The greatest problem for lovers, I think, is from what I have come to call the inability (or, sometimes, refusal) to distinguish duty from love. Those marriages of pure love, those blessed unions of individuality—that elusive ideal we imagine true romantic love to be exists. It is the combination of two great strengths towards a single and unique goal.
But how do you find such a person? You don’t “find” them, they are given to you. And, you’ll know it as soon as you see it.
Love at first sight is real, perhaps not with your mind, but “souls meet in the skies before they do on earth”. You can certainly know someone in an instant, or, perhaps, more accurately, you “feel” them, hence the phrase.
Call it what you want—the heart, the soul, the spirit, your “gut”, “feelings”—whatever it is, it “works”, it understands first, and your mind comes in, and the body acts last. Trust the first part, that form of understanding higher than reason, and you’ll know someone as soon as you see them.
If you can look at a child and not smile, or at the skies and not wonder, or at the sun and the moon and not be grateful, you are missing something. You are not looking and not fully seeing—and so how is it that you would be fully seen?
What is more natural than seeking a mate, companionship. When nature is life in pairs, how will you ever be able to offer equal value to more than just one single person—even in a moment. What is more beautiful than the fruition of union?
Who could, honestly, not aspire for such beauty and bliss? It is truly a beautiful thing: pure, honest, perfect, true love. And it is certainly aspiration, for how does one value anything? Through an understanding of himself and the world around him, through knowing exactly who he is and what he strives for.
The essence of love is this sharing of values. Lovers share one sight, one strength. When we do not always see things as others do, when our values conflict, duty calls.
This is not “the end of the world”. Lack of love is not hate. Duty is commendable. (And, yes “commendable” out love, as love would never look at effort in any other way.) When you cannot act out of love, you can act out of duty.
It’s easy to say “I love you”. But love is not merely a matter of the tongue. Just because you say you love someone does not make it so, always. The strength of love is the strength of the lover and the loved; when one runs out, love runs out, when one gives up, love gives up. Acknowledge the fact that you do not always see things the way someone else does. Acknowledge the fact that you do not always want the same things. And, acknowledge that those moments are a lack of love. If your relationship with this person is worth the sacrifice, because you cannot handle the pain otherwise, then you will do your duty.
It is not a terrible thing, so long as you acknowledge when it happens, so long as you don’t think “this is love”, this is its extent and reach. Duty is not ugly next to love. But, any relationship will suck the life away from you if you don’t believe that. You’ll try escaping duty, escaping the responsibility of patience and possibility, thinking you can pull love out of thin air if you just try. You’ll try to force understanding, using reason as your weapon. You’ll find nothing but frustration at the sight of someone who you “love” but cannot please and who “loves” you but does not please you.
And, duty is “commendable” for it is a promise of love. Who can act out of love without having acted out of duty? Who can understand without having been in ignorance?
Who is your greatest love? The one who’s done his duty to you, the one who understands you before he looks you in the eyes, the one who knows your beauty exists simply because he knows his exists, the one who saw the beauty of life and then never leaves you to duty, to pain, alone.
And this person is not “flawless”. Who can say someone is flawed? Who can see the intention behind a mistake? Whose judgment never errs? To give weight to mistakes is to deny the benefit of the doubt. Your greatest love will never give in to doubt. That “perfect partner” is not someone who makes no mistakes. That perfect partner, your greatest love, is the one who always knows, with every moment, that your mistakes are just that—mistakes. He is always able to give you the benefit of the doubt, always able to see just who you are—no matter what.
To sum the practice, look at your most basic of commodities, your most valued resource, since, perhaps, the “dawn of time”: space. Certainly, a final frontier, essential to every single relationship, as is the sea to every ship between harbors. Who guides the ebb and flow? Who will tell the tides to recede and let us in, and the waves to wash away the footprints of those upon our shores?
It is a matter of timing, in some respects, but dissolving the notion of time altogether in others. The ideal lovers, the picturesque muse of poets, are as guiltless as they are timeless. They do not know when to look away from each other’s eyes, but they do, and they do not say why, not even to themselves, burying the secret deep within their chests. It is the hope romances are built upon.
For the rest of the world, they offer their advice to the hopeful through the economy of their actions. There are no rights or wrongs, only ups and downs, in the skies of truth. You can soar, hand in hand, or, you can be a softer spot to come home to and land. But can you be both?