Updated: Sep 18
Love lies in ties – it comes alive in bond, but dies in binding. A conversation about separateness, and connection.
By Uriel Abulof & Shay Strelzik
When, upon an 8:44pm sunset, you’re giving a personal phone confession about connection, when you’re telling someone you might be too desperate to not be separate – then suddenly get disconnected, well, when that happens, you are likely in for one long gloomy ride ‘till dawn.
First stop. I am apart. Are you not? Apart from what? Apart from him and her and them, and it, and you, and all – apart from I. Are we not? We are. But then, if “we” truly “are,” how can we be apart? And yet we are. The cutting of the umbilical cord is our initiation into this world. Conceived in connection, we are born into separateness. Is that so bad?
The cutting of the umbilical cord is our initiation into this world. Conceived in connection, we are born into separateness.
The Jewish psychologist and philosopher Erich Fromm thought so. “The awareness of human separation, without reunion by love,” he writes, “is the source of shame. It is at the same time the source of guilt and anxiety. The deepest need of man, then, is the need to overcome his separateness, to leave the prison of his aloneness.” But who and how can ever leave aloneness – for love?
At 8:41pm, as the sun refused to set, a cloud of religious sanctity floated across my sky. A beautiful image of the holy Kwan Yin decorated the heavens. With her hands folded before the heart, the goddess reminded me of the marriage and divorce of body and soul. The presence of Kwan Yin is sacred here, as her full name, Kwan-shi Yin, literally means “observing the sounds (or cries) of the (human) world”. Her emanating presence echoed the truths being released into the air via cellular connectivity.
As three minutes swept through space and time, a sense of relief coursed through my being. Professions and reflections validated the idiosyncrasies that I once believed I, alone, owned. Relief, as honesty released itself as vulnerability. Thankful for the revelations, intently lending my ear, three beeps uttered a trance of disconnectedness. We were no longer holding space. I was alone in my thoughts.
As silence ripples through the vibrations of universal loneliness, one lingers in the prosperity of love. Separateness feeds loneliness, hungers connectivity and births the need for the extraordinary. How can we venture to satisfy this human instinct? Be it by the body or soul, humankind lies within this juxtaposition. Is love made from the craftiness of compiling language and defining action, or does it speak beyond the limitations of Earth, extending infinitely from what is humanly comprehensible?
For the argument of soulful love, we walk in the footprints of higher divinity. It is through the conversation of souls, dialoguing love in a moment of transcendence. Here is where we experience the purity of what reigns over all forms of life, the lifesource energy all living things are dependent upon. This exchange of loving interaction enables us to achieve ascendance, from Earthly creature to the root of our being, why must we fly in order to ground? Transcendent interaction elevates humankind, sheltering us in a home we can’t remember, suspending us above the Earth we are chained to.
Where birds are the people and breath is the spirit, breathe into One the soul of God.
We live together with those who choose to chase human love, fulfilling in its own right, although primarily absent the experience of soulful connection. Some of us prefer to exchange on common ground. In both forms of love, love flows between the corporal, yet here love is confined by the human experience. This form charges love with the responsibility of accepting the faults of others, tolerating the eruptions of their daily life, healing the moments of their past. Like the stretches of our muscles, humans live in extremes, ones that our beings cannot push beyond. Is it fair to force love between the walls of human limitation? Was the intention of love to be caught amid conditional reciprocation? With these defining constraints I beg the question, is love the answer to loneliness, or is it the fatal ingredient in the poison of yearn?
Are you reversing Fromm’s plea, to leave the prison of aloneness through love, instead suggesting that loving persons might be the prison we ought to leave? Is earthly (that is, human) love the cage that heartily holds the breathing bird, the soul, from reaching the heavens of transcendence, the divine unity you covet? Should we post a new cosmic battle: heart vs. soul?
I hope not. This might well be just my wishful thinking, but let’s see. Why do people turn to the concept of “soul” to begin with? What’s in that idea, and ideal? Many things, for sure, but mainly, I think, the soul promises perfection and perpetuity. This double promise is especially important for the secular; the soul provides a touch of transcendence without the pledge (and burden) of metaphysics.
“We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become”
Is the sole a modern bridge between the departed God and the search for His double promise? St. Clare of Assisi sought freedom and transformation through a mirroring connection with the crucified Beloved, “We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become” - through the Beloved one finds the truth about human fragility and its divine spark. Could interpersonal love reveal the same? If so, it requires the soul.
