Monday, December 19, 2016

The Last Horizon

I had a friend over to the apartment yesterday, and we were, after a fashion, talking about philosophy. One of my goals in life is to achieve what we typically call "serenity" in the United States, after the prayer - the state of controlling those things that one can control and accepting everything else as it is. Although, in my case, I understand that I have little to no control over much of anything, and so that state is effectively one of universal acceptance of the world around me, on its own terms.I made the point that this all had started with a conversation with my mother some years ago. My mother always ends our phone calls with "I love you," and one day I decided to go down the rabbit hole of understanding just why she loved me. The conclusion I came to was that she chose to, and from there I concluded that love was a choice.

When I related this to my friend, he had a simple question for me: "Have you ever fallen in love?"

He then proceeded to tell me what it was like to fall in love. His description fit in with almost all of the other descriptions that I've encountered of it. What set it apart for me was that this was the first time that I'd heard falling in love described by someone whom I actually knew. All of the other descriptions I'd come across were strangers, people on television or authors, and their descriptions weren't directed at me; I was simply part of a larger audience. Which, now that I think about it, seems kind of strange. I suppose that it's a side effect of the fact that I don't normally talk to people about their relationships. When I was younger, I used to, but I was something of a amateur psychoanalyst in the years immediately after college, and I enjoyed talking to people about certain facets of their lives and the issues that they had with them. But as I became older, those details started to become more intimate, and discussing them felt intrusive. And I didn't really understand how to talk about them. My parents rarely talked about their relationship in front of me, and even less often to me; I didn't even know how my parents met until I heard my sister rehearsing my father's eulogy before his funeral.

And in that sense, the distant discussions of what it was like to fall in love lacked that immediate reality that listening to someone that I've known for years brought to the table. But it was still something that I had no first-hand experience of myself, and so it also seemed abstract in the way that all of the other had.

Part of our discussion that evening had been about the idea of event horizons. How having lived a particular experience placed you over an event horizon from people who hadn't, and how, because of that, it was impossible to ever truly communicate back to them what things were like on the other side. And I understood the concept - it's one of my favored analogies in life, but it's altogether something different to experience it in the moment.

Falling in love, as I understand it, removes the element of choice from the act of loving another human being, although I guess that one could say that falling in love with another person is a different animal than loving another person. Which is why it had come up in the first place. I've always had the ability to decide, rationally and willfully, whether or not I was going to love another person, and I understand that I make those choices, even if I don't really think about them in the moment. And I've based the project of my life on that understanding, as if it were reality. But it's not reality, at least not a universal reality. For some people love isn't always a choice, and they spend their lives looking for a love that will take the choice away from them.

As we talked about my friend's experience of having fallen in love, I understood the event horizon that I was on the outside of, and just how distant things on the other side were. I had built an entire philosophy of my life around the idea that his experience simply wasn't real, because I had never experienced it, and understood that I never would. All because I couldn't see past the world around me.

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