“If you marry a monkey for its wealth, the money goes and the monkey remains.” – Egyptian proverb
“Loving anybody and being loved by anybody is a tremendous danger, a tremendous responsibility,” James Baldwin reflected as he gave out his last interview. His conclusion came from his observations about the limitations the prevailing logic of society has placed upon our capacity to reconcile our “longing to be known, to be accepted and ultimately to be loved”. Life as we know it is a web of relationships. Even our uniqueness is formed from our interactions with others, so that there is no person who is outside this web of relationships. Even if we wanted to, we cannot step outside of it, for it made us; and it is our nature.
All of life is about relationships; gently breathing and communicating within and without us, like a woven fabric. Our ‘creatureness’ comes from relationships. But is so ordinary, many of us curiously seek for a special union with another who embodies a package of attributes to make us long for all that we desire till we can no more long. This sentimentalised relationship is what we often call love. We desire more than the ordinary, and so we look for someone we can elevate ourselves in; or for that person to infuse his or her presence into our intimate being to enable us experience life like a never-ending orgasm. Such is the quintessence many of us aspire for when we think of falling-in and being-in love with another. We have a need to sentimentalise, in order to feel special.
How we find and nurture this special union has become a whole lot of drama, because as individuals we are into the “I, me and myself” notion, while the world encourages us to look for and share ‘what we are’ – our exterior to the detriment of ‘who we are’ – our interior. This dogma makes us start out on every relationship with a desire to know another, yet we focus our energies on ‘what’s-in-it-for-me,’ so much so that our curiosity of others is centred on ‘what they are’ – their nationality, ethnicity, profession, religion etc., instead of ‘who they are’ – their compassion, self-respect, kindness, humility, honesty, patience etc. And since love dwells deep within us, many of us miss out on it. Love has become a journey that quite the majority among us never embark on. But we need to appreciate that those who dare to undertake it find out, in the end, it is the ingredient which makes their self-esteem, self-love and self-fulfilment whole.
There is an infinite array of possibilities in every relationship, but its crux is always concerned with growth. This attitude is yet to be properly acknowledged by many, especially those who feel aggrieved by broken relationships. The reality is that the interactions within every relationship transfuses and modifies us in ways that leave us different from when we started.
From the vain desires to the purest hopes, our words and actions stir-up experiences and aspirations in the hearts and minds of those we interact with. Though largely affectional, they act as root factors for our growth – physical, mental and spiritual; depending on our individual hungering for the best of what life has to offer.
What we can never tell is whether our ‘falling-in and being-in love with another’ is one-sided or reciprocal. And in the case of the latter, whether the two persons are trapped within the same galaxy or each is in a different galaxy. Sentimentalised relationships are a bewildering phenomenon, and few can predict its outcomes at the end of the day. What we can however appreciate is that the two persons coming together ignites an evolution; and depending on the perception of the individuals, a growth within them. It is a transformation that deeply affects both persons, for the process requires the risk of each person opening him or herself up in order to receive what the other has to offer.
We can minimise the drama in our all our relationships, both the ordinary and the sentimentalised, if we willingly step outside the cultural dogma that pushes us to focus on ‘what we are’ instead of ‘who we are’. We need to cultivate an ethic that challenges us to focus on the ‘who’ rather than the ‘what’. To achieve this, we need to work on ‘who we are’ instead of channelling our energies on ‘what we are’. We need to learn about ourselves, and work on our weaknesses in order to be able to interact better with others – ultimately to energise our relationships, both the ordinary and the sentimental.
Kodwo Brumpon is an author, a life coach and philanthropist who inspires individuals, groups and organisations to think and feel that which is true by helping them positively respond to that which is beautiful, while nudging them to let goodness govern their actions.
Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]