God can peacefully die, while “the soul” offers people the same assurance, certitude. It moreover fuses the heavenly and the earthly into “soul mates,” a human bond that goes beyond the ephemeral bodies.
But how can that be? After all, the soul may be an eternal paragon, yet people are imperfect (indeed, so very flawed) and of course transient. What proof could we possibly have of that strange, elusive and alluring entity called “soul”?
Love is one possible answer. When we love, we get a taste of perfection and perpetuity.
This is the double promise we whisper in each other’s ears while our lips meet to kiss one another. Yet as we whisper, so do winds of time blow our words against a crushing reality. Living love, as lovers, is neither perfect nor perpetual. Human love forces fallibility on the perfect soul.
When love dies, the writing on the wall is often the wall itself, the one we build around ourselves
Something’s gotta give – but what? We may sever the soul from love: reserve the former to God, the latter to humans. We may also distinguish between two types of love – soulful love to God, perfect and perpetual as it is, and earthly, soulless, but heartfelt, love to us, the damaged humans that we are. Or, in a more mundane way, we may sever “love” from “like”: I can love you, for those moments of promise, and their memories, but dislike you, as a person, precisely for being imperfectly real, for not living up to the double promise of soulful love.
When love dies, the writing on the wall is often the wall itself, the one we build around ourselves to fend against the pain involved in engaging the actual person before us.
Do we rather bury the beating, bleeding, heart lest it tarnishes us from within and without, or do we dare mend it, replant it again, in the hope it will bear better fruits?
It may all be just a matter of perspective, bounded by time and space. When love peaks, it is the most graceful bird itself, chirping divine tunes, gathering air beneath its wings to ascend to the highest elevations of spirit, mind and body. When love crushes, its feathers falling, exposing the once radiant bird, now bare to the bone, a body battered beyond recognition – when that happens, you may well look at that lovebird with disgust, hardly remembering its intoxicating colors, or else recalling them for the naked truth they concealed: the lie of love.
The soul does not merely hold the promise of perfection and perpetuity; it also offers a plea for patience in the face of possibility.
But love, of course, does not lie. Lovers do, to each other, and to themselves. But their lie, about their bond’s immeasurable depth and its infinite heights, is the most beautiful truth told. Not only for capturing that very moment in time; not only for revealing the true yearning at the lovers’ hearts, for each other and for eternity. It is also true for its budding hope.
The soul does not merely hold the promise of perfection and perpetuity; it also offers a plea for patience in the face of possibility. It ignites, or at least invites, the lovers’ joint imagination to see beyond the troubles of the here and now, to not give up – in the name of both past and future.
Finally, by pledging a soulful bond, with all its cognizant self-deception, the lovers open the door not only for themselves, but for all else, to defy and redefine their solitary selves. They prove that true connectedness, however evanescent, is attainable.
Where does this leave us? Is the lie of perfection and perpetuity essential to keep love alive?
In your argument, bodies lie and souls are the fateful musicians of lover’s hearts? Concepts such as immeasurability, infinity and eternity have been attributed to the soul’s capacity to love beyond human limitation, thus proving the soulful bond superior. In the mission toward unconditional love, the soul triumphs over all.
While the body expresses love through conventionalized measures of affection, the soul knows no bounds, for it floats freely across the cosmos speaking in tongues foreign our expectations of love notes and the deliverance of flowers and chocolates. Thus, I remain perplexed, why have physical acts of love superseded the sanctity of the soul’s connection to the divine? Rejected by modernity’s greatest contributor to bodily love, the Apostle Paul must be held responsible.
Notoriously recited in our rehearsals of love, 1 Corinthians 13 has compartmentalized love into a package with a bow. Verses 4-8 of this famous poem outline what we hope to be the deepest form of connection with whomever we are sharing these words, as they establish a new set of commandments that lovers love to live by. These ideas, coated in rosary, illuminating the strength of passion, narrating the rewards of commitment and glorifying accountability showcase a beautiful tale of love. Yet, when uncloaked and deveined, we notice that this tale has been masquerading as promises of domination and control. Where love is defined as a steadfast presence, how can we ensure that you will stick around?
