Animals live in a moment-to-moment world of surviving. Right now.
We, on the other hand, mildly live in that world, but we also live in a future world. We can look forward and visualize what we’ll need to survive (and thrive) three days, three weeks and three years from now.
That raises the tricky question of trade-offs. Sometimes we must sacrifice something in the present in order to make a more certain future.
Relationships, – especially marriage – are an example of this. Male nature is to satisfy sexual hunger with less than perfect discrimination. To forgo that drive in the interest of creating something valuable is a choice to trust that higher goals are worthy of giving up short term pleasure.
That choice also pushes back the chaos, the chaos of unrestricted gratification. It also demonstrates faith in our ability to maintain those long-term advantages, but like any investment in the future it requires conscious maintenance. That’s the hard part.
In a time of digital reproduction and near-perfect quality, relating to other humans appears increasingly anachronistic.
My iPhone updates with a new operating system as technology changes. Automatically. My personal operating system was cast at birth and set by the time I was seven.
Our cars tell us when something’s wrong, what it is, and what to do next. No-one even considers tinkering with them any more. Most of the time I can barely tell you what I’m feeling, and definitely not what caused the emotion, nor how to fix it. Every day is different, no one internal reaction the same.
Social media tell us who our friends are, why, and the last fast-food meal they ate. Everyone is neatly categorized and graded. I’m still wondering why my Grade 2 girlfriend, Jane Phillips, wanted to bring me lunch every day. It’s a mystery decades later.
A binary world of yes/no on/off outcomes is great for some parts of life, and not so good for others. Consider a computer-based romance. Such a thing would leave no room for surprise, or delight, or unexpected change, or anger, or the resolution of such a thing. Or direction shift, or kindness, or renewal of long-lost friendships.
Silicon romance lacks the chaos of biological romance. Which means that if we want real romance, we should probably learn to like the chaos, or, at a minimum, figure out how to accept it.
Complicating our lives is a seemingly inevitable consequence of being human. Striving for greater detail or more information or some unspecified hidden secret might even define the way a lot of us pursue answers to those internal gnawing questions. It’s a kind of obsession for many, that if we just think harder we will find the key.
Dating and coupling is no different. As we age we gain experience and education, and we could be lucky and even acquire a measure of insight. These skills are a satisfying trade-off for the inevitable disappointments of life, but they work in two divergent ways.
We can, for instance, become more narrowly focused on what we think works for us. I might remember bad experiences with a certain kind of woman, or ways of going about relationships and therefore avoid them in the future.
The other way is to acknowledge that a few core qualities are more important than the ephemera. I could look for calmness and an accepting happiness in a woman; equanimity, in other words.
The discovery that small-scale success depends upon a handful of big-picture qualities is an easily overlooked not-so-secret secret.
Freedom is great and all but freedom without thinking can devolve into chaos.
Take dating, for example. Freedom to choose with whom we want to go on a date, the time, the place and the circumstances strikes me as enormously valuable. We humanoids yearn for connection with others, for all kinds of reasons – if that desire is stymied, we’re all worse off.
Freedom has (as they say in the laywerly trades) attaching responsibilities. If we’re planning to sell ourselves to another (not in the commercial sense, but in the marketing sense) we should be honest enough to be worthy. It’s a matter of trust. If we are planning to project as single, stable, sensible, solvent and studious, we should actually be those things or live in a nearby neighborhood.
On the other hand, if you’re deceptive, dangerous, dilapidated and dishonest, that’s when the chaos begins. Some folks become so accustomed to being one thing and acting another that they think the results are normal. These people give dating and coupling and marriage a bad reputation. For acute examples, see Hollywood.
This is one circumstance where the Golden Rule speedily and demonstrably works in our favor.
Do you like routine? Or are you someone who prefers some chaos? Does the prospect of knowing what’s coming give you comfort? Or is the excitement of the unknown worth the possible danger?
I am a routine person, but with a caveat: I like chaotic elements in the way people think. By chaos I don’t mean disjointed and unrelated craziness…although there is a time for that too. Chaos to me means introducing something new, something different, casting an eye onto an unexplored idea.
Finding the person with whom we want to couple might be easier if we understand how we think about routine versus chaos. Imagine if we ditched the trivial measures we use to judge potential dating talent – take a look at any dating website to see what I mean – and instead began asking a few questions like this:
Are you interested in doing stuff at the last minute? > If not all the time, then if we set aside a period for spontaneity, would it be better for you?
Does novelty in everyday life provide you stress or motivation?
Do you keep a calendar meticulously, a year in advance? (I once dated a woman who had her hair appointments mapped out for 18 months. That’s impressive but frightening.)
Is the idea of change enervating or challenging?
Asking people (prospective dates, dates) this kind of question directly will put them off. Experience (ahem) teaches us these lessons. However, asking them of yourself to begin with might help you find a way to ask others, even if indirectly.