One of the best cartoons I have seen is a New Yorker cartoon by Alex Gregory. In this cartoon, a man is shown as thinking about golf while at work, thinking about sex while golfing, and thinking about work while having sex. In other words, the man is never fully present in any of the situations. The cartoon may seem to be depicting a case of fickle-mindedness. However, at a slightly deeper level, it is also making a statement about love, or more precisely what is not love. How can we say that the man loves his work, if he is day dreaming about golf while at work? How can we say that he loves golf, if he is engulfed in sexual fantasies while playing his game? And how can we say that the man is really making love, if while having sex he is preoccupied about his work?
Once I showed the above-mentioned cartoon to a group of fellow doctoral students in a research seminar, and everyone in the room had a good laugh. Why? Because at some level or other they all related to the man's predicament. As so accurately depicted in the cartoon, almost of all us are never fully present in the moment. The Buddhist practice of mindful meditation is a method that is very helpful in enhancing our capacity to live fully in the present. Over the last decade, there has also been a lot of scientific research on mindfulness. However, this post is not about mindfulness per se. It is about love. The reason I brought up mindfulness into the conversation is that mindfulness and true love both have the same ideal, i.e., to be there. I think the only difference between the two phenomena is the level of analysis. While mindfulness is a very broad concept, authentic love is very specific. Love focuses on being fully present for your beloved.
A couple of days ago, on this blog, I talked about the relationship between my parents. It must have been pretty obvious to you that I admire their relationship very much. But the admiration is not because they are perfect human beings or a perfect couple. Far from it! They both have a whole host of weaknesses and flaws. For example, they fought a lot with each other (only verbal arguments). But despite these failings, they always strove to be present for each other. They made conscious choices in that regard. For example, my dad always chose to come home straight from work so that he could be by my mother's side to provide her some respite who had been taking care of my intellectually disabled brother for the whole day all on her own. Similarly, my mom, was always concerned about my dad. Even now, when she has the opportunity to stay with her kids for longer periods of time, she always remains concerned about how my dad would be managing on his own, and so, returns home quickly to be able to take care of him. I don't want to glorify my parents. That's not my point. My point is that when two individuals are physically and psychologically present for each other, to take care of each other, to support each other in their difficulties, and to share joys with each other, that is love.
Being there for each other is not an easy task. It will obviously involve many personal sacrifices. For example, one person may have to give up a coveted job and seek employment in a new location just to be able to be there for one's loved one. It may involve sacrificing different pleasurable activities and personal time on a regular basis. The point is that only few people will be ready to be present for you when personal sacrifices are involved. Only those who do, are the ones who truly love you. The rest is all fickle love, if not necessarily fake love.
To be continued ...