Sunday, May 6, 2007

The Butterfly Effect, Reversed.

Image and video hosting by TinyPicWhat follows is an excerpt from a letter I wrote this evening to my best friend. We had just parted after having dinner, over which we discussed how I am unhappy with my personal relationship situation at the moment, but how I feel reluctant to resort to old bad habits in seduction and melodrama in order to alleviate my loneliness. My best friend asked me why I am such a pessimist in this one aspect of my life, when I am so optimistic in so many other areas. The letter that follows is my response, after I had time to think a little longer on the question--about why my struggle is an expression of the same spiritual commitment to the principle of love that leads me towards optimism in other, more impersonal things.

I think it is akin to the butterfly effect, only in reverse. We are used to thinking about interconnection in terms of how something as small, innocent and pretty as a butterfly can lead to something as huge, frightening and potentially damaging as a hurricane on the other side of the world. But perhaps, it also works in the opposite direction: so that when we acknowledge and embrace something which is painful and difficult, a suffering which may seem unbearable, if we accept such pain for the sake of love, perhaps we may help to create something which is beautiful and innocent and good, even if it seems small. The question I ask myself is, am I willing to bear what feels like a hurricane of loneliness, rather than to alleviate it with selfish behavior, if I truly believe that, somewhere, someday, the world might be blessed by the gentle brush of even one more butterfly?

Note: The lines in quotes below are mostly from songs from Tool's album, Lateralus, except for the closing lines, which are from Ani DiFranco's song, "Joyful Girl," from her album, Dilate.


Thinking about our conversation on the walk home, I realized something: you're wrong. ;)

Seriously, though, here's the thing. I was also in a situation all through high school where I was in love with a person who didn't want to be with me--that was the situation with me and C-, who constantly talked to me about his ex-girlfriend. And back then, I didn't have such elaborate and thorough principles that I tried to live by consistently, as I do now. I mostly just wanted to be happy. So I pursued other people, I made that effort, I did all of that stuff that you are recommending to me now. But mostly what it did (besides landing me with guy after guy who wasn't right for me or who bored me or whatever) was that it taught me to choose not-love over love based on some grass-is-greener notion. And that habit was hard to break--it's what ruined my relationship with E-, and it's what ended my latest relationship, in some ways. So when I say, now, that I am not happy with my life, what I mean is that I am not happy that I am, once again, in a situation where I am supposed to choose not-love because it seems sensible and pragmatic. I wanted to be, by this point in my life, in a situation where every day, I could make the choice to love and to be committed, where that choice was reciprocated and rewarded and could be built upon and turn into a home and a family and a whole life based on that love and that choice to love. Instead, I am back in a situation where the very thing that will seem to lead to a new relationship would also reinforce the old habits that undermine those things I truly want, and doing so would be untrue to my better self and what my better self truly feels. I never wanted to be in that situation again. But I am, and so I'm dealing with it.

So maybe it seems pessimistic, but I am trying to be true to those very ideals that count as "optimism" in all those other areas of my life. I am faced with a choice, and I am choosing love. Not because it is easy or because it makes me happy on a personal level, but because I honestly believe that it is the right thing to do, that it is the choice I must make. There don't seem, at the moment, to be any "rewards to reap," and there certainly isn't any "loving embrace to see me through;" there isn't any-body who "makes me feel eternal," or that "all this pain is an illusion." Still, I am choosing to be here, right now, even though it is painful and I can't conveniently wish it away with optimism (it is easy, after all, to choose to be "in the moment" when the moment is pleasurable). My optimism has a longer range--I make that choice for that choice's sake alone, not because of the fringe benefits but because I honestly believe that choosing love will make a difference, even if the difference isn't one of personal happiness for me. I can hope that someday, the two will coincide (that there will be someone who loves me because I love so much and so indiscriminately)--but that isn't up to me. That is beyond my control. The best I can do is to choose to live my life according to a principle of love, and to be true to the love that I have for others, and if things don't ever work out, then it wasn't for my lack of trying.

So I do appreciate you trying to give me advice, and I know you're trying to help. I want you to understand where I'm coming from. I'm tired of making the same mistakes. And if I learned my lesson only too late, well... I'm willing to pay that price. I'm not some hypocrite like St. Augustine, crying out, "Lord, give me chastity and constancy--but not yet!" Once I understand the path of love, I'll be damned if I put off walking it for even one more minute (even if walking it sometimes means holding still and waiting). Because I am, at heart, an optimist, and I think it's worth the pain and the loneliness. It is painful because I do believe so strongly in love and its potential--the pain is real, it is not an illusion, because the lack is real. There really is something missing from my personal life, just as there really is something missing from the politics and the religions and the pastimes of this culture, and it's all the same thing: love. I am under no delusions of grandeur that my personal choice to love can fill that gap, whether in politics or in my personal life, but I don't do it because I think I can fix it all up on my own. I do it because it is the right thing to do, because if I must choose to perpetuate self-concern or to live (or die) by love, I will still choose love, if only so that next time someone else may find that choice easier to make.

"I do it for the joy it brings,
because I am a joyful girl.
Because the world owes me nothing,
and we owe each other the world.
I do it 'cuz it's the least I can do.
I do it 'cuz I learned it from you."


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