We’re all familiar with the metaphors “The frog in the well” and “An ostrich”. The frog in the well perceives the world from his narrow viewpoint conditioned by his own expectations and biases. The ostrich on the other hand, seeks comfort and seemingly escapes danger by dunking his head into the sand. Both thrive in the bubble of illusion they create for themselves long enough until reality hits them hard. We often tend to be one or the other, especially in matters of love and lust. Like most people, I’ve had a the experience of falling for someone, believed to have been in love and ultimately trying to fall out of love. I’ve always wondered if these feelings were truly love as I perceived them to be or just an illusion, an attraction.
Love, they say is a gradual process, always starting out as lust. Psychology describes lust as a conditioning of the mind, an altered state of consciousness programmed by the primal urge to procreate. The mind first makes us conscious of attraction, sends our hormones on a frenzy and triggers our carnal needs based on our idealization and expectation of what someone will be or who we need them to be. So lust is like our frog in the well. Love however, can never exist without lust. But not all lust transform into love. Love stems from the base of lust, strengthened by the pillars of trust and acceptance. Love is a state of being, where one can look beyond their projection of a person, their desire to have them, accept them even with their flaws bared, trust them with the core of their hearts, harbor feelings of care and affection, look out for them and wish the very best for them even if they’re no longer a part of each other’s story.
So can we then fall out of love? Does apathy reduce what we’ve had with someone to a distant dream? Do we write it off as lust and convince ourselves that this whole business of love is nothing but an illusion? Can’t love be triggered without lust? Isn’t platonic love an existing form? We can certainly choose to. It brings us comfort, keeps the whole rollercoaster of emotions and intense pain of failing expectations and separation at bay. But this ostrich syndrome never holds true in the long run. Dunking our heads in the sand surely blinds us from what we don’t want to see but doesn’t alter reality.
It can be tough to come up with one true definition of love. It can take multiple shapes and forms. No two cases of love be the same. Some eternal, some temporal. Each special in its own way. Some fuel our passions, some make us who we ought to be. Love is all about giving. One can only give when they have enough for themselves. The day we no longer have anything to give, that’s the day we fall out of love. It doesn’t take away the fact that we once did. Just that, we exhausted all that we had allocated for that person, without reducing our own being.
The toughest question is whether we can ever determine if we are the frog or the ostrich. Either way, we let past experiences or inherent biases and fears cloud our judgement. How do we know if we’re in love or lust, or denial of love? Is it fair to let the mind dictate the matters of the heart? Perhaps not. Conversely, can we truly keep our mind at bay when lust and sound judgement for doing what is best for the loved one forms the very essence of love?
Our minds tend to overestimate our perception of a person. Our expectations make us paint a picture larger than life. The day that bubble breaks, the infatuation begins to fade. But what makes love different? Is it the butterflies in the stomach, the selfless devotion or the feeling of a whole? There are some loves that make us feel complete. Some that help us grow. Some that bring out the best in us. Some that make us who we ought to be.
Then there’s the rare and the most fierce kind of love. A reunion of old souls that are simultaneously same and different. One where each individual is complete on their own but their energies feed their passion, enriches their minds and touches their souls. Hindu philosophy describes this concept as “Achintya Bheda-Abheda” or “Inconceivable difference and non-difference”. An example being a single flame burning from two wicks. Each capable of producing enough luminance and warmth on their own, but together they emanate incredible radiance. The problem with these massive energies however is that they run the risk of consuming each other. Sometimes, their destinies are fulfilled by being apart and yet simultaneously burning together.
In Hindu scriptures, the names of Radha and Krishna are chanted in one breath. Their love is considered unconditional and divine. Without the slightest religious inclination, it’s imperative to understand the deeper essence of their tale. Both protagonists were complete individuals, each great on their own, with their own destinies to fulfil. Their love for each other fueled their inner fires and yet quenched their souls. If Radha never let Krishna go, Krishna would never be himself and fulfill his destiny. Radha would probably end up resenting him for he would never be the man she had loved. Their love would be lost in the mundane. There would be no love and no love story. It was the separation and longing that kept their love and passion alive while they both fulfilled their destinies. For they both knew that their love was indestructible power, they knew their values in each other’s hearts. Radha married the man who could give her a family, something Krishna would’ve not been able to. Krishna married his wives out of duty and they were all aware of what they were in for. But Krishna met their expectations. Had it been Radha, stakes and expectations would’ve been so much higher. Krishna would’ve never been able to look at himself in the eye if he ever hurt her. Whereas Radha would never love him the same had he chosen a domesticated life.
By the traditional sense of love, where happiness is jointly maximized, Radha and Krishna should’ve chosen each other over their duties and destinies. We say that they chose the path of selfless love which essentially means depriving one to enrich the other. Selfless love however is a misnomer. If love were truly selfless we wouldn’t let our loved ones go because we believe in their betterment, by typically assuming their agency coupled with our reluctance of handling the fallout of being together. So how may we see this love story? Perhaps love is not always “You’ll always be my choice till death do us apart” or “If you love someone, set them free”. Some loves fade, some morph into something different. The one that lives is the one where one can rise above oneself, over their fears, expectations, biases and acknowledge and embrace oneself, the other and their relationship. Where they are not frogs or ostriches but dragons that continuously breathe fire into each other’s being and soul.