Love and Reality

From the movie Her

From the movie Her

I recently saw the movie Her with Joquin Phoenix and it really got me thinking.  Rough cut of the movie line: it’s a love story, about a man and a Operating System (OS).  But past that simple description, it asks us to take a look at how we narrowly define love and on a deeper level, what is ‘real’.  Culture seems to have the job of creating norms and rules about things that aren’t always easily definable.  Love can be simply defined, but it also has intangible qualities that are much more difficult to quantify.  It requires us to put language to feelings.  Reality is equally as hard to nail down.

love [luhv] noun

– a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
– a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
– sexual passion or desire.
– a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.
(used in direct address as a term of endearment, affection, or the like): Would you like to see a movie, my love?

reality [ree-al-i-tee] noun

– the state or quality of being real.
– resemblance to what is real, a real thing or fact.
– real things, facts, or events taken as a whole; state of affairs: the reality of the business world; vacationing to escape reality.
Philosophy of Reality
– something that exists independently of all other things and from which all other things derive.

These are probably good definitions, but are these definitions really the totality of these complex words?  What does love feel like?  Does love happen in reality or is it a construct of our minds?  How do you know it’s a “true love,” rather than a superficial “I’m so in love with ice cream” kind of love?  And who am I to judge if you’re not really so in love with ice cream?  In turn, what is Reality?  What does it mean that Reality exists independently of all other things and from which all other things derive?  What are the nuances of a feeling real?  Is there a better way to love?  Or a worse way?  Do we attempt to make these deep philosophical ideas into black and white issues, easily defined, to fit in the boxes we like, so we can be comfortable?  While I understand that our cultural perspective does define these concepts, under what perimeters should love or reality be defined for anyone, given that few of us are from the same exact culture?

In Her, a man falls in love with a computer operating system (OS).  The OS is a learning, thinking, questioning, and growing being.  It has a great personality, but for most of us, it’s not what we think of as a “real person,” and therefore we might wonder, is he having a real relationship?  There were several places in the movie that I felt myself cringe when he talked about his girlfriend, and then explained she was an OS.  Yet the love felt real, at least to the man, and for me, the movie stretches the idea of what constitutes real love anyway?  At what point is love “real,” or valid?  Do we limit other peoples emotional lives when we foist our cultural judgements, our contextual thinking, and perceptions of reality of right or wrong doing, onto their reality?  Who gets to decide for everyone anyway?  Given that so many people are lonely and learning to love is powerful to our lives, why would we stop love from existing in any form that doesn’t harm anyone?

The movie also explores the idea of what make any of us real.  Is the OS real?  As in a sentient personhood sort of real? Is the OS more real than say a Corporation, which in the US we have given personhood and now Corporations have the rights of a real person, even though I’m pretty sure that Corporations don’t have souls. This is a similar question that was asked in the movie Blade Runner, At what point is something ‘real’?  More human than human was the sales pitch for the Replicants.  We could create ‘people’ but they had no rights, no souls, they weren’t real independently from our need or use of them, the Replicants were commodities.  Yet they evolved over time to have feelings, physical and emotional, and memories, and relationships, and they wanted ‘more life’ and to be considered real.  And, even today it’s amazing how many people have cyber relationships going on in virtual worlds?  Real people are behind the avatars, but they often haven’t met in the reality we call meeting ‘in person’, yet they can really know each other and they talk, have friendships, and dare one say even fall in love sometimes.

What if love and reality are big things, so big that we can only ever see a tiny bit and we think we’re seeing the whole thing, but the whole thing is so vast that there is no way from our small place in the universe to see it all?  What about that?  From this perspective of vastness, it may just be that we probably know next to nothing.  And, we create cultural constructs of our knowledge and try and make the whole vast infinite universe fit in our tiny little boxes.  I am reminded of a line from the movie Lion in Winter, “I know, You know that I know, and I know that you know that I know, we are a very knowledgeable family…”  But, the line might have been more true if we just said, “I don’t know, you don’t know, I don’t know what you know and you don’t know what I know, and we are all just making stuff up all the time pretending to be knowledgeable, it’s what our family does.”  That would have been funny.  In fact that’s the only thing I know is true… really.

