the superficial, maybe beauty was always skin-deep, but when traditions were still strong, when the super-ego was still functional, you knew that statistically speaking, you were committing to someone you intimately knew. Because you understood what made that person tick, where that person derived their values from.

Not anymore. Today, the general relationship advice is to know someone for at least a couple of years before you commit to them. And why such a long time? Because it takes that long for all the idiosyncrasies and individual morality to come into full view. You cannot trust that the person is a product of a certain kind of society, except if by "certain kind of society" one means a society where there is a chaos of values and everything is just a matter of being cool.

How can there be anything more than infatuation, attraction, satiation, and eventual boredom in these times?

It is dangerous to commit to someone if when you look into his/her depths, you see nothing, or worse, if you see chaos.

Love and courtship leading to a lifelong commitment will be remembered as a twentieth century phenomenon in human history. There will never be a mythic love story, say something like Heer Ranjha, in the future.


Anonymous said...

I smile as I read your post.

How do you see intellectual amorality fitting into your scheme of things, Mr Singh?

Harmanjit Singh said...


Intellectual amorality is one word too much. They are synonymous. Morality is driven from feelings and sentiments. In the absence of strong feelings, an over-analytic mind has no compass, only an efficient, and alienated, engine.

Anonymous said...

Appreciate the definition. However, still don't see how it fits into the scheme of things?

Anonymous said...

Might be it is the case..or it should be the case!! Might be shutting mind, logics and feelings and going back to ancient period would solve the problem of unstable relationships-as I can read/sense from your writing..."Love" was neither important at the time of "we" for sustaining a relationship nor it is in time of "me"...
Also, I have not found yet definition for stable/long relationship- is it just no. of years spent together under a legal obligation or social pressure?? Earlier system seems us comparatively better because we have tendency to compare and appreciate what we have lost or left in the course of change which dint turn out to be as expected. I don’t read anymore anything about healthy / happy relationship or any such thing..For any society to grow both are equally important.

Anonymous said...

see the actual meaning of marriage and why there was need to change its old definition, why did it turn in disaster..( need a more deeper analysis and thinking) and some probable solution..

some new interseting facts too..

dreamer said...

-"Remove the pragmatic need for relationships, remove the ability to engage deeply with each other"

Do people really need to engage deeply with each other? I hear most people wanting an 'activity partner' and not really a 'partner in life'

-"the general relationship advice is to know someone for at least a couple of years before you commit to them. And why such a long time?"

Is a couple of years long enough a time to know anyone? i don't think any length of time is long or short, and the only way you know someone is when you can witness how a person deals with different situations in life, how the person copes with conflict, change and challenge, if the person can appreciate the joys of life and whether the person can rise beyond the daily affairs and look at the broader perspective in life.

-"There will never be a mythic love story"
Do you think people even want a love story, when they have all their practical wisdom which they cherish? A love story can be demanding, it demands time, it demands what people call their 'own space', it may not mean practical 'fringe' benefits and instant gratification, who cares for a love story then these days?

Who wants to wait for things to 'develop'? People want to move fast, change places, change partners. The so called final commitment into matrimony is mostly a well calculated move that fits the dimensions of certain frame in one's life.
If matrimony doesn't arise from love, attraction and respect that develops naturally, it is bound to be superficial.

Anonymous said...

"Love and courtship leading to a lifelong commitment will be remembered as a twentieth century phenomenon in human history"

In which century was such a model of forming a marriage(lifelong commitment) popular in India? If at all it existed it only did for a miniscule number of people in a large population running into millions....So quite insignificant really!!!

Also what you call a "love story" Heer Ranjha etc is actually only about "forbidden love" where the characters wanted to break the traditions or chains binding them. The world is full of such stories even now... President's falling in love with so and so even marrying them... Prince's falling in love with commoners/divorcees/widows etc..... not much of difference really between forbidden love and illicit love....

Traditions always change with time...New traditions replace old ones. some like you lament the loss of old ones, find it hard to accept new ones...but the human race moves does everything it can to survive as long as it can on this planet........