Friday, October 21, 2011

Some weekend reading

Happy Friday LOVEanese! I want to post a more substantial post this weekend (I already know what it is too, and it's a good follow-up to my previous post about the nature of love, but until then, I have six links you can read-up on. I've been posting them on the LOVEanon Facebook Page, but I also wanted to keep a copy here.

The first link is about an Iowa, USA couple that were married for 72 years. Sadly, after a car accident they died 1 hour apart from each other while still holding hands. It was a sweet story that was tinted with a hint of melancholy. Check it out here, and as a bonus, check out the entertaining elderly couple's video to the left of the main story.

The second link was something my sister shared with me. It's The 9 Most Annoying Things To Say To A Single Person. If you're single, I'm sure you'll love it. If you're not single, stop asking your single friends these questions, no matter how you phrase it.

The third link is about marriage. Rachel Greenwald discusses her experience with marriage as a crapshoot. She talks about how marriage is changing, and it's implications for meeting "Mr. or Mrs. Right." You can check it out here.

The fourth link is all about those rules, and numbers, and "What's wrong with me?" questions. Basically, according to Sara Eckel, Sometimes, It’s Not You. In fact, often enough, it's not you, and there's nothing wrong with you. 

The fifth link is a really interesting article for All The Single Ladies. It also discusses how gender roles, dating, relationships, and marriage are changing. However, it goes into much depth, and takes a historical point-of-view to explain how things were in the past and how they are now. FYI: Just remember that there's a lot of good and advice out there for single ladies (read: don't ever believe anything you read in Cosmo).

In fact, according to this very credible source, they "gotta put a ring on it."

The last link is really interesting. Hanna Rosin poses the statement: "The End of Men."
She discusses in a very well-cited way how women are overtaking men in almost every aspect of life from economics to education. You can also check out the related Intelligence Squared debate "Men are Finished" here.

I hope everyone has a great weekend! I'll update in the next few days.

Spread the love,
-Ogie

P.S. Cracked is a humor website, but I love what they post. It's funny, yet educational. And often enough, it's exactly right. Check out this article regarding 4 Pieces of Relationship Advice Movies Need to Stop Giving. So true!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"No Man is an Island"

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”

Happy Sunday LOVEanese! It's once again a beautiful day, and time to talk about love. Thank you for all the views so far, and for keeping the discussions going. Let me ask you: what is love? What is the nature of love exactly? Up until now, I've covered a few theories of love (this one, and this one), but there's an existential element missing from all of them. What I want to do in this post is connect a lot of different points together specifically focusing on one of my favorite individuals: Thomas Merton. But I don't want it just to be a spotlight on some of the things he said and wrote about. On the contrary, it's a bit more about the essence of real love, and how this love is often exploited.

Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk who was born in France in 1915, educated at Columbia University (B.A. - English, 1938), and spent much of his life at the Abbey of Gethsemani located in a place very familiar to me: Kentucky. Although he was a monk, he wasn't merely a hermit. He was a very prolific writer, poet, and social/peace activist who evolved into somewhat of a mystic. Although he was Catholic, he was also highly interested in/influenced by Eastern religions such as Buddhism, Taoism, and Sufism, calling for increased dialogue between Western and Eastern religions.

Thomas Merton. I admire him immensely.

There is so much I could say about him. You can read more about his life here and here as they will do more justice than what I can do. I came across his work in 2008 when a good friend of mine introduced me to his book No Man is an Island, quoting 14th century writer/poet/priest John Donne. Donne said: 

"All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated...No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main...any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee" - John Donne (1572-1631) in Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII

We are all connected. And Merton wrote the book examining how individuals connect on both a personal and spiritual level. You can read chapter one from Merton's book as much as Google will let you here. Taken from the back cover of the book, "No Man is an Island is a collection of sixteen essays in which Merton plumbs aspects of human spirituality." Although the book is geared towards those seeking religious or spiritual inspiration, there are so many positive themes that can be incorporated into life whether you are religious or not. The most important chapter in the book is chapter one: "Love Can be Kept Only by Being Given Away." This chapter has had an incredible impact on the way I understand love, and has really come to help create the foundation of my outlook regarding life, love, and human relationships.