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Relationships and the closing of circles

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Adam Greenfield’s “Breathe Deep and Let Go of Things”

Relationships truly are the sum of our lives.  We create circles of friends, neighbors, family, strangers, pets, nature, ideas, and ultimately ourselves.  With all the practice that we have with relationships throughout our lives, you would think that we would be experts at having them and doing them well, handling issues and avoiding problems.  Yet, we all seem to have some people and situations in our lives that we find difficult.  This is not to say we are never difficult. I have had many opportunities to muddle through turmoil.  I have experienced and created as much as the next person and, so far, have been able to trundle my way through the ups and downs of this life I have been tending.  So along the way I have learned that relationships, as in life, don’t always turn out just the way I want.

Recently, I have been experiencing a situation in which I don’t see a friendly way through.  I see myself as someone willing to work things out, look for the win win, find compromises, etc.  I don’t just think of myself this way, I have also asked trusted people close to me, how they see me, because I know I have my one-sided perspective and I don’t always see myself fully.  And while my trusted people are happy to point out my flaws, they also tell me that they see me as someone who sincerely tries to find the middle ground in relationship situations.

What I also know, is that there are people in the world who will only feel good about you, as long as you bend to their perspective.  They are not interested in seeing how they contribute to an issue.  They really want you to know that they are mad at you, and it’s your fault, and unless you admit to this, and ‘show’ them that you understand their ‘rightness,’ the situation won’t ever get to a place where it feels emotionally comfortable. And, even that might not be enough.  In most situations I have been able to acknowledge my own part, and apologize when my intentions were quite different from my impact.  Unintentional impact can still hurt another person.  I am truly sorry for hurting someones feelings, even though I was trying to do something quite different.  Still, in some situations you cannot own your own issues or your part in the disagreement enough for the other person, they want more, they want it to be one-sided, all your fault. They point to things that were said, using contexts that weren’t intended, often rigid, black and white ideas of right and wrong.  And, no matter how much you try to hear them, and share your perspective, they are not interested in hearing you, just in being heard. Often even when you are trying hard to hear them, they still say you are not listening. It’s hard work, exhausting.

For most of us, this is a bit of a ‘crazy maker.’  If we care, even a little, about the relationship, we want to find the middle ground. We want to hear and be heard.  We want some sort of closure that feels like we can walk away with respect or kindness, agree to disagree and still have a friendliness.  Yet, this is not always possible.  And, when we find ourselves in one of these endings, we often struggle with self doubt, and hopefulness that we can find a way to resolve the situation.  Sometimes we have to instead learn to ‘let go.’  In some belief systems they say, “Let Go and Let God,” or we see powerful quotes by great orators who mimic our struggle, such as Frank Herbert’s, “There are no endings, just places where you stop the story,” and one of my favorites, “It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past, those moments in life that are over.” by Paulo Coelho.

Even if it doesn’t feel finished, sometimes we have to just let go and close the circle.  Allowing someone to see you in the worst light, and still let go with love, let go with forgiveness for our part, let go with forgiveness for the other parties part.  I believe that the process of letting go is a powerful way through the sad feelings or angry ones.  Letting go of the attachment about how people see us.  Letting go of what they say about us.  Letting go of the ‘crazy maker’ so that we can continue with our story.  For me the big take away, and I have learned this lesson a few times in my life so it feels easier this time, is that there are places when my sense of self is so different from someone else’s sense of me that the two ideas of me are too incompatible to continue in any sort of close proximity.  If I’ve been honest with myself, gotten feedback from those I trust, looked at my part of the situation, attempted to repair the hurts, but still been met with rigid, angry judgement, then I have to let go for my own sanity.  Grieve the loss, but let go of the idea that I can influence a more realistic idea of me, one that is a little closer to my own.  And, really, what is lost when people don’t want the same thing?  The only thing lost is an idea of the relationship, an idea that might have existed once, but needs to be released, because that old idea of the relationship is gone.

For my part, if I can do this, then I let go of the spinning of my mind.  The wrangling to make reasonable, or rationalize, or over process my thoughts and feelings.  I learn to just ‘be’ in this moment, uncomfortable though it is, until the next moment shows up.  I do this over and over, through this moment and the next and the next.  Until the moment that I am in, absorbs me fully, and my life circles on.