A reader posted a lovely reply to my question about love and beauty, stating that she loves her husband because the divinity within him sparks and reflects the divinity within her (Namaste!)
And I think that that is the key. Several different models of humanity suggest that the end point of all our efforts is the connection with the divine. The Chakras, Maslow’s hierarchy, and Core Transformation map over one another elegantly, suggesting that this drive, to re-connect with the ultimate realities, can be found everywhere, in every culture, through all of time.
They also suggest that until one satisfies the more basic needs (survival, sex, food) it is difficult to evolve to the higher ones. Not impossible—certainly many people manage to do this. But in general, this is the way to bet. Now…AFTER you have taken that evolutionary step, one can forgo the lower in preference to the higher. Martyrs and patriots give their lives for their higher values. We push out of our comfort zones for high levels of self-expression in the arena of athleticism. We give up our right to random sexual pleasure to increase the emotional bonds with our partner. Children want satisfaction, NOW. As they mature, they learn to postpone it, or to understand that the things that feel good in the moment may cause misery down the road (excessive simple carbohydrates, for instance.)
And then love. If it is true that every human being is the result of a biological union between a male and female, then it stands to reason that much of our biological, psychological, and social apparatus will be dedicated to keeping this chain going. YES, there are other bonds, other ways of living and loving other than monogamous marriage between a man and woman. Anyone who suggests otherwise has never cracked an anthropology text. But it is easy to see this pattern in behaviors around the world, and much (but not all) makes sense viewed through this lens.
To that end, it would make sense that much (but not all) of what we are attracted to in each other initially has to do with the question: could we create children together? Which is very similar to another question: would you be able to parent and protect me when I am weak? Which is similar to ANOTHER question: can you see my strengths, and appreciate my accomplishments?
All of which cluster around a more important, more central, and less quantifiable question: Do you see my divinity? Do you see the energy that connects me with all of creation?
And: Can I see yours? Do you show the world your creativity, your honesty, your passion, your clarity, your courage?
In any culture I know of, most of the time this boils down to: are you healthy? Can you protect and raise children, or contribute to society so that others can protect and raise children? Can you learn and pass on your knowledge? Can I trust you? Do you have values that I recognize from my own mother and father? Can you see who I really am, flaws and all, and accept me?
For men, these questions often (quite often, actually) initially appear as visual attractiveness. Secondary sexual characteristics. I’ve said it before: few women seem to have any instinctive grasp of just how powerful the visual apparatus is in males. For women, this usually seems to initially trigger on power issues: the ability to protect and provide for a home. The specifics of beauty and power vary greatly between cultures and people, but if you start from the assumption that this is what people want and then modify outward from this point, you’ll be right more often than not. What you must determine is the percentages of each. In the 21st century, we seem to be heading toward men and women wanting equal amounts from each other. I defy you to name a culture (not a sub-culture) that operates in the opposite fashion: women primarily chosen for power, men primarily chosen for beauty.
Gay culture: I’m not at all sure about lesbians, but gay male culture is so beauty-driven it isn’t even funny. So one might say that men don’t want beauty from women: they want it from their sexual partners.
But how does all that relate to spirituality? Just this: once the bond is made, the energy begins to evolve. Whereas I was certainly attracted to Tananarive’s face and body, now that I love her, I’d continue to love her if her face got blown off by a hand grenade. Why? Because I see her. I feel her divinity.
And many women, initially attracted to a man because of his perceived power, will stand by him if he falls on hard times—if that bond has been truly made.
In the movie “Swept Away” a delightful case is made for the proposition that, in the right circumstances, ANY two people could fall in love. Stripped of social b.s., the capacity to connect is there within us all. It is why arranged marriages work. Given two people committed to the same values and outcomes, over time they see more and more deeply into each other, down to the originating, core energy, and the only name that we have for that is Love. In that mirror, we see our own past (“what was the shape of your face before your parents were born”) and we can drop our desperately maintained acts. We see each other. We see ourselves. We love.
So I enter a room filled with women. I migrate toward the one I find most visually attractive. Interact with her, if I can. If we connect, fine, if not, I move toward the one “down the chain”, until I find one I connect with. Now, maybe she doesn’t like ME! In which case, I keep moving “down” until I find one I like, who also likes me. We talk. We bond. Perhaps we love.
On the internet, it’s almost exactly the opposite. We talk with people. We connect. We speak of hopes and dreams. Love sparks. Pictures are exchanged. And THIS, according to many who have met people on chatrooms and so forth, is where things screw up. People lie about their appearance, we see the truth, we are not attracted (“there was just no magnetism” she says) and we try again. And feel some guilt and pain about it. Isn’t love supposed to look past all of that?
Yes. When it gets a chance to deepen. Here’s another case: I work at an office, or go to a school. Over months or even years, I get to know the woman sitting next to me. She is not initially “my type” but through time, I see her spirit. She is intelligent, funny, nurturing. One day, my heart is troubled, and in her presence, I feel strong. I cry on her shoulder, and can feel that she still thinks me to be a man of worth. My heart opens. At the core, THIS is what I really want.
But there are so many millions of people in the world. We cannot be blamed if we sort for those who delight our senses as well as our souls. I do not blame a woman for wanting a man with more resources than I have—although if she would be as attracted to someone who INHERITED his money as to one who EARNED it, I would consider her shallow. In the same way that a thirty-year old man who is as attracted to an eighteen year old with a perfect body as a thirty year old woman with a perfect body. The thirty year old (or forty, or fifty) not only has the secondary sexual characteristics, but is absolutely radiating her discipline, energy, clarity, and physical intelligence. The 18-year old just got a gift from God.
Once the link is made, we evolve toward spirit. This is what we want and need and the way we are designed. The initial connection seems determined by personal history, cultural conditioning, and genetics. Love is the flower, attraction the root.
Watch out for the thorns along the way.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:31 AM