Our Town: Why is perfect love so elusive?

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Our Town: Why is perfect love so elusive?
Why will people go such distances to gaze upon beauty like this in Yosemite Park?

There are an astounding number of ways humans look for love and approval.
Let’s start with the usual method, which is to get married. The romance of the first two years are what most would call love but certainly this affect wanes with a growing familiarity as those cute little quirks become jaw-clenching annoyances. But do not assume the marriage bed is the only way we seek out love.

A listing of the objects which we hope will deliver love are many. You may hope that love will be gained with the purchase of a $20,000 Prada luxury handbag. Or maybe it’s that $15,000 Rolex you‘ve been dreaming about. How about a $250,000 bright yellow Lamborghini? That must certainly deliver some love, don’t you think? OK, if that doesn’t deliver, how about a week’s stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel in one of those awesome looking bungalows that have been graced by the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Paul McCartney? Granted the bill may be about $21,000, but what the heck.

If you’re the athletic type, how about practicing eight hours a day, seven days a week for about 10 years and then getting onto the PGA Tour? You just may win a trophy and embrace that uncanny feeling of love, mixed with fame as the cameras flash and the photographers ask you to “kiss the trophy again.” If that doesn’t transform your soul from darkness to light, then what on earth will?

Well, you could always take another trip to Paris and concentrate more carefully on the Eiffel Tower while slowly munching down on a French éclair from Laduree. If it’s straight money you like, well, put down $250,000 on either red or black and watch the roulette wheel spin and spin and spin. Best of luck.

The great psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas called all this nothing more than seeking out sacred transformational objects to magically act like a second coming with the hope of a sudden change into a new and improved version of your former self. People travel to wonderful places, go to see art in museums, go to Carnegie Hall to hear Hebert Von Karajan conduct Beethoven’s Ninth.

And the more compulsive this drive is to find transformational moments, the more it reflects the basic fault from your childhood. The fault found in the relationship between infant and parent. As Bollas points out, gamblers are addicted to an unconscious conviction that the mother (or father) will never come and this nicely explains why gamblers keep on gambling until they lose.

Much like Sir Galahad and Sir Lancelot, many humans are blindly and compulsively searching for the holy grail, the magical cup which will provide wonderful plentiful nourishment and heal the self of all past pain and sorrow.

Everyone wants kudos, recognition, applause, approval, admiration and love. This is what makes the world go round and is a most potent source of motivation. It is therefore an ironic tragedy that everyone wants love and is therefore reluctant to give it to anyone else. So we wind up in a world which awaits love from others, but it turns out it’s a world which is unwilling to give any out.

Samuel Beckett wrote “Waiting for Godot” back in the mid-20th century. Like a true mystic genius, he was extremely prescient and understood that the world had arrived at a lonely, desolate place, waiting for some grand love that never shows up. Instead what we get is the rough beast at the gates.

The solution for all those seekers of perfect love is to comes to terms with reality. The reality is that idealized love exists only in books and movies that lasts for 90 minutes and have happy endings. Reality is a more quaint, average, gray and disappointing affair. My father would always tell me, “Tommy, you can only eat one meal at a time and only sleep in one bed.”

John Biffar is a filmmaker I know who runs Dreamtime Entertainment. When I was in post-graduate school, I was reading Freud and told John that Freud remarked “life is a tough affair and the best one can hope for is some form of mild depression.” Ever since then, every time I speak to John, the first thing he says is “Tommy, the best one can hope for is some form of mild depression.”

We both get a laugh out of that line. And laugh we should because to laugh means one has seen the disappointments that life serves up and despite this we can laugh about it.
Many film critics say the “Tokyo Story” by Yasujiro Ozu is the best film ever made. This black-and-white masterpiece was produced in 1953 and the last five minutes contains the most truthful, saddest and most beautiful dialogue ever recorded. It may have helped that Ozu used Japan’s two finest actors, the luminescent Setsuko Hara and Chishu Ryu, as her father-in-law.

The film concludes with Setsuko Hara first talking with her sister-in-law who remarks that life is disappointing to which Hara responds, “Yes it is.” Hara then has a conversation with her father-in-law about the loss of her husband in the war and says, “Days pass and nothing happens and I feel so alone. In my heart I seem to be waiting for something.” The tone of this scene is enormously heart-wrenching and is a true revelation of how to accept human limitations.

Life has so much to offer, but the one thing it does not and cannot offer is perfection or perfectly transformative experiences. Who would think that this simple fact would be such a hard pill to swallow?

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