Falling in love is one of the most beautiful experiences for human beings. So much so, that along with a deep religious commitment and a deep communion with nature, it is one of the most common subject matters for poetry and song. For some people, falling in love is a one time only situation. One finds the other half of the apple of which one is comprised and that is that. On the other hand, some people like the process of falling in love so much that they are constantly falling in an out of love. Although with each new lover, the person who is constantly falling in and out of love, will swear that the new lover is the true lover, and this is it, and there won’t be any other.
At any rate, it is my belief that falling in love in preindustrial traditional society had a very different flavor than falling in love in modern technological society. As nature was looked at as something dangerous that could swallow a person up with its flowing blendable continual organic presence, it became a psychological springboard that was especially useful in helping a person to transcend above the external world. One rose above the organic material world of nature and entered a vacuum world of dreams and ideals. It was a world where the ideal person of one’s dreams resided, a world where the organic mire of nature was unable to enter. And because no material substance entered these ideal dreamy images, the people in these ideal dreamy images were conceived without the material flaws that were actually present in the real people from whom these ideal dreamy images were derived. As a result, the idealized images frequently became more the focus of the feelings of love of the romantic lover than the real love object him or herself. And this is one of the main reasons why traditional love stories don’t work out in the real world. The lover has a certain idealized image of the beloved, and the beloved can’t live up to it. And, so, the lover leaves the love situation in a totally disillusioned state.
Although such a distinction has not been focused on, at least that I am aware of, it seems to me that romantic love has taken on a flavor today that was totally absent in traditional natural societies. Whereas romantic love used to have a more heavenly quality to it, today it has a more earthy quality to it. The person with whom one falls in love today seems more real and authentic than most. Rather than transcending above the organic world of earth, dirt and nature, the romantic lover today tries to incorporate this world as a vehicle of grounding . And poetry and song today don’t deal so much with syrupy sweet images of the beloved as they do hardened grounded images. Defined discrete images of someone that one knows one can hold onto and find surrogate grounding with, while he floats off in the numbing loveless vacuum that surrounds him. The problem here is that without the dreamy ideals, there is no meaningful template to hold the lover agent together with his love object. The fact, for instance, that the love object is good in bed is a good stimulus for short-term lust, but not necessarily for long-term love. A defined discrete love object is great for engaging a person’s attentions in a wild explosive fireworks kind of way, but fireworks make a good show and then they disappear.
Now a truly old-fashioned type of person would say that romantic love of any kind is not the way to maintain sustainable love relationships. What works for this type of person is the arranged marriage which was the pattern of choice for so many societies over the course of many centuries. And in certain societies like India it still exists today. The theory is that with the grounding of the extended families of both the bride and the groom as well as the grounding coming from the community at large, the marriage is effectively held together. And what is more important, the couple grows together and learns to love one another.
This, at least, is the theory. Sometimes, one or more members of the proposed couple does not like the person chosen for him and, in fact, is involved secretly with another person for whom he has strong romantic sentiments. This has proven to be the foundation of many romantic stories in the history of literature. Naturally, as readers, we always end up identifying with the romantic couple, even when or even because the larger family or community is so against the romance. And this is because in modern Western society, we believe that a person has the right to exercise free choice in the selection of his love partners and spouses. Even when the selection doesn’t work out. And to end this article, I am reminded of that old saying, “It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”