On Love, or Going to Bed with a Stranger by Bradley Onishi

I met Brad in Dublin recently.  Not only is he a great guy and a creative thinker, he’s a good writer!   I particularly appreciated this recent post from his blog and decided to share it with you.  Check out more at Unreasonable Revelations.

On Love, or Going to Bed with a Stranger

My fiancee and I celebrated an anniversary recently, an occasion that always provides time for a good conversation about the improbable path we have taken to make it this far together. In light of our upcoming wedding, the memories we shared over dinner were especially vivid, and meaningful.

All in all, the day gave me a chance to think about something I have thought alot about over the past couple of years–the differences and similarities in how we love significant others and how we might love God. One of my many rants is about how we have transposed a certain idea of what the love of God might give us onto what the love of what our Soulmate might give us. I hinted at this when I wrote a piece on the last episode of Lost for the Huff Post:


The condensed version of the rant goes like this: we have constructed an idea that the love of God provides us with the missing piece to our mortal, solitary existence. God’s love is the missing puzzle piece and his pure, unadulterated, unconditioned love provides the answer to the question of both who we are and what we are. What’s strange is that we have transposed this version of monotheism into a version of monogamy. We have an idea that out there some where is a Soulmate that is the missing piece–the missing puzzle piece–to my life, one that will make me whole, fulfilled, and truly myself. That last part is key. The Soulmate, like God, is the one who truly gives me to me–makes me my true self. God and the Soulmate are the One. If I could only meet the One, then I could live happily ever after.

For many reasons, I don’t buy this version of either the love of God or the love of Soulmate. In fact, when I thought back to what I thought of love before meeting my fiancee, I realized that although I studied, read, and wrote about love constantly–I was allergic to it. It took me years to figure out why, but now I understand that it was because it felt like if being in love meant meeting that which would complete me–complete me in such a way that nothing was at risk, at play, or uncertain–then I would be dead, or walking dead. For a while I believed that this was just a me problem. I was allergic to love and thus would have to decide to give in to the personal, societal, and familial pressure to find love and settle down or remain a grumpy, existential, and solitary philosopher for the rest of my days.

Things changed when I decided to change my notion of love. Without going into a ton of detail, over the course of time I began to realize that love is not about being so close to someone that you share everything. The idea is not to get so acquainted that the otherness is squashed. Love is not about becoming melded into one being–one identity–one existence.

It is just the opposite. Love is about otherness. Love is a commitment to wake up each day and try one’s best to help the other person be–to take up his or her existence in ways that are intentional, genuine, and without fear. It is a commitment to get to know an unknowable Stranger. Love is about pursuing that which eternally evades but eternally seduces. Love is about the infinite desire of two ferociously mortal creatures who are not the answer to the question of the other’s existence–but the deepening, prodding, pursuing voice of one who can’t complete you and refuses to try.

Love is not completion. Love is the beautiful irresolution of mortal temporality–a fantastic jaunt in the wilderness of mortality, tears, hope, frustration, pain, despair, community, and loss. It doesn’t solve anything. It only reveals that both of you, separately and together, are irresolvable.

More than anything, love doesn’t mean meeting the One–the One who will give you you by completing you. Love is about the Stranger, the one who reminds you that you will always be a stranger here, and thus a stranger to those whom you love.

When we sat at dinner that night, I realized I was sitting across from someone with whom I am intimately familiar, but who I do not know–do not possess–do not understand. I also I realized that if I did, I wouldn’t be looking forward to marrying her. It reminded me of  a passage in a novel I was finishing when I met my fiancee. At the end, the narrator writes down what is more of a prayer than a proclamation.

It goes like this:

I used to think that someday I would meet the One; I would meet the One for whom I was destined—the only One—the One that was for me. I used to think I would meet the One that would give me the stability, the unity, and the identity of an unchanging, unlonging, settled soul. I used to think I would be converted and in doing so receive the salvation of earth—love. I used to think love was being converted to One—to becoming fully united with one—and letting our respective selves pass into a Selfsameness that surpassed words, surpassed all other relationships, and colored every breath of our interaction with the world.”
“I will never love you that way; in fact, to do so would be to kill both of us. I don’t want a love that takes my breath away, or yours for that matter. I don’t want a love that is akin to death. I don’t want the end of desire—the end of need—the end of longing.”
“No, if I am going to love you it will always be as a stranger. You will always be a stranger to me, no matter how long we spend together. You will always be strange to me; you will always be other. Instead of the One, you will be the Other. We won’t be united. No. We will stay infinitely separate. The distance between us won’t ever dissipate. No. We’ll always be isolated little souls treading in the sea of singularities. You will always be away—apart—altogether different. And, that is how I will love you. I will love you with a longing that will only stop when the possibility of myself stops. I will love you infinitely across a distance I know cannot be overcome, most of all, because it is an eternal one and I am so, so mortal. I will love you as a stranger in my home, in my arms, one I cannot, will not understand, comprehend, or grasp. I will love you as a blurred, bedazzling appearance I can’t reduce, and therefore, one that demands my attention, my devotion, my interest in ways I can never fulfill. I won’t love you as my One. I won’t kill you or me, even though I want to. I won’t love you as the One. I’ll love you as my Other—as the Stranger inside me: the one crawling around, touching me in places I didn’t know I had—places exhilarating and uncomfortable at the same time. Every day I will try unsuccessfully to understand you, even though I will only experience the distance between us. I’ll love you as a haunting calling me ever toward you. I’ll love you as a foreigner inside myself—inside a land with precarious borders and unknown topography. I’ll love you even though I can’t, even though time and eternity won’t let me.”
Okay, I understand.”

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