"The true answer...tells us that we must love ourselves in order to be able to love others, that we must find ourselves by giving ourselves to them" (P. xix). These are words he wrote in the introduction that would reverberate throughout the whole work, but especially chapter one. In chapter one, Merton outlines what is true love. True love comes first from self-love (This isn't to say narcissism or arrogance, however). You must love yourself, for who you are because if you do not love yourself and try to love another, you will ultimately expect the other person to fulfill you. A helpful analogy is when you are on an airplane, the flight attendants instruct you to place the oxygen mask on yourself before placing it on a child or another that needs help. We must do the same with love. We have to love ourselves before giving it to someone else. This is what Merton would call selfish love. You, however, must fulfill yourself. This is what he calls unselfish love, and is the foundation for two people to be happy together, as well as to reach true personal happiness.

There is a very famous quote from the movie Jerry Maguire: "You complete me." That's bullshit! You can never expect or hope for someone to complete you. As a friend said below in the comments, "only if you have can you give. If you don't have, you can't give." "Have" referring to self-love, personal completion, and the kind of security and confidence that accompany it. For Merton too, you MUST complete yourself, because otherwise you are taking love from someone for your own gain, something which is incredibly selfish and destructive. You can't rescue someone. You can't save someone. In fact, it's arrogant, selfish, and self-destructive as well to think so. "Love must be given, not merely taken. Unselfish love that is poured out upon a selfish object does not bring perfect happiness: not because love requires a return or reward for loving, but because it rests in the happiness of the beloved. And if the one loved receives love selfishly, the lover is not satisfied" (Pp. 3-4).

However, if two people love themselves completely, they can share that love with each other, forming true, unselfish love. This does exist, and it begins with you. You have to love yourself, for otherwise, how do you ever expect anyone else to love you? Love does not exist in 50-50 intervals either. Love cannot be given only 50% of its entirety. Real love means that you give yourself 100% to someone else, and they give 100% as well.

Moreover, how many people (you included?) stay in relationships just because you are content or because it's "better than being alone?" Merton writes, "To love another is to will what is really good for him. Such love must be based on truth. A love that...loves blindly merely for the sake of loving, is hatred, rather than love. To love blindly is to love selfishly, because the goal of such love is not the real advantage of the beloved, but only the exercise of love in our own souls" (P. 5).

Merton goes on to talk more about other forms of love and connectivity, and given his religious status, does not merely keep religious undertones in the background; he actively incorporates them. However, his work is not the only one that speaks of unselfish love. Contextualized to Lebanon, there is a very famous Lebanese mystic-poet who also writes about it. Any guesses? Try this guy:

Pictured above: the man

For anyone reading outside of Lebanon, this is Khalil Gibran, one of the most famous (if not the most famous) Lebanese writers. One of his most well-known and influential works is The Prophet (you can read it here). Although he and Thomas Merton are from two completely different places, they share an incredible amount of commonalities. They were both Christian poets, both died before the age of 55 (Gibran, 1948; Merton, 1953), both are considered mystics, and they were both born abroad and settled in America (specifically New York). In the chapter on love in The Prophet, Gibran writes the following:

"Love gives naught but itself, and takes naught but from itself. Love possesses not, nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love...Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself."

Merton unintentionally and in a different context echoed Gibran's words, and even though they share a similar religious undertone,they both talk about love in terms of how to love means giving 100% to someone, and getting 100% back from them. It is not a give-or-take my 50% and yours. This isn't compromise; this is love. Why give anything less?

Unfortunately, most humans do not inherently reflect Merton's and Gibran's thoughts. On the contrary, humans are often guided by social exchange. Social Exchange Theory dictates that humans are constantly giving and receiving with the purposes of, well... giving and receiving. Known mostly through the work of Peter Blau (1964), George Homans (1958), and Richard M. Emerson (1962, 1976), this theory basically contradicts everything Merton and Gibran say because according to it, everything we do/invest in has implications that we are attempting to maximize our return. Thus, according to Social Exchange Theory, we love someone because in return they love us back which gives us positive feelings, security, comfort, companionship, etc. We often think in terms of "what do they have to offer me? Money? Beauty? Security? This is rampant in Lebanon/the Arab world, but everywhere as well.