As we clutch onto the hour hand of love past due, we grasp at desperation pleading to be chosen, selected, accounted for. Paul soothes us with his determinant speech; we will suffer, but we will not fail. Stroking at the ego’s most tender crevasse, we hold dear Paul’s comforts, unknowingly separating us from love’s true beauty. In human desire, we bury what is most inherently ours, our indescribable connection to the cosmos. For no man’s actions can compete with the experience of light.
Love me, fight for me, feed my soul. Nourish my mind and stimulate my heart. Forever. These are the commands that we must somehow fulfill. Thus, we must agree, be present, seek to understand, reform ourselves and compromise all in the name of love. These symbolic measures ensure that love cannot exist without ties, bindings and anchors. To control another is to bring theft upon what makes us human, robbing us of our ability to choose.
The birth of love forever stems from a moment that you did not facilitate, but rather fell victim to unknowingly, unplanned and always unprepared. When your mind runs free, your heart beams across infinity and your hands can’t resist, the beauty of love is most precious in the uncontrollable.
If I read you correctly, it’s not exactly “the uncontrollable,” but the giving up of control, that is so precious for the beauty of love to blossom. Still, “giving up” may be misleading too; we are never really in control to begin with. Perhaps then it’s about that helpless realization?
Much depends on how we consider control. Typically we equate control with active domination. There is power imbalance, and the stronger one uses it upon the weaker, often against the latter's will. Surely that happens in romance too, and damning it is a no-brainer.
Freedom is not independence – it is about choosing our dependencies.
But there is a more elusive type of control, against which we often demand our independence, that is, at least literally, the discarding of all dependencies. Simply put, such control is about ties. Love lies in ties – it emerges from ties, from true connection, but becomes a lie when the tie turns into a suffocating dependency that keeps one’s spirit down.
It’s not always easy to tell the difference. When does a bond, a true deep connection of two lovers, become binding, indeed suffocating? Can it work the other way around – a bind that bounds?
Extending love beyond romance, I mentioned the umbilical cord, the universal lifeline of all mammals, including humans. It is certainly binding, a fetus will perish without it, but for many, it is also the beginning of a most meaningful, beautiful bond. Is such beauty enough to make love true, or should we discard it as an outgrowth of suffocating ties, and a biologically determinant one at that?
From maternal (back) to romantic love, what makes the latter so enchanting is precisely the promise that it is born out of pure volition – the dual, mutual, choice of two humans. Such love is the most beautiful form of freedom. It nourishes the realization that freedom is not independence – it is about choosing our dependencies.
While embracing our lover, we must learn to embrace the doubt, not least that s/he may leave us
In her wonderful poem, Wislawa Szymborska reflects on how people often consider True Love preposterous, outrageous, and dangerous. It’s also useless: “Perfectly good children are born without its help / It couldn’t populate the planet in a million years / it comes along so rarely.” Szymborska thus concludes: “Let the people who never find true love / keep saying that there’s no such thing. / Their faith will make it easier for them to live and die.”
Are we willing to live, and die, harder – for love?
Living in love means living in doubt. We can invite another poet to ponder that task. Two centuries and a year ago, John Keats beheld, or rather listened to, a Greek urn, and wrote, “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’—that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” It may have been that enchantment with artistic love-making that made Keats extol “Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”
Is there a lesson here for love, not only art? If so, it is that while embracing our lover, we must learn to embrace the doubt, not least that s/he may leave us.
ough daunting, it is only through that appreciation of others’ choices, including to un-choose us, that we may truly cultivate our own freedom, and calm the urge to substitute it with control. Ultimately, like all human constructs, love is what we make of it. We can choose to love courageously, co-choosing each other, or cowardly, trying to control one another.
Can callousness come from freedom?
Is that enough? I think not. Still harder trials await. True love requires not merely the courage to choose, almost daily, one another, but also the courage to care, day and night, for each other. Being bold because you just don’t care is conceit, the cradle of indifferent cynicism , the opposite of hopeful, soulful, love.
Where does such callousness come from? Could it (also) emanate from freedom itself? Is freedom a double-edged (s)word? This thought terrifies me but I ought to face it. Can cultivating choice sanctify the individual to such an extent that one becomes less, not more, kind to fellow humans, including loved ones? If so, it is always so - freedom constantly teeters on the edge of nihilism.
The fear of misconstruing freedom goes further: Jean-Jacques Rousseau spoke of how civilization tarnished humans by substituting amour de soi, a simple, non-comparative, self-love, with amour-propre, self-love that depends on the views of others. In the effort to free ourselves of amour-propre, regaining amour de soi, we may well draw near narcissism, forgetting that at the heart of Rousseau’s amour de soi was compassion and care.
