Falling From Love

A friend finalised her divorce last week. Barely three years after proclaiming eternal love until death did them apart, the couple were explaining irreconcilable differences to an indifferent judge. Having wisened up to the machinations of love, and the lack thereof, I learnt that the proceedings were quite civil by today's standards, since many modern marriages end not with a whimper but a bang (usually accompanied by a verbal airing of dirty linen in public).

Cynics over the centuries, who have defined love as a state of temporary insanity, did not know how close they were to the truth until February 2006 when National Geographic featured a Rutgers anthropologist's study of brain chemistry suggesting infatuation was akin to a mental illness. However, a momentary lapse of reason does not explain why some marriages succeed and many do not. In this age of instant gratification, a courtship is often as violent in its intensity as it is swift towards its consummation, with the result that partners remain perfect strangers when the passion subsides. This has not only had an enormous emotional impact on the adult psyche, but has also resulted in a situation where the government's Centre for Disease Control finds one in four American teenage girls infected with a sexually transmitted disease.

Several societies believe that marriages are not made, but arranged, in heaven. In India, where the practice of arranged marriages is still widely prevalent, the rate of divorces is much lower (although creeping up in tune with the winds of globalisation). Occidentals are quick to criticise the system claiming that it robs the individual of an opportunity to evaluate their partner. On the contrary, a modern "arranged marriage" encourages communication between the prospective partners whose meeting is merely facilitated by family or friends, and is not much different from relying on a prop like the club, the Church or online classified listings to make the initial contact. The other criticism about family or financial pressure coercing young women into unwanted unions is also less relevant today-- as a friend recently explained, the instinct for survival is far too strong in the human heart to agree to a match one is intuitively against, and one does not need to possess the strength of character of an Elizabeth Bennet in such a situation to stand up against Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

Ultimately, one wonders if the romanticised image of love is at odds with the English idioms that describe it. "Falling in love" is suggestive of an activity as undesirable as falling in debt (or even an open manhole!), while "falling out" mirrors the notion of a disagreement without as far-reaching a consequence. Perhaps the importance of love can be better conveyed by expressions like "rising in love" and "falling from love"-- literally, one can visualise rising like Icarus until the heat of passion becomes overpowering, or falling from the heavens like a chastised Lucifer.

You want her, you need her,
And yet you don't believe her
When she says her love is dead,
You think she needs you.
And in her eyes you see nothing,
No sign of love behind the tears
Cried for no one,
A love that should have lasted years.

The Beatles, For No One


Joy said...

very insightful and a pleasant read

Anonymous said...

Ironically, "falling" is a standard dream imagery to indicate feelings of insecurity and lack of support. What situation have you "fallen into?" Who has "let you down?" Perhaps not surprisingly, this particular dream is most common among professional men and women. The "Illustrated Dream Dictionary" authors Russell Grant and Vicky Emptage note the close relationship between "falling" and "failing." They also note that the dream's meaning is probably not so clear-cut. Grant and Emptage ascribe dreams of falling to feelings of isolation, the sense of being without the support and affection that success cannot provide.