English communication in Graz, Austria
I am not one for super-sappy Valentine’s Day poems and pictures of hearts. Instead, here is one of my favorite articles on love, by Jonathan Franzen. (Sherman Alexie, whose writing we also read recently in a class, seems to be a fan.) Here, Franzen argues that:
[…] As our markets discover and respond to what consumers most want, our technology has become extremely adept at creating products that correspond to our fantasy ideal of an erotic relationship, in which the beloved object asks for nothing and gives everything, instantly, and makes us feel all powerful, and doesn’t throw terrible scenes when it’s replaced by an even sexier object and is consigned to a drawer.
Then he goes on to explain our quest to always be likeable (spurred by social media, of course), and how that erodes our integrity.
The simple fact of the matter is that trying to be perfectly likable is incompatible with loving relationships. Sooner or later, for example, you’re going to find yourself in a hideous, screaming fight, and you’ll hear coming out of your mouth things that you yourself don’t like at all, things that shatter your self-image as a fair, kind, cool, attractive, in-control, funny, likable person. Something realer than likability has come out in you, and suddenly you’re having an actual life.
I know what you are thinking: “realer” is not a word, but we’ll let it go for now! Ok, I’m just going to let Mr. Franzen do the talking:
There is no such thing as a person whose real self you like every particle of. This is why a world of liking is ultimately a lie. But there is such a thing as a person whose real self you love every particle of. And this is why love is such an existential threat to the techno-consumerist order: it exposes the lie.
This is not to say that love is only about fighting. Love is about bottomless empathy, born out of the heart’s revelation that another person is every bit as real as you are. And this is why love, as I understand it, is always specific. Trying to love all of humanity may be a worthy endeavor, but, in a funny way, it keeps the focus on the self, on the self’s own moral or spiritual well-being. Whereas, to love a specific person, and to identify with his or her struggles and joys as if they were your own, you have to surrender some of your self.
Read the rest of it here, and tell me: do you agree? (I have to thank my good friend Jen for sending me the link to this article a few years ago!)