So, yes, cutting the umbilical cord is our initiation into this world. Respiration changes course. We no longer live by the breaths of others, our mothers. Instead, we inhale the nature around us, exhale in exchange for oxygen. We breathe like all animals, but with fellow humans we can choose (not) to. With them we may also crave that original umbilical connection, to breathe in others – to conspirare (Latin, “to breathe together”). But their exhalation, for us, is poison; our inhalation, for them, asphyxiation. Can we settle for a kiss?
Settle your soul and find peace. Open your third eye and meet me in the fifth dimension where cords of energy bind all relations. Notice how some connectors are wound tight, while others float freely along the currents of the multiverse. Some red with passion, green with envy, or black with solidarity, yet all are fastened on our hearts.
The ties that bind us to the souls that make us define our path. The ponderance of romance cannot be understood absent the revelation of self, and quite frankly who is self? The identities of those around us mold our being, influencing the values we chose to adopt, the habits we leave behind, and the expressions of love we find meaningful. Gazing into the mirror of life, reflections of others begin to cloud the glass, constructing our faces like pieces of a puzzle. My father my nose, my mother my hands, my uncle my shoulders, and me, I am lost therein.
We have so deeply uprooted the core of our love, contemplating its essence and delineating its pain. Narrations of codependency, control, passion, and healing have swept through our words and I am left with edelweiss. Beautiful soothing tunes of gratitude for the moments that covertly acknowledge the pains of love and loyalty foreshadowed. Can one exist without the other? In history, in fiction, in love, in lust?
In life we portray a facade, “we are the creation of ourselves”. This glorification of independence is a sickening trend, driving separation and dividing homes. We yearn to balance along the fine line between safety and security, and in that we reject our love. Pressures of confronting loneliness have cultivated a culture of self sufficiency that no longer serves us. And when we fall off the ladder of self, we rest in the arms of another, transforming independence to dominating control. Society has implemented an expectation of self reliance that has so intimately scared our inner child. We fein to be held, wrapped in the promises of comfort; yet we so adamantly despise the sensitivity, deeming it weak and thus undesirable. In the pursuit of love we chase the tails of a self-fulfilling prophecy, the rejection of love itself.
Whether it be based in a soulful connection or a physical attraction, we have never been comfortable in uncertainty. All that love is, all that love does, is challenge the ambiguity of another. To ease the unknown we must know each other, but first we shall define the act of knowing. Less the English language, many others have used the term when regarding intimacy; to physically engage with a person is to truly know them. Assuming that upon the declaration of this definition it was known that acts of intimacy result in the entanglement of energy, an enmeshment of souls, might I be so brazen as to suggest now that the human connection will always include soulful love, thus we must humbly resign from the worldly complications that plague our relations?
Trust in the process, find fulfillment in the quest of another, and breathe in moments of despair. For it is not love from another that carries us through our darkest moments, but instead a universal bond, a oneness with all that we share empty space with, a true understanding that we are all om.
We missed our connection on an 8:44pm sunset, yet on certain planes, or another planet, we could have easily corrected that.
What is the forty-fourth sunset?
The pilot, whose plane crashed, meets the little prince, and dreams of possibilities of travel and wonder...
If you could fly to France in one minute, you could go straight into the sunset, right from noon. Unfortunately, France is too far away for that. But on your tiny planet, my little prince, all you need do is move your chair a few steps. You can see the day end and the twilight falling whenever you like...
Antoine de Saint Exupery wrote these words just a bit over a year before he disappeared, July 1944, while on a reconnaissance mission over the Mediterranean, at the age of 44. Fatal fate in numbers?
Perhaps not. In the original French, the little prince tells of 43 sunsets (“Un jour, j’ai vu le soleil se coucher quarante-trois fois!”). Later French editions, and the English rendition, turned it to 44, possibly in tribute to Saint-Exupéry’s age at his presumed death.
Yet the little prince’s sadness may have had everything to do with 43 sunsets – the number of sunsets it took Nazi Germany to defeat France in 1940. The forty-third sunset was independent France’s last, for four long years. Saint-Exupéry disappeared before he could see free France reborn. The forty-fourth sunset is not the sadness, but the hope for which we live, and the love that can come alive. Daring it we may well fall, but perhaps not altogether fail.