I am bringing this up to contrast against the more romantic writings of Merton and Gibran. But also because many of us think like this. Don't think in terms of what will I get, but rather, think what can I give. "Charity makes me seek far more than satisfaction of my own desires..." (Merton, P. 7), and "A happiness that is sought for ourselves alone can never be found..." (Merton, P. 3). For Merton, true love and true happiness can only be found through unselfish, selfless love that is given wholly and completely to another, and not for the sake of getting something in return.

I know that the first thing people will comment on is when you do love yourself, and you give yourself completely, but they do not give it back. Merton comments on reciprocation as well: "...The paradox [is that] unselfish love cannot rest perfectly except in a love that is perfectly reciprocated: because it knows that the only true peace is found in selfless love" (P. 4). So, what of unrequited love? And what of abused love? These are not perfect love. Someone taking advantage of your love is not sharing their love with you, but only taking. And someone you love, but does not love you back is also taking your love, but not reciprocating it. And for Merton, that person is not worthy of your love because it would never lead to happiness. Unless they share with you completely their own unselfish love that they gain through self-love and self-fulfillment, it will never lead to real happiness and love.

Thomas Merton, like Gibran, is such a deep writer, so the best thing to do is read them yourself. But incorporating the idea that the only way you can ever love someone else is to first love yourself is paramount to creating better, happier, healthier, and more fulfilling relationships. Merton's writing is extremely empowering because it focuses on you. What YOU can do. The first step is love yourself. Be comfortable with yourself. Be happy with yourself.

Spread the (unselfish) love,
-Ogie (this one's for you P.)

References:

Gibran, Khalil. 1973 [1923]. The Prophet. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

Merton, Thomas. 1983 [1955]. No Man is an Island. Harcourt, Inc.


P.S. Here's a great quote that reflects these principles so well: "It's all about falling in love with yourself and sharing that love with someone who appreciates you, rather than looking for love to compensate for a self-love deficit."
 --Eartha Kitt

P.P.S. I also suggest checking this link to Zen Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh who describes similar things. For example, he wrote: "Often, we get crushes on others not because we truly love and understand them, but to distract ourselves from our suffering. When we learn to love and understand ourselves and have true compassion for ourselves, then we can truly love and understand another person."

Friday, October 7, 2011

Something for all the singles

Saba7o! So, it is the best day of the week, and that is a cause for celebration! It's my favorite day of the week, and paraphrasing the words of Cee Lo Green, Friday's brought us that wonderful "I don't have to go to work tomorrow, so instead, I can go out tonight" feeling (unless you have to work tomorrow, which just sucks).

First of all, thank you for reading my previous post. I really hope the message I was trying to send was clear. Ironically, only one person posted a comment haha...

Secondly, in my attempt to share different resources, anecdotes, and research, I want to make sure that the different groups of individuals within my audience are being addressed. So, as you sit back, drink your morning coffee, and wait anxiously for the clock to chime "freedom," let me share something with you. This is something for all us singles, especially all of you that are recently single. This is something that I communicated to someone I am very close with, and I saved it. At the time, she just got out of a long relationship, but has since reconciled, and is even happier. Without giving too many details of my personal, romantic life, as someone that has an apparent affinity for single-life, I figured I could give her some pointers. What emerged, became something analogous to a monologue. Let me share:

"Single life after a long relationship is good for you; it helps you move on.
It’s ok to be sad,
And single,
And to think that you’ll never find anything or anyone better.
You just got out of a very serious relationship; you need to take time for YOU!
How? 
Want suggestions? Try: 
Ice cream,
Partying with good friends,
Movies,
Doing things you like to do,
Not worrying about other people.
Doing whatever it is YOU want to do!
YOU want to go to the beach? Go.
YOU want to take a vacation? GO!
You want to look for a new job,
Or write something new,
Or pick up a new hobby?
YOU DO IT!
It’s about doing what you want,
Because in the end, YOU and only YOU knows what’s best for...YOU!
Being in a healthy relationship is great,
But an inherent part of a relationship is that you are constantly relying on, connected to, and having to organize with another person.
It’s not about what you want;
It’s about what we want.
It’s not about me, it’s about us
Being single helps you to take a step back and evaluate the priorities in your life,
Because in a relationship, the other person (understandably) tends to dominate those priorities.
It’s a good chance to focus on your professional development,
Your friends (that often get neglected during a serious romantic relationship),
Your family,
Your hobbies,
And simply doing what you want to do without worrying about having to accommodate someone else.
It allows for a lot of time to think;
Grow;
Experience;
Mature;
And in many cases: heal."

So, that's some of my own advice for singles, and especially for newly singles (after all, you are
"single and ready to mingle").

But since we're on the topic... I have some things i want to ask, perhaps even verging on contentious. I'm going to ask, and feel free to respond. You can comment as yourself, or anonymously, but just remember: it's ok to be single. It's ok to NOT be married by 30. It's ok to live your life. It's ok to have a career. And it's ok to want someone. To long for someone. Never let anyone rob you of your own desires.


Answer these questions:

  • How long have you been single?
  • Do you like being single?
  • Do you want to be single?
  • What do you think are the pros and cons to single life?
  • What are the obstacles to single life in Lebanon or wherever else you are from?
  • What kinds of pressure are put on individuals that are single, both in Lebanon and outside?

Let's talk.

Spread the love,
-Ogie

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A message from Ogie

"Examine what is said, not he who speaks" - Arab Proverb

Good afternoon LOVEanese! Today I want to just talk. No posts about love (though that will come in a few days). What I want to talk about is simple.

I know based on Blogger/Google Stats that people are reading the blog. And for that, I am most appreciative. Really, thank you all so much! But at the same time, after 5 weeks, I realized something. Bear in mind that I say this will all humility, which is: this blog isn't for me, and it was never intended to be. This blog is for YOU! And for anyone that wants to read about relationship research, find resources regarding relationship maintenance, and help create better, stronger, and more meaningful relationships. But this emphasis is on you, and what you want. Other than conveying the message, I have no part in this. I cannot magically make people's relationships better; it's something that needs to be done on an individual basis.

In the first post of LOVEanon I outlined the purpose of the blog and the vision behind it. But I also emphasized that I am not an expert. Don't think of this as me talking to you. Your voice is just as important as mine!

What I want from you as the readers is not merely to retweet and share on Facebook (although I do appreciate that!). What I want is for you to help build this into an online community for those in Lebanon especially, but also for individuals throughout the Arab world, Middle East, and the world to come together and discuss love, dating, relationships, and what we can do to understand these crazy concepts better. 

Part of this is sharing your own experiences. Part of this is discussing what's written with the community, with your friends. Make the knowledge of how to make our relationships better part of the common things people talk about. And use this blog to reinforce it!

What I really want to see from all of you who read this blog are two things:

1. Comment more! Do you like what I'm saying? How does it fit into your life? Don't be afraid to comment, that's what anonymous posting is for!

I am presenting information, but I expect all of you to take it further. And especially those in Lebanon, how is this information relevant? How can we contextualize it to our society? As my thesis will document, there's not been a lot of research done here in the Arab world on relationships. And when there is any, it is either about honor and shame, patriarchy, or the family as a whole including arranged marriages. But who talks about love? And dating? And relationships? 

Easy... WE DO!

2. Secondly, I want you to tell me what you want to read about. I have a lot of ideas for content, but if you don't think what I say is relevant, tell me. It's that simple. Suggests topics you would like to read more about, or that you don't know a lot about. I need your suggestions too!

Once again, this blog isn't about me. It's about you. So, talk about it, comment, and tell me what you want to see! As I mentioned, I want this to become an online community. I want this to be a voice for all those who want to understand themselves and their partner better. I want this to reflect YOU.

As always, thank you for reading, and thank you for making this such a success so far. But don't be afraid to get more involved. Share stories, and anecdotes, and experiences, and add that human element to these posts.

Spread the love,
-Ogie